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COMMENTARY: Right on Schedule, It's the Annual BCS Controversy

Charles E. Sutton | 12/5/2013, noon
One missed field goal attempt later, and we're smack in the middle of a vintage end-of-season rankings controversy — yet ...
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller looks to pass in the first half of the Buckeyes' 56-0 road win over the Purdue Boilermakers on Nov. 2. (Sandra Dukes/USA Today via ohiostatebuckeyes.com)

We were this close.

Though most of us college football fans would prefer a playoff system to determine the national champion, we had become comfortable with the idea of this one last season without it. We even made it to the last two weeks of the regular season largely in agreement about the top two teams.

But one missed field goal attempt later, and we're smack in the middle of a vintage end-of-season rankings controversy — yet again.

Just when everyone figured two-time defending champion Alabama would play undefeated Florida State for the national title, the mighty, unbeaten Alabama Crimson Tide, pursuing its fourth crown in five years, was taken down by arch-nemesis Auburn, and in the most shocking of ways.

By now, every college football fan in the nation knows what happened at the end of this year's Iron Bowl — a finish so heartbreaking for 'Bama followers that one viewing party ended in murder.

But that's about all anyone knows. Despite there only being two undefeated teams left, there's far from a consensus about which two should face off for the Bowl Championship Series title, especially with conference championship games yet to be played. Several scenarios have as many as five teams with legitimate aspirations of playing for the national title.

Prior to Auburn's 34-28 upset, Alabama was on a collision course with Florida State. Ohio State, the third remaining undefeated team before Saturday, looked like the odd man out, barring something unbelievable. Well, the unbelievable occurred Saturday.

And wow, what a Saturday it was! For one day at least, we got to set aside any dislike for the BCS system and enjoy some classic football. Two games feature two plays in the waning moments — Ohio State-Michigan also went down to the wire (more on that later) — that dramatically altered the national championship landscape. Playoffs or not, it doesn't get much more exhilarating than that.

But now the high has worn off and, predictably, nothing is settled. Florida State is now No. 1, followed by Ohio State, Auburn and Alabama. Florida State will play a much-improved Duke squad in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game, Ohio State will face Michigan State for the Big Ten championship, and Auburn, as a result of beating Alabama, will square off against fifth-ranked Missouri for the Southeastern Conference crown.

Florida State and Ohio State are currently the odds-on favorites to meet in the BCS title game, but if they and Auburn all win out, Auburn could conceivably leapfrog Ohio State at No. 2 by virtue of the BCS members' vote. It may sound weird, but it can happen. Remember, the voting members of the BCS are merely rendering their opinions when they cast their national ranking ballots, and Saturday taught us that we shouldn't assume anything.

If there was any good that came from the topsy-turvy weekend, it's Ohio State finally being mentioned as legitimate title contenders. All season long the focus has been on Florida State and their Heisman Trophy candidate Jameis Winston, or back-to-back champion Alabama, with the Buckeyes seemingly destined to be stuck with the No. 3 ranking and frozen out of the BCS title game.