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The last year of the BCS era has a surprisingly clear national championship picture…for now

This college football season represents the end of an era, even if it is a much vilified era in the minds of college football fans. This year will be the last season in which the BCS rankings will be used to determine the participants in the National Championship game. Starting next season, the top four teams in the nation, as determined by a selection committee, will compete in a playoff format for the National Championship. For now, however, we still have to utilize the arcane rankings system to determine who will play in the National Championship game.

Going into the conference championship games, the top two teams in the country are the unbeaten Florida State Seminoles and Ohio State Buckeyes. The Auburn Tigers sit at No. 3, but have one loss on the season. In other seasons, there has been considerable controversy centered around the No. 3 team having a claim to a spot in the championship game, but being denied by the rankings system.

In the 2004-2005 season, Auburn was denied a spot in the National Championship game despite having an undefeated record. Instead, the USC Trojans defeated the Oklahoma Sooners 55-19. Countless Auburn fans remained confident that their squad would have had a better showing in the championship game.

This season, however, both Florida State and Ohio State are undefeated. No other team from one of the major Division I football conferences has an undefeated record. Auburn is the top one-loss team in the country after defeating the two-time defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide last week. Despite having less of an argument, Auburn fans remain convinced that their team’s strength of schedule should trump Ohio State’s unbeaten record and send Auburn to the National Championship game. In the latest BCS rankings, there is a larger gap between the two unbeaten teams than there is between Ohio State and Auburn.

During the conference championships, No. 1 Florida State plays the No. 20 Duke Blue Devils for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) title, No. 2 Ohio State plays the No. 10 Michigan State Spartans for the Big Ten Championship, and No. 3 Auburn plays the No. 5 Missouri Tigers for the Southeastern Conference (SEC) title. The SEC is widely considered the toughest conference in college football and many fans are convinced that, should all top three teams win this weekend, Auburn may leapfrog Ohio State for the No. 2 spot. This does not even include the possibility that any of these teams lose their conference championship games.

It seems that in its dying breath, the goal of the BCS is to leave us with one last gut-wrenching controversy. For Ohio State fans, being left out of the National Championship after being unbeaten for the second season in a row would be devastating. The school was banned from postseason play last season due to sanctions imposed by the NCAA in the wake of a scandal at the school in 2011. For Auburn fans, they do play in the toughest conference in college football, and they just defeated the two-time defending national champion. Why shouldn’t they get a shot at the national title?

Let’s be clear. If Ohio State and Florida State win this weekend, they should play in the BCS National Championship game. There is no fair way to fault a team for winning all of their games when there are only two of them left standing. However, should either or both of these teams fall, the NCAA would have a mess on their hands.

Should either one of the two unbeaten teams fall, the SEC Championship game immediately holds National Championship implications. The winner of that game, either Auburn or Missouri, would be the one-loss championship of an extremely tough conference. However, Alabama also sits at one loss, but also has the large majority of the roster that guided them to the last two national championships. In this scenario, if Missouri wins, it would be possible for them to be left out of the National Championship game in favor of a fellow one-loss SEC team, even though Missouri would be the SEC champions.

The real hellish scenario would be if both Florida State and Ohio State suffer upsets. If this happens, the winner of the SEC championship game would definitely have a spot in the National Championship game. Next, a vigorous national debate would begin between a plethora of one-loss teams. Could Florida State or Ohio State stay in the discussion despite suffering season-ending losses? Michigan State also has one loss and will have just defeated the No. 2 team in the country. Alabama will also be at one loss, possibly setting up a giant rivalry rematch with Auburn for a national title. Oklahoma State could also potentially be one-loss Big 12 champions rising to the top of the fray.

The only thing that we really know at this point is that a four-team playoff this season would solve a lot of problems. Presumably, the four teams would be the undefeated Florida State and Ohio State teams, a one-loss two-time defending national champion Alabama squad and the winner of the SEC title game. These matchups make fans salivate, but they only need to wait one more year.

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