PASADENA, Calif. - It was fun while it lasted, but all great things must come to an end.
When Auburn running back Tre Mason was brought down by Florida State linebacker Telvin Smith on a failed hook-and-ladder play that looked from the sideline like the next in a series of improbable finishes to go the Tigers' way, it closed the curtain on one of the most remarkable streaks in American sports history.
For the previous seven seasons, a team from the SEC had ended the college football season hoisting the crystal football. In a sport that's grown to 125 members in the FBS and only plays 12 regular-season games, that's not easy to do.
It takes talent, depth and a whole lot of luck to even be in position to get on that doorstep, much less walk through the door.
In the end, though, it was the Seminoles who rebounded from a sluggish start and hit Auburn with a dose of its own medicine on a Kermit Whitfield 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that gave the Seminoles a 27-24 lead with 4:31 to play.
After Tre Mason led the Tigers to what appeared to be the game-winning touchdown to put the Tigers up four with 1:19 to play, Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston led his team straight down the field and found Kelvin Benjamin on a two-yard touchdown with 13 ticks on the clock to claim the title and end the SEC's streak.
It capped off an 18-point comeback for the Seminoles, which was the largest comeback in BCS history.
"The SEC is great football, I coached in that league for 13 years," Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I respect every bit of it, but there's some other folks in this country that can play some football, too."
Commissioner Mike Slive congratulated the Seminoles, according to to Chuck Dunlap of the SEC office.
Statement from Mike Slive: "The SEC's unprecedented string of consecutive national titles in the BCS era will be an enduring point of ...— Chuck Dunlap (@SEC_Chuck) January 7, 2014
pride for our entire conference and we look forward to competing for more championships in the College Football Playoff era.'— Chuck Dunlap (@SEC_Chuck) January 7, 2014
More Slive: "Congratulations to Florida State on its national championship and also to Auburn for a truly magical season."— Chuck Dunlap (@SEC_Chuck) January 7, 2014
It was ended by the better team.
Florida State came in to this showdown without playing a close game all season but fought back from the early deficit, got the passing game going and exploited the weakest spot of the Auburn defense—its secondary.
Cornerback Chris Davis was called for a pass interference on Rashad Greene with 18 seconds to play and was beat by Benjamin for the game-winner one play later.
So where does the SEC go from here?
We are heading into a new era now, and while teams from the same conference winning seven straight titles seems unlikely, the SEC will have more access to the meaningful part of college football's postseason in the four-team playoff starting after next season.
Does Auburn's loss coupled with Alabama's 42-31 loss to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl contribute to a perception change of the SEC?
That remains to be seen, but its two highest-profile teams losing on big stages during bowl season—even though the Tigers were a double-digit underdog to the Seminoles—doesn't help that perception.
In college football, perception is reality.
Those two things fed off one another from 2006-12, and came to an end during the closing seconds in the final game of the BCS era.
It's only fitting.
With a new set of rules in the new landscape, getting to the dance won't be as challenging. Becoming the prom king year after year will be a different story.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.