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Florida St-Auburn title game to usher out BCS era

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By RALPH D. RUSSO
AP College Football Writer

As college football prepares for the final Bowl Championship Series, featuring a Florida State-Auburn championship game, it's easy to see why the coming four-team playoff won't solve all the postseason problems.

Heck, we might just miss the BCS. Maybe?

It sort of worked out this season. Top-ranked Florida State (13-0) was the only team to get through the regular season unbeaten, and the Seminoles did it in dominating fashion. Auburn won the Southeastern Conference, and among the teams with imperfect records the Tigers' resume is best.

The BCS pairings become official with an announcement Sunday night, but there's no question about 1 and 2. It'll be the 'Noles and Tigers at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 6 for the national championship.

Of course, Big 12 champion Baylor (11-1) and Big Ten champion Michigan State (12-1) might argue with that. But over 16 seasons college football fans have built up what can be called BCS acceptance, learning to live with the fact that there is only room for two.

Fans of particularly aggrieved teams (2000 Miami, 2004 Auburn, 2008 Texas, just to name a few) still burn over the slights. Generally, though, by the time the championship game kicked off, most everybody was on board.

Now think about this season playing out under next season's format. In the new world order known as the College Football Playoff, a selection committee will pick four teams to play in two national semifinals. The winners play for the national title.

So how would a panel that includes Tom Osborne, Archie Manning and Condoleezza Rice sort out this season's top four?

Florida State and Auburn, of course. And .... Baylor and Michigan State? But what about Pac-12 champion Stanford (11-2)? Sure the Cardinal have two losses, but as Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said Saturday at the end of a week in which he and the rest of the SEC practically begged voters to overlook the number in the loss column and focus on quality of opposition: "I have nine words. Strength of schedule. Strength of schedule. Strength of schedule."

Among this season's best teams, Stanford played the toughest schedule.

And what about Alabama (11-1)? The two-time defending national champions only lost once in stunning fashion to Auburn.

"We're not a natural playoff sport," said Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who was the offensive coordinator at Tennessee when it won the first BCS championship game against Florida State in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl. "I think we can make this work with four.

"And the reason I think we'll make this work is I think what we're all going to find out is the arguments are going to get bigger. We're going to go from a few schools being angry to a lot of schools being angry, and maybe that's going to be a good thing. I just want to be in the argument."

Florida State showed Cutcliffe how far away Duke is from being in the argument in a 45-7 victory Saturday night in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.

The Seminoles' season has been defined by blowouts. Their average margin of victory is 42 points, and they could become just the third team in major college history to win all of its games by at least 14. The only drama this season in Tallahassee, Fla., came off the field, when quarterback Jameis Winston was investigated for sexual assault. The state attorney said there was not enough evidence to charge the redshirt freshman with a crime two days before the Seminoles beat Duke.

Winston is the runaway favorite to win the Heisman Trophy next Saturday. He would be the ninth Heisman winner to play in the BCS title game.

Auburn completed its worst-to-first run with a 59-42 victory in the Southeastern Conference championship game against Missouri. The Tigers didn't win a conference game last season. Under first-year coach Gus Malzahn, they have become an offensive juggernaut, leading the nation in rushing at 335 yards per game. Running back Tre Mason ran for 304 yards and three TDs against Mizzou to make a late Heisman push of his own.

The Tigers have had some good fortune - four games decided in the last 80 seconds, including improbable plays to beat Georgia and Alabama. But it usually takes a few breaks to get this far.

Auburn will be looking for its second BCS title in four years, and the SEC's eighth straight. Florida State is back in the championship game for the first time since 2000, looking to win a second BCS crown and third national title overall.

___

Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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