As fireworks lit the night sky and Jimbo Fisher got all emotional at his postgame interview, a part of me was also shedding a tear or two. For the day had come: the last BCS National Championship Game was over, the BCS was dead, long live the (obnoxiously branded) College Football Playoff.
The narratives that talking heads could choose to preach about were almost innumerable in the aftermath. You had two of the prouder fan-bases in college football converging on the Rose Bowl, no stranger to late-game histrionics, on a balmy January evening. You had this year’s edition of the college football Cinderella story wrapped in cosmic miracle seasoned with toppings of the absurd (Auburn, with its ludicrous victories against Georgia and Alabama) facing one of the most dominant teams, by any metric, in college football history (Florida State, with its season-long shellacking of overmatched conference opponents).
You had Famous Jameis Winston, Heisman Trophy winner, charismatic speech-giver, team leader, who also happened to have been recently cleared of any wrongdoing in a distastefully protracted sexual assault investigation, facing off against Nick Marshall and Tre Mason, the latter of whom adopted the Heisman pose as his celebration of choice in recent weeks. You had stoic Jimbo Fisher paired off against mad-genius Gus Malzahn. You (eventually) had the SEC’s multiyear reign of terror being snapped in dramatic fashion, that too by a team from the much-maligned ACC. I could continue, but I would most likely run out of column space.
In retrospect, the game was a perfect analogy for the life of the BCS itself — wild, wacky, not without controversy, but ultimately a rewarding experience. We’re definitely going to miss it a little bit now that it is gone.
The game itself seemed to hinge on huge momentum-shifting plays in the second half. There was the gutsy fake punt on fourth down, which avoided what would have been another frustrating three-and-out for a Florida State offense that literally could do nothing right. After the conversion, it seemed the FSU offense could do no wrong.
There was the missed field goal by Auburn kicker Cody Parkey; the points forgone in that miss eventually accounted for the difference in the 34-31 final score. On the other side of the ball, there was Roberto Aguayo and his theatrically absurd mark of 21 of 22 field goals made this season and 94 of 94 extra points converted, including two key makes in the title game itself. There was the monstrous kickoff return touchdown that bestowed upon Florida State its first lead of the game; then there was the counterpunch from Tre Mason, and the fear that there might have been too much time left on the clock.
Then there was that final drive, a quick and methodical Florida State march down the field, all too reminiscent of Vince Young, at this very venue a few years back, carving up an exhausted USC defense and signaling the end of an era. This time, it was a coronation and a vindication of sorts for Winston, who had looked so out of sorts all game up until that clutch drive. On that last possession, he was calm and collected, completing six of seven passes for 77 yards and the game-winning touchdown to Kelvin Benjamin. And yet, though the game was all but over, you couldn’t help but wonder whether the 13 seconds left on the clock were again enough for Auburn to score. After all, this is the same team that had made many a win-probability estimate choke in disbelief.
Alas, another Rose Bowl miracle was not to be, and the Auburn Tigers sadly trudged off the field, defeated by the finest of margins. As Florida State celebrated its first national championship since the Bobby Bowden era, the curtain closed on the Bowl Championship Series. Ironically, the first BCS national title game was a 23-17 Tennessee victory over Bowden’s Seminoles. It seems fitting that the bookending final BCS title game has Bowden’s successor Fisher triumphing over another SEC squad in such dramatic fashion.
College football stands at a crossroads, as the upcoming playoff system gets finalized. As the years go by, despite all the controversy it engendered, we might just remember the BCS fondly. After all, it produced some of the finest drama in all of sports, whether on or off the field. Congratulations to Florida State, the deserving national champions, and Auburn, a truly worthy runner up, for all its accomplishments this season. It was a game that I will remember for a long time.
Vignesh Venkataraman has not stopped weeping since the final minutes of the final BCS bowl. Offer to buy him some tissues at viggy ‘at’ stanford.edu.