- Boston College is excited for its shot at Arizona in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl, Jack McCluskey writes on ESPNBoston.com.
- Clemson and Ohio State are looking for redemption in the Orange Bowl, Aaron Brenner writes in the (Charleston) Post & Courier.
- Texas A&M's defense might be a welcome sight for Duke after facing Florida State, Laura Keeley writes in the (Raleigh) News & Observer.
- The Los Angeles Times' Chris Dufresne says a Florida State-Auburn title game shows that the system works.
- Hugh Freeze is emphasizing the "totality of the journey" as Ole Miss readies for Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl, Hugh Kellenberger writes in the (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger.
- Maryland's meeting with Marshall in the Military Bowl features an intriguing subplot between Randy Edsall and Doc Holliday, Alex Prewitt writes in the Washington Post.
- Miami's meeting with Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl features plenty of connections between the schools, and means they will face each other in consecutive seasons, Christy Cabrera Chirinos writes in the (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel.
- Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson gets his wish in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl as he will face Pitt, Jerry DiPaola writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Syracuse's season continues against Minnesota in the Texas Bowl after a week of waiting, Nate Mink writes in the (Syracuse) Post-Standard.
- Virginia Tech returns to the spot where its bowl history began, Mark Giannotto writes in the Washington Post.
- North Carolina's play down the stretch, plus its proximity to Charlotte, N.C., made it an ideal pick for the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati, Joe Giglio writes in the (Raleigh) News & Observer.
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The No. 59-ranked prospect in the ESPN Junior 300 was once committed to South Carolina along with high school teammate Wesley Green, but Key backed off that verbal pledge on Sept. 22.
Fast forward three months and the athletic edge-rush prospect is looking at all his options with two programs in line to make an eventual trimmed list.
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The good: What's not to love about this past weekend if you're from the ACC? The conference set an NCAA record by placing 11 teams in bowl games. That's topped, of course, by No. 1 Florida State, which is bound for the VIZIO BCS National Championship, where it will face No. 2 Auburn. The ACC broke its NCAA record of 10 teams in bowls, which was set in 2008. (The league also placed seven of its nine teams in bowls in 2002, which was then the NCAA's highest bowl participation percentage ever, at .778.)
The records: Jameis Winston broke FBS records for both passing yards and passing touchdowns by a freshman, as the Heisman Trophy front-runner was 19-of-32 for 330 yards with three touchdowns (and two interceptions) to finish with 3,820 passing yards and 38 passing touchdowns in the regular season. Duke receiver Jamison Crowder set a program single-season record in receiving yards Saturday and finished with 1,197. Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo's 45-yard second-quarter field goal helped him set an ACC record with 142 points.
The added bonus: The ACC title game had just kicked off when our Joe Schad reported that Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher had agreed to a five-year, $21 million contract extension with the program. Athletic director Stan Wilcox confirmed after the game that a deal had been reached, with details still being finalized. Just another bit of great news for the Seminoles on a night with no shortage of it.
Bowl subplots to watch: Boston College's Andre Williams (329) and Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey (322) lead the nation in carries and will square off in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl. … Bowling Green quarterback Matt Johnson will get a shot at his in-state program, Pitt, in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. … Miami can see its hometown product, Teddy Bridgewater, up close and personal in what could be the Louisville quarterback's final game, the Russell Athletic Bowl. (The teams face each other next year, too, when the Cardinals join the ACC.) … Let's not overlook the obvious historical note when Ohio State and Clemson meet in the Discover Orange Bowl, either, as the programs will meet for the first time since the 1978 Gator Bowl, which ended up being Woody Hayes' final game after the coach punched Tigers linebacker Charlie Bauman.
As far as BCS finishes go, this season's was uneventful.
After the upset of No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, Florida State and Auburn sat atop the polls and computer ratings Sunday and easily became the choices to play in the BCS championship game on Jan. 6. Unlike many past seasons, there was no drama and no debate on the day the last standings were released.
Next season, however, the decisions about which teams deserve to be part of a new four-team playoff will be left to a 13-person selection committee. And if that committee had been charged with the task of selecting four teams for a playoff this season, its work would have been far more disputed than the final edition of the BCS standings was.
We can all agree that Florida State and Auburn would both be part of a four-team playoff, had one existed in the 2013 season. But which teams would have joined them?
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Wake Forest is still in the process of identifying and hiring a new coach as its 2014 recruiting class remains in flux. The Seminoles are heading to the national championship game and could be in for a big recruiting finish.
Meanwhile, a couple of very important visits and new offers to younger recruits went out in the ACC over the past week.
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We say goodbye to the BCS (and, yes, some will say good riddance) with a matchup in the final VIZIO BCS National Championship that may be the toughest assignment yet for the conference everybody loves to hate.
The SEC, the epitaph on its national championship streak all but written just a week ago, is back on college football's grandest stage.
And if anybody says they tabbed Auburn back in the preseason to be the team carrying the SEC's banner, they either have a serious problem with the truth or are seriously psychic.
Either way, talk about a compelling way to bid adieu to the BCS era.
No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn.
One team established itself as the country's most talented team from the outset of the season, but had seemed to invent ways in recent years on how not to get to this point. One team didn't even win a league game and fired its coach last season and was never supposed to be playing for a national championship.
They collide in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif., in what will be the final BCS National Championship.
"We showed the world that we belong here, and we're not done yet," Auburn receiver Sammie Coates said.
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The BMOC would like to become very good friends with anyone (or everyone) who laid money on Auburn to win it all during the offseason -- and got 1,000-to-1 odds from the Vegas sportsbooks.
According to Bloomberg.com, there are at least 14 such tickets.
Of the 20 ESPN college football experts asked back in August to predict the major conference champions, BCS Championship teams and BCS Championship winner, exactly nobody had Florida State or Auburn reaching the title game. In fact, nobody had Auburn winning the SEC's Western Division.
And nobody had Michigan State winning the Big Ten's Legends Division, probably because nobody still knows who's in the Legends and the Leaders.
The BMOC wasn't invited to participate in the preseason picks, even though I, too, have a long history of making spectacularly wrong predictions. (2001 BCS title game: North Texas vs. Army!)
Had anyone asked, I would have run the algorithms and carefully analyzed the football metrics before making my decision. Or I would have done what I usually do, which is pick Alabama to beat whatever jamoke I put on the other side of the bracket -- in this case, Ohio State. And as usual, I would have been wrong.
The reason college football is college football is because sometimes the 1,000-to-1 longshots suddenly become shortshots. In other words, War … Damn … Eagle.
Because not enough people looked at Florida State's roster and said, "I see many of these players getting draft day bro-hugs from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell."
Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio
4 Michigan State Spartans vs 5 Stanford Cardinal
January 1, 2014, at 5 ET on ESPN
Michigan State: First Rose Bowl appearance since the 1987 season and its first appearance in a BCS bowl. The Spartans have reached a bowl game in all seven seasons under head coach Mark Dantonio after making no bowl appearances from 2004-06.
Stanford: Second consecutive appearance in the Rose Bowl (def. Wisconsin 20-14 last season). The Cardinal are making back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances for the first time since 1970-71. Stanford has reached a BCS bowl in four straight seasons after making just one from 1998-2009.
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
15 UCF Knights vs 6 Baylor Bears
January 1, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN
UCF: First BCS bowl berth in school history. Won 11 games this season, tied for the most in school history (also won 11 in 2010).
Baylor: Like their opponents in the Fiesta Bowl, the Bears receive their first BCS bowl berth in school history. Baylor looks to extend a school-record 11 wins this season to 12 in this game.
Allstate Sugar Bowl
11 Oklahoma Sooners vs 3 Alabama Crimson Tide
January 2, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN
Oklahoma: Ninth BCS bowl appearance, second-most all-time. The Sooners are 3-5 in BCS bowl games, snapping a five-game losing streak with a win in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl vs Connecticut.
Alabama: Third straight BCS bowl appearance and fifth in the last seven seasons under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide will make their first Sugar Bowl appearance since the 2008 season (lost to Utah in that game).
Discover Orange Bowl
12 Clemson Tigers vs 7 Ohio State Buckeyes
January 3, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN
Clemson: First BCS bowl appearance since 2011, when the Tigers played in the Orange Bowl. Those two games mark the only BCS bowls in school history. Speaking of history for the Tigers, they will make a school-record ninth straight appearance in a bowl game.
Ohio State: Tenth BCS bowl appearance, most all-time. The Buckeyes will make their first Orange Bowl appearance since the 1976 season against Colorado. Their last BCS appearance came in a 2011 Sugar Bowl win over Arkansas.
Vizio BCS National Championship Game
1 Florida State Seminoles vs 2 Auburn Tigers
January 6, 2014, at 8:30 ET on ESPN
Florida State: After beating Northern Illinois in last year’s Orange Bowl, the Seminoles return to a BCS bowl game. It marks their first back-to-back BCS bowl appearances since 2002-03. This will be their first BCS Championship Game appearance since 2000 and fourth overall.
Auburn: Second BCS Championship Game appearance, first since winning the national title over Oregon in the 2010 season. This marks the third BCS bowl appearance for the Tigers, who are unbeaten in such games thus far.
No. 1 Florida State Seminoles (13-0) vs. No. 2 Auburn Tigers (12-1)
Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m. ET, Pasadena, Calif. (ESPN)
FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES BREAKDOWN
For months, Florida State was happy to downplay its own talent. In each of the past two seasons, the Seminoles bore the burden of lofty expectations and eventually collapsed under the weight. This time, they were happy to fly beneath the radar. But make no mistake -- they knew this season would be special.
Winston has been the catalyst. The redshirt freshman was a revelation from the moment he stepped onto the field during Florida State’s spring game, launching a long touchdown throw on his first pass attempt. In his debut against Pitt, he was nearly flawless, accounting for five touchdowns in the win. He delivered the pregame inspiration in Death Valley, then delivered Florida State’s biggest win of the season, thumping Clemson 51-14. By season’s end, he had rewritten the record books at Florida State.
But if Winston was the man in the spotlight, he was pushed there by an immensely talented supporting cast. Three receivers and his top tailback are all within reach of 1,000 yards for the season. Nick O’Leary and Kelvin Benjamin provide two of the biggest matchup advantages in the country, and Winston has exploited their talents to the tune of 21 touchdowns. His offensive line employs five players who figure to land NFL jobs within the next two years. For the season, Florida State led the nation, averaging 7.8 yards per play.
The offense garnered headlines, but the defense shouldn’t be overlooked. Florida State lost seven starters and three assistant coaches from last season’s No. 2-ranked unit, and during the spring, new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt revamped the scheme. The adjustments didn’t take long to master. The Seminoles lead the nation in pass defense for the second straight year, but this season they added a penchant for takeaways, racking up 25 interceptions. The rushing defense was nearly as stout, allowing just 3.1 yards per carry. The first-team defense didn’t allow a rushing touchdown all season. In the final nine games of the season, FSU’s first-team defense allowed just 42 points total.
Florida State wrapped up its berth in the Vizio BCS National Championship with one final dominant performance against Duke in the ACC title game. Winston accounted for four touchdowns. The defense forced three turnovers and nine punts. It was Florida State’s fourth win over a ranked foe by a combined score of 200-35. -- David M. Hale
AUBURN TIGERS BREAKDOWN
All around the Auburn football offices there are signs that read, "It's a New Day." Coach Gus Malzahn promised the return of championships to The Plains when he came back to the school after the 2012 season, and against all reason, he's put the previously inept Tigers back in contention to claim college football's coveted crystal football trophy less than one year later.
Even before Michigan State beat Ohio State to open the door for Auburn's trip west, it felt like the start of something new on The Plains.
Auburn's resurgence from winless in the SEC to conference champs can be traced back to Malzahn and quarterback Nick Marshall. First, Malzahn had to rebuild the fragile psyche of a program that went through one of the worst slides in the history of college football. Second, he had to find a quarterback to execute his complex zone-read option offense. Lastly, he had to make it all work.
Marshall, who transferred to Auburn late in August, knew only a quarter of the offense when he started at quarterback for the Tigers in Week 1. He accounted for only 126 total yards in the season opener against Washington State. But with the help of Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, he started piecing things together. He led four game-winning or game-tying drives, and the offense has scored 30 points or more in each game since the team’s lone loss to LSU in September.
Auburn’s magical run hasn’t come without its share of drama, though. The Tigers needed a 73-yard Hail Mary in the final minute to knock off Georgia, and the town is still buzzing after the field goal return by Chris Davis to upset No. 1 Alabama. Auburn is being tabbed a team of destiny, and with what’s happened in the final month of the season, how can you pick against it? It’s been as unlikely a comeback story as you’ll ever see, and it’s not over yet. There’s still one game left to be played. -- Greg Ostendorf
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Devonta Freeman has never been to California, and he’s already concerned about the long flight west. Six hours on a plane is more than he’s accustomed to, never mind that it’s a trip he has been dreaming of since the spring.
The BCS made it official Sunday night, and No. 1 Florida State will face No. 2 Auburn in Pasadena on Jan. 6 with a national championship on the line. Freeman’s vacation plans in the interim are simple.
“I just want to grind,” Freeman said. “Get better.”
Freeman met with running backs coach Jay Graham on Sunday, asking for areas he could improve on before he takes the field again in 28 days. The work begins immediately.
There was celebration for Florida State, which wrapped up a conference title with a 45-7 win over Duke on Saturday, but Freeman’s mantra was the overwhelming narrative as the Seminoles begin the month-long wait for the final step on their march toward a national championship. They’ve come far, but the goal wasn’t simply to get here.
“It won’t mean nothing if we don’t go out and win this game and finish it the right way,” linebacker Telvin Smith said. “We’re going to go out, prepare well and play hard.”
There will be ample time for revelry between now and Jan. 6. A handful of Florida State’s stars will be on the banquet circuit, collecting awards for a season’s worth of goals met. Jameis Winston will be in New York next week for the Heisman Trophy presentation, which he’s the heavy favorite to win. There are holidays and vacations and down time, but Florida State is well prepared for the distractions. It has spent the entire season preparing for them.
From the Heisman hype to off-field legal drama, two turns on ESPN’s "College GameDay" and 11 other contests that seemed over before they kicked off, Florida State has ridden the roller coaster and still come away a bastion of consistency. Thirteen wins, all by at least two touchdowns, all because the mindset hasn’t changed.
And with one game left to go, the Seminoles insist it won’t change now.
“We’re 13-0. This is where we started the season off wanting to come here. Now we’re here,” said kicker Roberto Aguayo, who has outscored all 13 of FSU’s opponents by himself this season. “It’s been in our minds the entire time. It’s nothing new. We’re playing for a national championship and this is where we should be.”
The team gathered Sunday for its annual awards night. They watched the BCS announcement together at the stadium. They cheered the inevitable, and then they prepared to go back to work.
It’s funny, Freeman said. A few weeks ago, Florida State was dogged with questions about what might happen if four or five teams finished undefeated. Now, the Seminoles are the only team with an unblemished record.
It was no accident, Freeman said, and all that matters now is that Florida State keeps doing what has gotten it this far.
“We’ve gotta win,” Freeman said. “We’ve gotta win. And I’m not doubting anything.”