Pat Higgins | Asst. Sports Editor
Until Jameis Winston knocked off Auburn in the second most ridiculous ending on the college football calendar in 2013, the Southeastern Conference won seven consecutive national championships. In Auburn’s bid for the conference’s eighth straight crystal ball, Winston, the sport’s most controversial figure through the final weeks of 2013, turned in a performance for the ages on his 20th birthday.
The victory under the lights in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl capped Florida State’s perfect season in the BCS’s final go-around. They scored nearly 52 points per game on their way to a 14-0 campaign when it was all said and done in Los Angeles after knocking off the Tigers 34-31. The 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore erased two deficits in the last five minutes of the BCS’s final showing on his way to what FSU Coach Jimbo Fisher called “the best football game he played all year.”
The best football game in a year when they scored over 50 points in seven of 14 games. When the clock hit 0:00, Winston led a team that outscored its opponents 723-170 and won perhaps the most dramatic game he’ll play in his life, all before he turned 20. I recently turned 20, just last August – there was cake but no crystal ball to celebrate.
But enough of Jameis. He sealed his name into the record books as the first freshman to capture a title, but the state of Florida investigated a case that dated back to December 2012 in which Winston was accused of sexually assaulting a student at an off-campus apartment. The state’s Attorney General laughed at the press conference in which he announced there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute the then fourth-string quarterback on the program’s depth chart.
The Seminoles were the final team to win under college football’s Bowl Championship Series, and halted the SEC’s stranglehold over the nation in the game’s final seconds. But along the way, Urban Meyer coached Florida to two titles in three years, and Tim Tebow exploded onto the national scene. LSU dominated in between the Gators’ reign, Meyer left for Columbus and guided Ohio State to a 24-0 run in the program’s two seasons of bowl ineligibility.
And then there’s Alabama Coach Nick Saban, who led the Crimson Tide to three titles in four years. It took Auburn safety Chris Davis’ 109-yard field goal return on the final play of the game to thwart his campaign for an unprecedented four championships in five years.
Along the way, the BCS was consistently one of the most scrutinized subjects in the sports realm (Alex Rodriguez has pulled ahead as of recent), but produced some of the most exciting matchups of the year at marquee locations across the country. Boise State never won enough for a shot at a no. 1 ranking at year’s end, but they did successfully execute a hook-and-ladder and a Statue-of-Liberty to knock off heavily-favored Oklahoma. Tebow shined, the Tide rolled, the Fighting Irish returned to dominance, at least for a year.
Next year, the top four teams will face off in a two-game playoff to crown a winner. Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron graduated a year too early for a potential shot at redemption against Auburn in a championship setting, but next year’s rules will silence critics for at least the time being.
And with that we bid adieu to the BCS, a flawed yet dynamic system that balanced a coach’s poll and computer results to matchup the FBS’s best two teams at a neutral site each January since 1998.