For those of you who were living under a rock this past weekend or have just woken up from a Thanksgiving-induced food coma — you missed one of the greatest weekends in college football history. Many great traditional rivalries are played during Thanksgiving weekend, and the pageantry and passion involved makes for an exciting weekend in itself. But this weekend will forever stand apart for its amazing finishes and national title implications.
Third-ranked Ohio State nearly lost to archrival Michigan, but was saved when the Wolverines failed a two-point conversion that would have won the game with virtually no time left. This game was epic in its own right, but was a lame finish compared to the drama that went down in the Iron Bowl. In another back and forth classic Auburn beat its nemesis and two-time defending national champ Alabama on a missed field goal that was returned for a touchdown as time expired. The Tigers not only put a major dent in the Tide’s three-peat hopes, but won the SEC West and put themselves in position for a shot at all the marbles.
This is the last year of the current BCS format before a playoff system is implemented next year. Currently Florida State, Ohio State, Auburn, Alabama and Missouri are ranked one through five, respectively, and are the only five teams left with a realistic shot of making the BCS National Championship game in Pasadena. The drama from last weekend sets up three key games that will determine who plays for the crystal football in January. Florida State (1) is a big favorite to beat Duke (20) in the ACC championship game in Charlotte. Ohio State (2) will put its undefeated season on the line against Michigan State (10) in the Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis. And finally Auburn (3) will square off against Missouri (5) in Atlanta for the SEC Championship. I took the liberty to rank the possible BCS National Championship matchups in order of most likely to occur to least. Let the chaos begin.
1) Florida State vs. Ohio State
While SEC fans will resent this, Florida State and Ohio State are big programs from big conferences and they are the only two major teams left unbeaten. If both of them take care of business this weekend, I don’t really see a scenario where they don’t play regardless of what occurs in Atlanta. Seeing how they are both favored in their respective games I see this national championship matchup as the most likely scenario and would automatically end the SEC’s national title streak at seven.
2) Florida State vs. Auburn/Missouri winner
Of the two unbeaten teams, Ohio State has a much tougher matchup with a very underrated Michigan State team. The Spartans have an elite defense and if they can generate enough points on offense they could upset the Buckeyes. This would create a national semifinal in Atlanta as the Auburn-Missouri winner would slide naturally right into the No. 2 spot. Even though Missouri is currently behind Alabama the Tigers would surely jump over them with an SEC Championship win as the Tide are sitting idle this week.
3) Ohio State vs. Auburn/Missouri winner
One of the biggest surprises of this year has been Duke. The Blue Devils surprised many by winning their division, but it would be an even bigger surprise if they upset Florida State. A shocking loss by the Seminoles would set up the same scenario as No. 2, with the SEC Championship game acting as a national semifinal, only this time Ohio State would be waiting in Pasadena.
4) Auburn/Missouri winner vs. Alabama
Remember 2011? In that year, Alabama lost to LSU in the regular season and didn’t even win their division, much less their conference, and still got to play the Tigers for the BCS National Championship game. History could repeat itself if Florida State and Ohio State both lose this weekend. This would again set up a national semifinal between Auburn and Missouri, with the winner taking on an Alabama team that would move right up to No. 2. While this is the least likely scenario, it is neither impossible nor unprecedented (see 2007 final weekend). This would cause plenty of controversy, especially if Alabama won, as they would potentially get two second chances in three years.