Florida State Meets Auburn In Final BCS Game

College football's champion will be decided Monday night at the Rose Bowl. No. 1 Florida State plays No. 2 Auburn in the last Bowl Championship Series game. It will be replaced next year with a playoff.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Fans will not be complaining, at least not about the weather tonight, as Florida State and Auburn face off in a very important game. They're playing in tonight's college football championship in warm and sunny Pasadena, Calif. And there's even better news for the many college football fans who've grown to loathe the Bowl Championship Series, known as the BCS. Tonight marks the end of it. It's being replaced next season by a playoff that will decide the national champion.

NPR's Tom Goldman is in Southern California to cover the game. Tom, good morning.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hello.

GREENE: So we've got one heck of a match-up here, between the top-ranked Florida State and No. 2 Auburn. But first, out of respect, do we need to have a some kind of eulogy for the good old BCS?

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDMAN: Sure - but would it be tacky, David, to start the eulogy by popping open a bottle of champagne?

GREENE: You can start it any way you want to.

(LAUGHTER)

GOLDMAN: Yee-ha. We have loathed the BCS these many years - 16, to be exact - because of the way it put together the championship match-up; computer rankings and polls that often seem to go against common sense or fairness. But ironically, the BCS's final act - matching undefeated Florida State against 12-and-1 Auburn - is absolutely the right move; they are the two best teams in the country. So we will bid the BCS good riddance with a little pat on the back.

GREENE: The BCS is saying we can get it right this year...

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

GREENE: ...and then goodbye. Well, give us some thumbnails of the game. What makes these teams so good and so clearly, the two best in the country?

GOLDMAN: Well, if you like offense: lots of scoring, lots of plays that gain lots of yards. The stats say we should be in for a treat. Florida State's offense on average gained 529 yards per game this season. That's a huge amount of yardage.

GREENE: Wow.

GOLDMAN: And the Seminoles beat every opponent except one, by at least 27 points. The defense is hardly shabby. They led the nation in the fewest points allowed, 10.7 per game.

Auburn is no statistical slouch, either. The offense gained, on average, 505 yards per game; averaged 40 points per game. Unfortunately, the Tigers' defense also sports high numbers; they allowed over 420 yards per game, and 24 points per game.

And David, if you can deal with a few more numbers, here are some from ESPN that might help fortify Auburn fans.

GREENE: OK.

GOLDMAN: In the last 10 seasons, there have been three BCS championship match-ups between an undefeated team and a one-loss team. All three times, the one-loss team won the game, each time by at least 20 points.

GREENE: Wow. Well, that's good news for Auburn fans.

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

GREENE: Give us some players who you're keeping an eye on tonight.

GOLDMAN: Obviously, Jameis Winston is the biggest name. The Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback for Florida State has been unstoppable in his first season. He's passed for 38 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. Florida State is stacked with other stars, too - a trio of wide receivers: Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw.

For Auburn, running back and Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason led the nation's No. 1-ranked rushing offense. Quarterback Nick Marshall hasn't gotten the accolades like Winston, but he's been very important for the Tigers as well.

GREENE: And remind us how these teams got here, Tom. I mean, Auburn had what was sort of a magical season, in some ways.

GOLDMAN: Absolutely. Florida State just steamrolled everyone from the very beginning - not close games. In fact, Jameis Winston said this weekend the biggest test was off the field - the rape allegation against him; a case in which charges were not filed. He said that was the adversity this season that he and the team had to overcome. Auburn, as you say, had a wild ride that provided two thrilling plays in particular: the desperation pass that was tipped and caught for a winning touchdown against Georgia; then a week later, the miracle touchdown return off a missed field goal versus Alabama, in the Iron Bowl.

And the Tigers say they're a team of destiny? Who's going to argue after plays like that?

GREENE: Yeah. And Tom, let me just ask you. You mentioned all the legal problems for Florida State's quarterback, Winston. No charges filed; does that mean it's over now?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, it certainly seems to be so here. The talk is about football and Winston's greatness on the field. But the accuser's lawyers says the case isn't over, and that the accuser and her family are going to try to seek justice through avenues that are still available to them. And that could include a civil suit against Winston, at some point.

GREENE: All right, Tom, enjoy covering the game tonight.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

GREENE: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman, who is in Southern California to cover tonight's final BCS Championship Game, before we say goodbye to the BCS.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

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