No. 12 vs. unranked. If Florida State and Auburn played in Week 1, that would have been the rankings matchup. Instead, the Seminoles and Tigers will meet as Nos. 1 and 2 in the BCS National Championship Game. Florida State handled Duke, 45-7, in the ACC title game, and Auburn outlasted Missouri, 59-42, in the battle for SEC supremacy. The two will meet Jan. 6, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif., to determine this season's national champ.
Florida State was always going to advance to the championship game with a win, but Auburn needed some help. The Tigers got that in the form of a 34-24 Michigan State upset over No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Spartans clinched their trip to the Rose Bowl, and the Buckeyes lost out on a shot at their first national title since 2007. Now, they'll likely play in another BCS game as an at-large team, but the stakes won't be nearly as high. OSU had won 24 consecutive games and completed two straight unbeaten regular seasons, but a poor start and finish against MSU put a major dent in its fine season.
Florida State will likely be a solid favorite over Auburn, and for good reason. The 'Noles might be the most dominant team in ACC history, averaging a 54-11 win through 13 games this season. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston is the Heisman Trophy front-runner. Saturday night against the Blue Devils, he completed 19-of-32 passes for 330 yards, three scores and two picks, and he rushed 10 times for 59 yards and another score.
Auburn has used a powerful rushing game to gain a chance at a second national championship in four years. the Tigers averaged 318.3 yards on the ground in 12 regular-season games, before compiling an eye-popping 545 in the victory over Mizzou. Tre Mason carried 46 times for 304 yards and four TDs in the triumph, setting new SEC Championship Game records in each category. Florida State's defense, which gives up just 118.0 rushing yards per game, will be a stiff test, but the Seminoles haven't faced a run-based offense like the Tigers'. Gus Malzahn's team ran for a combined 841 yards against Alabama and Missouri, the SEC's top two rushing defenses, over the last two weeks.
While it's certainly the biggest, the BCS Championship Game isn't the only major bowl on tap for January. In the Rose Bowl, Michigan State will square off against Pac-12 champ Stanford, which defeated Arizona State, 38-14, in its conference title game Saturday. The Spartans and Cardinal both prefer to run out of pro-style offenses and play menacing defense, which should provide a close matchup of similar teams.
After Oklahoma State's upset loss at home against Oklahoma, Baylor took advantage and defeated Texas, 30-10, to claim the Big 12 crown. The Bears and their potent offense will move on to the Fiesta Bowl, where they'll take on American Athletic Conference champion Central Florida. Baylor averaged 55.4 points and 634.4 yards per game in the regular season, leading the nation in both categories. It would be an understatement to say the Knights will be serious underdogs.
Aside from the automatic-qualifying conference champs, look for Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State. With SEC champion Auburn moving on the the BCS title game, the Sugar Bowl should replace the Tigers with their arch-rival Crimson Tide. After their upset of Oklahoma State, the Sooners likely will earn a shot at 'Bama in New Orleans. Clemson should have a chance to end its season on a high note in the Orange Bowl, and the Tigers likely will be matched up against Ohio State, with the Buckeyes taking a consolation trip to Miami.
There's been a fair amount of BCS chaos this year, and the championship game couldn't have been predicted by many rational experts in the preseason. But as of right now, the BCS bowl picture is about as set as can be.