Florida State Finally Stops the SEC Stranglehold on Major College Football’s National Championship Game

Someone just had to do it, and finally Coach Jimbo Fisher and his Florida State Seminoles did.

Jameis Winston, Florida State’s redshirt freshman quarterback, proved he deserved the Heisman Trophy he won before the National Championship Game with the Auburn Tigers by throwing a 2-yard touchdown pass to 6-foot-5 Kelvin Benjamin (who made a great, leaping catch) with 13 seconds left to win the national title for the Seminoles, 34-31.

The Florida State win, the last game that will ever be played in the 16-year history of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), was epic because it broke the Southeast Conference’s 7-year grip on the title. Florida won in 2006 and 2008, LSU won in 2007, Alabama won in 2009, 2011 and 2012, and Auburn won in 2010.

This year’s game was one of the best as Florida State, down 21-3 in the 1st half, became the first team to ever come from behind after being down at halftime. The Seminoles scored 21 points in the 4th quarter, and the teams combined for 24 points in the last 4 minutes and 42 seconds. This is how it went down:

Florida State’s Chad Abram caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Jameis Winston.

Auburn countered with a 22-yard field goal from Cody Parkey.

Florida State’s Levonte Whitfield, clearly the fastest player on the field as a true freshman, returned the kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown.

Auburn’s Tre Mason, who picked up 195 yards rushing on 34 carries (5.7 yards per carry), sprinted 37 yards to score with 1:19 left, and put the Tigers back up, 31-27.

Then it was Jameis Winston to Kelvin Benjamin for a 2-yard touchdown and victory as Winston led his team on a last-minute (79 seconds left) drive, completing 6-of-7 passes for 77 yards on the game-winning 80-yard drive. Winston went 20-for-35 for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns during the game.

By any standard, it was one extremely exciting, nail-biting game for fans on both sides of the field.

Hats off to Jimbo Fisher and his Florida State Seminoles, the came into the game as an 8.5-point favorite and won the game, if not the betting line, to make college football history. Forty years from now, no one but Auburn fans will remember who Florida State played to win the national championship in 2013.

And now, for how and why it happened, let’s look at some indicators:

After covering college football for more than a century, there is no question in my mind about who wins championships: it’s more likely the defense than the offense. And while a 34-31 title game suggests an offensive juggernaut against equally capable opponents, the season long statistics say Florida State would win. Here’s why:

Florida State would rank 1st nationally in offensive scoring, Auburn was ranked 8th.

Florida State would rank 5th nationally in total offense, Auburn was ranked 11th.

Florida State would rank 1st nationally in scoring defense, Auburn was ranked 38th.

Florida State would rank 3rd nationally in total defense, Auburn was ranked 87th.

Are you beginning to get the picture?

Add to that the fact that Florida State also ranked 1st in Passing Efficiency, 1st in Passing Yards Allowed, 1st in Passing Efficiency Defense, 2nd in Turnover Margin, 3rd in 3rd-Down Conversions, 3rd in 3rd Down Conversion Defense, and you have a really great Florida State Seminole team.

All of which is to say, Coach Gus Malzahn’s Auburn Tigers and Tre Mason made a heck of an effort to win. For this season at least, Auburn became the national runner-up, and the second best team in major college football.

Auburn won 9 straight games to get to the national championship game, and finished at 12-2. Florida State went undefeated at 14-0. Both teams had exciting, fantastic seasons.

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