On Campus: Expectations exceeded in BCS swan song

On Campus: Expectations exceeded in BCS swan song

<p>An era in college football came to an end on Monday night. The last BCS National Championship was decided on the field of the Rose Bowl in a game that went down to the wire, with Florida State coming from behind for a 34-31 win over Auburn.</p>

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - An era in college football came to an end on Monday night. The last BCS National Championship was decided on the field of the Rose Bowl in a game that went down to the wire, with Florida State coming from behind for a 34-31 win over Auburn.

The BCS has in years past been its own worst enemy, with suspect games like the snooze-fest in 2000 when Oklahoma beat Florida State 13-2, or Ohio State's back-to-back humiliations at the hands of Florida (41-14) and LSU (38-24) in 2006 and 2007.

The most controversial matchup came in 2003, when a No. 3-ranked Oklahoma team jumped over top-ranked USC into the championship game, without even winning its conference. The Sooners fell to LSU in that matchup, 21-14, leaving even the most loyal BCS proponents questioning the validity of the system in place.

Of course, the game that the BCS hangs its hat on was 2005's Texas-USC slugfest in which the Longhorns won in the waning moments of the game, 41-38.

It didn't get many things right in its 16 years, but few argued about this year's combatants.

After winning the ACC and earning a BCS bowl bid following the 2012 season, Jimbo Fisher's Seminoles took another step in the right direction, winning the ACC for the second straight year and solidifying its spot in the big game with one decisive victory after another, finishing undefeated.

Auburn's story was a little different as the Tigers took a less conventional way, losing an early road game at LSU, but rallying for nine straight wins after that, including a couple of heart-stopping games against Georgia and Alabama, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat and leaving the most fervent college football fan thinking there may be higher powers involved.

The Tigers followed up by winning a shootout with Missouri for the SEC crown. It was an amazing turnaround in Gus Malzahn's first season at the helm, as Auburn was just 3-9 in 2012 and winless in the SEC.

Despite the vastly different routes to the game, both teams rightfully earned a spot on the field in Pasadena.

Auburn weathered the early game jitters and took advantage of its field position to lead 7-3 after the first quarter. Despite being an underdog in the game coming in, the Tigers weren't the team playing with hesitation. In fact, the Auburn defense punched Florida State in the mouth and set the pace.

The punching continued in the second quarter as FSU's defense played to stop the run, but gave up huge gains through the air, almost inexplicably forgetting how to play pass defense after leading the nation in the category this season. The Seminoles scored late in the second quarter to cut Auburn's lead to 21-10 at the half, as FSU went into halftime trailing for the first time this season.

Overall, Auburn's stars shined as quarterback Nick Marshall played well, completing 14-of-27 passes, for 217 yards, with two TD passes and one rushing score. Meanwhile, tailback Tre Mason simply wore out FSU's defense, rumbling for 195 rushing yards, with one TD on the ground and another through the air.

While Florida State's defense played on its heels all of the first half, adjustments were made at halftime and the unit played much better in the third quarter and much of the fourth.

The real surprise was the formerly unflappable Heisman Trophy winner under center for FSU. Jameis Winston finally looked like the youngster he is, as he struggled early on. To his credit, Winston did settle down in the second half, finishing the game 20-of-35 passing for 237 yards and two TDs.

Chipping away at Auburn's lead over the final 30 minutes, a Kermit Whitfield 100-yard kick return for a score ignited the Florida State sideline, giving the 'Noles the lead with just over four minutes to play. Auburn responded with a memorable drive of its own, capped off by a 37-yard TD run by Mason, putting Auburn back on top 31-27, with just over a minute to play.

With 1:19 left on the clock, Winston orchestrated an 80-yard drive that saw him complete 6-of-7 passes, with a 2-yard TD pass to Kelvin Benjamin providing the final score, handing Florida State its first national title since 1999, while effectively ending the SEC's run of national championships at seven straight.

It was definitely a game that will go down in history as one of the best in the BCS era.

For all the criticism heaped on the BCS over the years, the system didn't go out with a whimper, but rather with a roar -- or more to the point, that incessant Seminole War Chant.

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