It's the game we've all been waiting for. The BCS National Championship Game pits the seemingly unstoppable Florida State Seminoles against the SEC champion Auburn Tigers. The game will be "MegaCast" across ESPN network channels at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Florida State began the year ranked No. 11 and stormed its way to a perfect season and its fourth all-time appearance in a BCS National Championship. The Seminoles' closest win was a 14-point road victory over Boston College, with their next-closest being a 27-point victory over an undefeated Miami team in November.
They boast the Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Jameis Winston, field the top-rated scoring defense in the country, and have outscored opponents by a ridiculous average of 53.0-10.7.
Auburn, meanwhile, started the season with nearly zero expectations, coming off a 3-9 2012 season that saw it go winless in SEC play. After starting the season 3-1 with close wins over Washington State and Mississippi State (as well as a loss to LSU) few thought the Tigers could make a run at the SEC West crown. But they rattled off nine straight wins, with victories over ranked Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri teams en route to the improbable conference title.
The Tigers now have the chance to win their second national title in four years.
Rankings and records: Florida State is ranked No. 1, while Auburn is ranked No. 2. The Seminoles are 13-0, winning the ACC, and the Tigers are 12-1, winning the SEC, with their single loss coming at the hands of LSU. Auburn holds a 13-4-1 lead in the all-time series, but the teams have not met since 1990.
Vegas: Florida State opened as a seven-point favorite and is now an 8.5-point favorite. The over/under is 67.5 points. Full betting trends report here. Player and team bets here -- 33 of them, in fact.
Weather: Absolutely perfect.
Three names to know
Jameis Winston. The Heisman Trophy winner is only a redshirt freshman, but he is one of the most talented players to come through the college ranks in quite some time. The national No. 1 passer (190.1 rating, 3,820 yards, 38 touchdowns) also has perhaps the country's best range of weapons, including three 900-yard wide receivers and ace tight end Nick O'Leary, a stout offensive line, and a brilliant play-caller in head coach Jimbo Fisher.
Tre Mason. Auburn had a Heisman finalist as well, and the Tigers' running back will try to equal his 300-plus-yard performance in the SEC Championship Game. The 1,621-yard bowling ball combines with dual-threat quarterback Nick Marshall, a monstrous offensive line, a number of other speedy weapons, and head coach Gus Malzahn's power-option scheme to give the Tigers the country's best ground attack.
Lamarcus Joyner. Both of these teams have great offenses. But only one has an all-around great defense. The Noles' consensus All-American cornerback is a big reason why. A converted safety, he's both a shutdown guy in the passing game and a force against the run. He also leads FSU with five sacks and three forced fumbles, quite the achievement considering the slew of five-star talent in his team's front seven.
Two things at stake
Besides the obvious, of course.
Auburn will try to continue the SEC's dominating run of seven straight national titles and complete perhaps the greatest turnaround in college football history. A win would also be one of the biggest upsets in BCS history and mean five straight titles for the state of Alabama.
Florida State is looking to prove it is fully back after a lull lasting nearly a decade -- and also set itself up as a favorite to repeat next year, since Fisher and Winston are just two of the big names returning. Considering how dominant FSU has been all season, the Noles would also enter the debate on the greatest team of the BCS era, and probably even more.
How to witness
The best vs. destiny
The big, advanced-stats breakdown shows Auburn was just about unstoppable over the last month of the season -- but that Florida State was that good all year long.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, and lots of other places. Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit have the call, with Heather Cox and Tom Rinaldi on the sidelines. ESPN's coverage throughout the day will include guest analysis by Alabama coach Nick Saban, Pitt coach Paul Chryst, Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, and others.
Stadium: Rose Bowl (94,392), Pasadena, CA
Tickets: Find available seats here.
Last year's BCS National Championship score: Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14
Last year's attendance: 80,120 (filling up Miami's Sun Life Stadium)
Last year's TV rating: 17.5 (26.4 million viewers)
Last year's payout for each school: $18 million
Team with the most BCS National Championship appearances: Oklahoma, with four
Team with the most BCS National Championship wins: Alabama, with three