Final BCS matchup created no controversy

Auburn's Nick Marshall (14) congratulates Melvin Ray (82) Auburn's Nick Marshall (14) congratulates Melvin Ray (82) after Ray's touchdown catch during the first half of the BCS National Championship Game against Florida State. (Jan. 6, 2014) Photo Credit: AP

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PASADENA, Calif. - No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn faced each other for the 16th and final BCS championship Monday night at the Rose Bowl. Unlike many years, when controversy arose over the complicated system of polls and computer rankings used to select the finalists, the consensus is that the right teams were in the title game.

Next season, the BCS system will give way to the College Football Playoff (CFP), in which a 13-person selection committee will choose and seed a four-team playoff. The semifinals will utilize two of six major bowls from year to year, moving from the Rose and Sugar bowl games next year to the Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Chick-fil-A bowls in the future. The final will be played on the first Monday that comes at least six days after the semifinals.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said the new system definitely will add to the degree of difficulty required to win a national title, but the logistics of preparing for two foes in a short period of time essentially will resemble the regular season, when graduate assistants break down game tapes of future opponents well ahead of time to prepare scouting reports.

If the new system had been in place this season, the Seminoles likely would have met No. 4 Big Ten champion Michigan State in one semifinal and Auburn would have faced No. 3 Alabama in a rematch of their regular-season finale in the SEC.

That doesn't mean all controversy would be eliminated because six one-loss teams -- Baylor, Ohio State, Central Florida, Louisville, Fresno State and Northern Illinois -- still would have been on the outside looking in.

No matter what the playoff system looks like, it's a good bet that SEC teams will dominate. The first BCS championship in 1998 went to SEC champ Tennessee, which beat Florida State, and SEC teams won nine of the 15 titles before Monday night, including the previous seven. The last non-SEC winner was Texas over Southern Cal in 2005, marking the last time an SEC team failed to make the title game.

The Seminoles (13-0), who won the 1999 title, were favored to put an end to SEC supremacy against the Tigers (12-1) because of the leadership of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, but Fisher said that's not what his team was focusing upon.

"I don't look at things that way,'' Fisher said. "I want to do it for our kids and our fans. To me, that's the key. Whether it's SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, whatever it may be, it doesn't concern me who we are playing. I just want us to play well and be happy for our folks.''

Although SEC fans have exercised their bragging rights loud and long in the world of college football, there was little talk by the Tigers about being motivated to uphold SEC honor. After winning the BCS title for the 2010 season with Cam Newton at quarterback, they watched archrival Alabama win the next two titles while the Tigers fell all the way to 3-9 last season, 0-8 in the SEC.

So the opportunity to make the greatest turnaround in college football history under new coach Gus Malzahn, who was offensive coordinator for Newton, was Auburn's main focus. Malzahn left last season to coach Arkansas State, and when he returned, he told his players to believe they could make this quantum leap back to prominence.

"That was one of our goals,'' said Malzahn, who accepted the national coach of the year award Monday. "We felt like we had some talent. We told our guys we weren't going to worry about what happened last year. Everybody is going to get a fresh start.''

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