When the dust settled and the magic of an unforgettable college football Saturday stopped, Sunday had to begin. And with Sunday came bickering, consternation and shouting, a more perfect acronym for "BCS" than Bowl Championship Series could ever be. No longer was the college football world enamored of two-point conversion interceptions, or missed field goal returns, but rather ranking each team to figure out which would get the opportunity to play for a national championship in January.
As it stands, there are five teams in the penultimate BCS standings that can lay a somewhat decent claim to one of two spots available to play for a title. Florida State, Ohio State, Aurburn, Missouri, and Alabama all have good-to-great cases to make for their own inclusion. But each team also has a glaring negative mark against it.
In the final year of the BCS, the championship competitors are going to be not the team with the best resume, but the team with the fewest holes. Let's take a look at all five teams and see where they stand out, and where they fall short (note: this is not in BCS order).
1. Florida State
Led by Heisman frontrunner (and noted Tallahassee Person of Interest) Jameis Winston, the Florida State offense has been nigh unstoppable for the full 60-minutes of every game. Averaging 53.7 points per game (second nationally), the Seminoles were held to their lowest point total of the year in a rivalry game against Florida...and still won by 30. The offense is good, but the defense is leading the country in points against, allowing just 11 per game. Tremendous offense, stout defense, that's a national championship pedigree.
And, most importantly, Florida State hasn't lost. Yet.
Florida State has beaten everyone...and beaten no one in the process. The thing most pollsters say about the Seminoles is how they have utterly dominated every opponent on the schedule. That's relatively easy in the ACC, when the next best team, Clemson, has two losses and was just boat-raced by the second best team in the SEC's second best division. There's no denying Florida State has taken care of its business but, it hasn't been the best business in the country. It has to beat Duke to finish undefeated. Duke. That's the best of the rest in the ACC.
And though nothing at all has been filed or otherwise made official, the best player on the team - and likely in the nation - can't know if he will even play in a potential national championship game. If the Tallahassee District Attorney's Office files charges against Winston, he's done. And so might be Florida State.
2. Ohio State
The best quarterback-running back combination in the country is in Columbus, and there's no denying that. Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde are as dangerous a duo as any in college football. Against Michigan in a rivalry game on the road, Hyde rushed for a score and 226 yards, the best ever by an Ohio State back in The Game. Miller added 286 total yards and five touchdowns. Urban Meyer teams don't get blown out too often, and this offense can keep up with anyone.
And, most importantly, Ohio State hasn't lost. Yet.
Statistically, the Buckeye defense isn't that bad, but then we get back to whom they have played. Wisconsin put 24 on that defense, and just lost to Penn State at home. Northwestern put 30 on the defense and lost six games in a row after losing to Ohio State. And it took a freshman guessing right on a two-point conversion to beat Michigan. Like Florida State, Ohio State hasn't beaten anyone, and those it has beaten aren't that great to begin with. Get rid of the eye test or style points (the undefeated record takes care of both of those), the biggest problem with the Buckeyes is an inconsistent defense against an inconsistent slate of opponents.
Auburn is the luckiest team in the country, and there is no #2 team in that debate. Luck is a good thing to have when trying to win a national championship, and the last two weeks certainly make you believe some of the "Team of Destiny" talk circulating around the country with these Tigers. After beating mediocre Georgia on a tipped Hail Mary touchdown, Auburn followed it up with perhaps one of the greatest college football plays in history, running back a missed field goal to beat mighty Alabama. If it can beat Missouri in the SEC Championship Game, that will give Auburn three wins over then-top-10 teams.
Luck isn't skill or talent. Consider those two miracle wins a little more closely. If Georgia knocks the ball down, Auburn loses, and we're not even mentioning them. If Nick Saban doesn't get the second back on the clock he lobbied for, or takes the game to overtime, OR scores on his own Hail Mary, we're not even mentioning Auburn. Add to that the most important factor, Auburn has a loss on their record against a mediocre 9-3 LSU team. Where was that luck in Week 4?
Missouri, depending on whom you ask, actually has a bit of a better claim to being the SEC's best than does Auburn. It's only loss was in double overtime to South Carolina, which finished just behind Mizzou in the SEC East. Else, the Tigers have run through their schedule in impressive fashion, doing so for a few games without their starting quarterback, James Franklin. The Tigers are a balanced team with only an overtime loss on their record, and should they win the SEC Championship Game, it would be the American thing to let them play for the championship.
At the end of the day, however, Missouri suffers from the same schedule problems from whcih Florida State and Ohio State also suffer. Missouri doesn't play in the SEC West with big hitters like Alabama, Auburn and LSU, rather, it plays in the SEC East with wins over Georgia (8-4), Florida (4-8), Tennessee (5-7) and Kentucky (2-10). The only great team on the Tigers' schedule, South Carolina, beat them. If it beats Auburn on Saturday, it would be the only great win for Missouri. And that's a big if.
We live in a world where Alabama still has a chance to win another national title without winning its conference. Again. That's the mystique that Nick Saban has built around the program, and rightfully so. Play the 2013 Iron Bowl 10 times, and Alabama probably wins seven or eight of the match-ups. In fact, there's still a chance that, if Ohio State and Florida State lose, Alabama would slide into the BCS to play the SEC Champion. The best thing going for Alabama is the fact that they sit in prime territory to get into the championship game by default.
Alabama picked the worst time imaginable to lose a college football game, plain and simple. Had it lost to Virginia Tech to start the year, that would not have affected the SEC race. Had it lost to LSU in early November, LSU's other losses would have taken care of that. But Alabama lost in the Iron Bowl, with everything on the line. Whoops.
Which team deserves to play for a national championship? That isn't a fair question, really. All five teams have the bonafides to stake a claim to one of the two available berths. Deserving isn't what the BCS is about. And while Florida State and Ohio State likely control their own destiny, plenty will be mentioned about a one-loss SEC Champion, should both Florida State and Ohio State win. But if that happens, then the only resume item that will matter is the number in the loss column. And for the Seminoles and Buckeyes, that's the brightest bright spot a team can have.