Championship Saturday is over, and the SEC got just what it was looking for, a chance to make it eight straight national championships. Auburn and Missouri staged a basketball game in the Georgia Dome, putting up numbers this year’s Falcons could only dream of. In the end, though, it was the team of destiny yelling War Eagle while lifting the SEC trophy. Florida State didn’t make it easy in the early going, but the Seminoles did their job, punching their ticket to the BCS Championship, then it was down to Ohio State.
The No. 2 Buckeyes have been lightly regarded all year, and they didn’t exorcise the demons on this night, losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship and falling out of the national championship conversation. The Buckeyes’ defense didn’t get enough stops, and the offense couldn’t establish the rhythm they’re used to. Instead, Michigan State goes to the Rose Bowl for the first time since January 1, 1988, and the BCS has its title game set.
- Florida State (13-0, 9-0; W 45-7 vs. Duke): Another question asked and another emphatic answer. No one expected Duke to beat the Seminoles, but there had to be a worry about how Florida State would play. They started slow with their first scoreless first quarter of the season, but in the end it was the same old story. The Seminoles punched their ticket to the BCS Championship with authority, and Jameis Winston put the finishing touches on his Heisman season by setting FBS freshman QB records for TDs and passing yards.
- Auburn (12-1, 8-1; W 59-42 vs. Missouri): We knew Auburn could run the football, but their attack led by Tre Mason’s 300 yards completely dismantled a pretty good Missouri front seven. The Tigers proved that their offense is championship quality, but their stops on defense were few and far between. Auburn is one of the best turnaround stories I’ve seen in college football, and Gus Malzahn and his group are going to the National Championship to try to keep the SEC win streak alive.
- Alabama (11-1, 7-1; Off): Alabama got the weekend off, and they end it with a likely trip to either the Sugar or Orange Bowl. The Orange gets the first pick of BCS teams, but the Sugar has the traditional SEC tie in. We’ll see which one gets the Tide, but one thing is sure. Whoever they play they’ll be a strong favorite.
- Baylor (11-1, 8-1; vs. Texas): For the first time ever, the Baylor Bears are Big 12 Champions and for the first time they’re headed to the Fiesta Bowl. Baylor got the fortune of seeing Oklahoma State lose earlier in the day. Then, they came out and got the job done against Texas in a winner-takes-the-title game. It was close for awhile, but the Bears were too much for the Longhorns, winning their first conference title of any kind since 1994.
- Michigan State (12-1, 9-0; W 34-24vs. Ohio State): The party continues for Sparty, and there’s a noticeable rose tint marking the occasion. Michigan State’s defense wasn’t its best against Ohio State, but they made enough stops, and the offense was better than advertised. In the end, it was the Spartans celebrating a first Rose Bowl berth since 1988.
- Ohio State (12-1, 8-1; L 34-24 vs. Michigan State): Are the Buckeyes as bad as the online experts made them out to be? Not at all, but they did prove that they’re not as good as some hoped they were during a 24-game winning streak. Ohio State looked dominant for a stretch, but weren’t really good at all the rest of the game against Michigan State. I predict a BCS At-Large is still in the future because of OSU’s one-loss record and a fan base that will buy out a stadium.
- South Carolina (10-2, 6-2; Off): The Gamecocks had to sit back Saturday and wonder what could have been. A tough loss to Tennessee was the only thing standing between South Carolina and a chance to play its way into the national championship. Instead, USC has a strong bowl game ahead where they’ll surely be the favorite.
- Missouri (11-2, 7-2; L 59-42 vs. Auburn): Missouri went on a national stage and proved definitely that they can be a factor in the SEC. They didn’t win the game, but that offense is one to be reckoned with. The problem is that the defense was absolutely dominated. Coming into the game it seemed their seven man front was their defensive strength, but they were gashed for 545 yards on the ground. Now they lick their wounds and head for a still high quality bowl game.
- Stanford (11-2, 8-2; W 38-14 @ Arizona State): Welcome back to the Rose Bowl, Cardinal. Stanford dominated Arizona State from start to finish earning a trip to Pasadena, likely against Michigan State. Tyler Gaffney powered the way as usual, and the Cardinal proved me wrong when I thought the Sun Devils might turn the tide this time around.
- Oklahoma State (10-2, 7-2; L 33-24 vs. Oklahoma): So long BCS, at least I’m assuming. The Cowboys came up big, we thought, when they scored a late touchdown for a lead against rival Oklahoma. Then they allowed the Sooners to drive the field for a touchdown before scoring again on the final play of the game. It’s a sad end to the regular season for a Mike Gundy team that had an eye on the Fiesta Bowl.
- Clemson (10-2, 7-1; Off): The Tigers didn’t end their season the way they hoped in last week’s loss against South Carolina, but don’t be surprised if Clemson still plays in the Orange Bowl come January. It would be a great finish to the remarkable career of Tigers’ quarterback Tajh Boyd.
- Oregon (10-2, 7-2; Off): The Ducks missed out on the Pac 12 Championship, and Ohio State’s loss might have taken them out of the BCS hunt after Baylor’s Big 12 Championship let them back in. The Ducks’ vaunted offense is bound for either the Alamo or Holiday Bowl, where they’ll try to end it on a high note.
- Wisconsin (9-3, 7-2; Off): The Badgers are pretty much locked into the Capital One Bowl after being the clear third best team in the Big Ten this season. That gives them a shot to match their impressive running game against a fast, SEC defense. Out of all the possible match ups the Big Ten might see in bowl season, Wisconsin might have the best chance of winning.
- LSU (9-3, 5-3; Off): The Tigers got the week off after their three-loss SEC campaign, but the Cotton Bowl might come calling if it stays true to its SEC West roots. Some think Missouri or South Carolina might cross over and get the selection, but in the past the West division almost goes to Texas for this one.
- UCF (11-1, 8-0; W 17-13 @ SMU): The Knights had nothing to play for after Louisville’s win clinched their first ever BCS Berth, but the win makes them a more attractive team for those big time games. Where will they end up? I’m thinking in the Fiesta Bowl against Baylor, but we’ll see for sure when the selections come out.
- Louisville (10-1, 6-1; W 31-24 OT @ Cincinnati): The Cardinals closed out their regular season in dramatic fashion, taking an Overtime grudge match game at Cincinnati. The Cardinals are locked into the second spot in the AAC, meaning a likely spot in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Has Teddy Bridgewater played his way back into the Heisman race? I think so, but we’ll soon find out.
- Oklahoma (10-2, 7-2; W 33-24 @ Oklahoma State): Bedlam lived up to its name once again, and even as an underdog the Sooners beat the Cowboys for the 12th time in 15 years. Bob Stoops has become a master at turning “just an okay team” into a group that ends up winning ten games, and he did it once again.
- Arizona State (10-3, 8-2; L 38-14 vs. Stanford): The strides were great for the Sun Devils this year, but they haven’t gone quite far enough to win the Pac 12. Arizona State trailed nearly from the beginning, never estblishing the offensive rhythm they’re used to seeing. Up next in bowl season is a likely trip to either the Alamo or Holiday Bowl.
- Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-1; L 47-27 vs. Bowling Green): Good bye, MAC Championship. Good bye, BCS At-Large. Maybe good bye to the Heisman ceremony for Jordan Lynch, though I hope not. The Huskies were flat out dominated against Bowling Green in the conference championship game, and it’s not like the Falcons are a bad team. They lost to Indiana, then by one point to Mississippi State and on a last second touchdown against rival, Toledo. The sad reality for the Huskies is that they went from a likely Fiesta Bowl berth to somewhere like the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
- Duke (10-3, 6-3; L 45-7 vs. Florida State): The final score didn’t reflect it, but the Blue Devils acquitted themselves very well, at least for a half. Duke held Florida State scoreless in the first quarter, the first team to do that all season. Now they’re a favorite to play a talented SEC team in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in the Georgia Dome.
- UCLA (9-3, 6-3; Off): UCLA had a week off to watch its rival, USC get a new coach and its other rival Arizona State come up short in the Pac 12 Championship. There wasn’t really anything to lose or gain for the Bruins this week. At this point it seems like a trip to the Sun Bowl is in the works.
- Texas (8-4, 7-2; L 30-10 @ Baylor): A couple months ago, most people thought the Longhorns would be playing out the string at this point, just waiting for Mack Brown’s successor to appear. Instead, Texas was playing to win the Big 12. They couldn’t get the job done against a better Baylor team, so now we’ll see quite a difference between the Fiesta Bowl and where they’re likely headed. I say it’s the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
- Cincinnati (9-3, 5-2; L 31-24 OT vs. Louisville): The Bearcats put up a serious fight, but they earned the third spot in the AAC this year by losing a close game to their rival, Louisville. The Bearcats are a talented team, but an early season loss to USF kept it from doing better. The Bearcats have accepted their second straight berth into the Belk Bowl.
- Fresno State (11-1, 8-1; W 24-17 vs. Utah State): It turns out a shoot out loss against 6-6 San Jose State will stand between Fresno State and a spot in a BCS game. The Bulldogs fired on all cylinders in the first ever MWC Championship Game, and for it they’ll be rewarded with a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl, likely against USC.
- Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4; Off): Will Johnny Manziel be in New York City for the Heisman ceremony? Who knows, but he wasn’t able to build his case this weekend after A&M’s 4-4 finish in their second SEC season. Coming up in the bowl season is a murky picture, but I’m thinking either the Chick-fil-A or Gator Bowl.
Others in consideration: Notre Dame (8-4; Off); USC (8-4, 5-3; Off); Minnesota (8-4, 4-4; Off); Miami (9-3, 5-3; Off); Georgia (8-4, 5-3; Off); Ball State (10-2, 7-1; Off); BYU (8-4; Off); Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3; Off)