In Week 14, we were reminded why the general public loves college football and hates the current BCS format all at the same time.
It's not often that a game lives up to an "instant classic" moniker, but Chris Davis' 100-yard return of a missed Alabama field goal attempt to propel Auburn to victory in the final seconds was up there. As a result, we saw the top-ranked team knocked from their perch and a once-assured national title showdown between the Tide and Florida State became recent memory.
Now, with one spot in the BCS National Championship seemingly opened, who will slide into that vacant spot? It comes down to a few fateful games, and potentially one simple choice—one-loss SEC, or undefeated Big Ten.
|BCS Bowl Predictions—Week 15|
|National Championship||Florida State vs. Auburn|
|Rose Bowl||Stanford vs. Ohio State|
|Fiesta Bowl||Oklahoma State vs. Northern Illinois|
|Sugar Bowl||Alabama vs. UCF|
|Orange Bowl||Oregon vs. Michigan State|
BCS National Championship: Florida State vs. Auburn
It can (and will) be debated ad nauseam throughout the week heading into conference championship weekend—should Ohio State or the SEC champion face Florida State if each win out?
One thing is certain: it's going to be awfully close and will likely come down to what each team does in the upcoming weekend.
At the end of the day, the supposed scenario is that Auburn completes its season at 12-1 with a neutral site win over a Missouri team ranked either No. 4 or 5. That team also boasts the second-best run defense in the SEC, Auburn having just beat the kings of that stat, the Tide.
It also rummaged through the toughest conference in college athletics with one early slip-up, running straight through the closest thing the sport has had to a dynasty in decades.
Ohio State's undefeated season is worth lauding. But the fact is, the best team the Buckeyes will have faced in two years is coming this weekend when they play No. 11 Michigan State in the Big Ten championship.
One team has been playing top-notch foes all season and the other has hardly played any, so my gut is going with the more experienced Auburn Tigers.
And, barring absolute pandemonium and even more twists to this already hectic college football season, Florida State should easily glide past Duke in the ACC title game.
Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Ohio State
Two straight undefeated seasons and a national championship snubbing. Such is life in the Big Ten.
With the conference looking its worst in recent memory in comparison to the rest of the nation, the Buckeyes got through an abysmal schedule to boast an unbeaten record. They played only two teams that were ranked at the time, one was Northwestern (who lost six games in a row after) and the other was Wisconsin (who lost at home to 7-5 Penn State on Saturday).
Voters may give the Buckeyes' nail-biting win in the Big House a pass since it was a rivalry, but that doesn't change the fact that Michigan almost lost to Akron and UConn this season. Oh, and they had lost four of five and the only win was in three overtimes.
With such a weak schedule in such a competitive season for other conferences, Ohio State needed to beat every opponent on its schedule by a large margin, or at least convincingly. That didn't happen.
Stanford have seen plenty of promise and heartbreak this season, but thanks to dominoes falling around them (Oregon, namely), the Cardinal have been able to get to a Pac-12 championship game with Arizona State. After beating the Sun Devils earlier in the season by two touchdowns, Stanford should be able to channel some of that success to get to the Rose Bowl.
Orange Bowl: Oregon vs. Michigan State
Oregon entered November in control of the Pac-12 and its chances of getting to the national title game, and lost twice. Somehow, the Ducks found a way to end the season with a huge victory.
Marcus Mariota and company led a last-minute drive after seeing the defense give up what looked to be the game-winning touchdown to Oregon State in the Civil War with just one minute left. The speedy Oregon offense shifted into clutch mode, and Mariota hit Josh Huff for a game-winning score that sent Eugene into pandemonium.
Clemson was in line for an at-large bid out of a power six conference, which would've been solidified by a win over No. 10 South Carolina. Instead, the Tigers were run out of Columbia and the Ducks should be able to gain some momentum with teams around them sliding back after losses.
I like Michigan State to keep the Big Ten championship awfully close with the Buckeyes, as that elite Spartans' defense should be able to bottle up the run game of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde. A close loss should allow Michigan State to lean on an impressive body of work and slip into the BCS party.