BCS National Championship 2014: 10 Things We Learned from Auburn vs. FSU
The Florida State Seminoles ended the Southeastern Conference's reign over the BCS championship, toppling the Auburn Tigers to take the crystal football out of the league for the first time since 2006.
The ACC's major victory almost didn't happen, as Auburn took a 31-27 lead with just over a minute left in the game. However, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston methodically led FSU on a game-winning touchdown drive, giving the 'Noles a 34-31 victory.
It was just the second BCS title in 16 years for the ACC, both of which were won by FSU. It also marks the end of the BCS era.
As college football transitions into its new championship format, Florida State and Auburn will each move forward from outstanding 2013 campaigns.
Click on to see what we learned about the past, present and future for the Tigers, the 'Noles and the sport.
FSU Is Unanimous No. 1
There's no question: Florida State is the best team in college football.
The Seminoles, ACC and BCS champions, finished the year as the nation's only undefeated team.
They boasted several All-Americans, the Heisman Trophy winner and beat their regular-season opponents by six touchdowns on average.
FSU beat Auburn, the champion of the country's best conference, to win the BCS title. In doing so, it ended that league's seven-year BCS title streak.
After seven years of SEC dominance, a team on the outside finally put together an SEC-caliber roster and earned the national title.
There's no arguing against Florida State as the No. 1 team in the land.
Auburn Is More Than Lucky
Auburn ended its regular season on two miracle wins, both of which probably should've been losses.
And at the end of a charmed campaign, AU made the national title game as a group defined by the luck it received along the way.
However, as their performance against Florida State showed, the Tigers are better defined by the immense improvements they have made in the last 12 months and particularly in the last five.
Auburn gave FSU all it could handle, forcing it to drive the length of the field in the final minute to notch a victory.
The Tigers weren't outmatched—rather, they actually outplayed the Seminoles, outgaining them 449-385. However, in a season that had been previously defined by fortune, luck eventually ran out.
But the final loss doesn't take away from Auburn's impressive turnaround.
Jameis Winston Is Wise Beyond His Years
On ESPN after Florida State's victory, head coach Jimbo Fisher lauded the play of Jameis Winston, calling it the best game of his career.
Statistically, that wasn't the case. Winston struggled mightily early, finished just 20-of-35 passing for 237 yards, coughing up a fumble along the way.
However, it was the poise shown by Winston after those mistakes that made his performance impeccable.
FSU trailed by four with a little over one minute left in the game, and Winston calmly took the field and guided his squad 80 yards, finding Kelvin Benjamin for the go-ahead score.
Winston might not have the unique playmaking ability or flashy style of players like Johnny Manziel, but he showed off the leadership, composure and confidence that led him to win the Heisman.
Malzahn's Offensive Tempo Will Continue to Give Opponents Fits
Florida State boasts one of the biggest, strongest, fastest, most athletic defenses in college football, and even the Seminoles struggled to keep pace with the Tigers offense.
In the fourth quarter, the FSU defense was gassed, which almost cost it the game.
As several players, most notably star defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, sucked wind on the sideline, Auburn marched down the field and took a 31-27 lead on a Tre Mason touchdown.
The 'Nole defenders were bailed out by Winston and the offense, but it is understandable why they were so drained in the first place.
The Tigers ran 80 plays, holding the ball for more than 33 minutes. Mason notched 34 of Auburn's 53 rushing attempts, tallying 195 rushing yards.
That was more than enough to deplete a talented FSU defense. If Auburn can continue to polish and evolve its uptempo attack, it'll send plenty more defenders to the oxygen tanks on the sideline.
Winston Is Next Year's Heisman Favorite
Say "hello" to next year's Heisman Trophy favorite.
Winston will be back in 2014, and he'll be right back atop the Heisman race—particularly if he can bring FSU back into the national title picture.
Much of his campaign will depend on which players decide to return next year (looking at you, Johnny Manziel) and how those returning players perform (looking at you, Marcus Mariota and Braxton Miller).
Winston will be expected to improve to earn the award a second time, and though he might not post the statistics of some of the others on this list, his candidacy will be in full swing if FSU continues to win.
Nick Marshall Will Be Auburn's Starter Next Year
Before Monday night's game, ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit revealed on the air that Nick Marshall will be in competition with Jeremy Johnson for Auburn's starting quarterback job next year, per Drew Champlin of AL.com:
"This spring, Gus Malzahn told me the other day, no matter what happens tonight, there's going to be a battle in the spring between Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall," Herbstreit said.
Johnson is the perceived future of the program.
A true freshman, he was one of the top quarterbacks in the nation coming out of high school and is expected to eventually take the job. He was solid in limited time relieving Marshall this season.
While Johnson might be ready to go by next fall, Marshall certainly will be heading into his senior campaign. He did some great things for the Tigers against FSU and has shown excellent ability to run Auburn's zone-read attack, even though this is just his first year in the program.
An early prediction on that battle: Marshall will be the Week 1 starter for Auburn.
FSU Is Next Year's Title Favorite
As it ends the season at No. 1, Florida State should begin next season at the same spot.
The Seminoles will have to replace several key players, but they'll also return an excellent group, including the key cog, Winston.
Auburn will be in the mix, as will Alabama, Michigan State, Ohio State and several others.
However, after taking the crystal football this year, the Seminoles should be No. 1 until proven otherwise.
Auburn Is Next Year's SEC Favorite
The SEC race didn't pan out anything like it was expected to in 2013.
The conference, which was expected to be top-heavy, saw eight teams that carried realistic conference title hopes. And the two divisional champions weren't even expected to be among that group.
Again next year, the SEC will be as wild as ever.
Alabama, Missouri and LSU will be among the early favorites, given what they'll bring back from this season.
However, just as FSU will assume the lead role on the national scene, Auburn will remain the king of the SEC until it is dethroned.
The Tigers kicked Alabama off the pedestal this year. Who will reach the top next season?
Love It or Hate It, the BCS Had a Good Run
Wave to the BCS one last time as it goes—and remember it fondly.
There are plenty of negatives to ignore from the past, including split championships and title game blowouts.
However, purveyors of the system will hold to the motto that, even when it didn't seem possible, the system almost always worked out its own kinks.
Sure, the BCS wasn't perfect, but it was great while it lasted, as it often perfectly ironed out an imperfect and unpredictable sport.
So as the BCS era ends, remember the good times. Remember Monday night, and remember Vince Young's extraordinary performance over USC. Remember Boise State's stunning trick plays and Ohio State's upset of the unbeatable Miami Hurricanes in 2002.
Remember that, while the BCS wasn't perfect, it wasn't as bad as it was made out to be.
It's Playoff Time
After writing the eulogy of the BCS, it's time to write a birth announcement for the College Football Playoff.
While FSU's victory was a beautiful requiem for the old system, it also showed why the new system will be even better.
This season brought one thrilling tilt for the national title—next year will bring three.
At this point next season, there will still be one more college football game left.
Let that sink in. Now rejoice.