Before the Bowl Championship Series is replaced next year by a playoff, No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn will meet in its last title game Monday night at the Rose Bowl.
The Seminoles (13-0) ripped through their schedule on the way to Pasadena, winning each game by at least 14 points behind Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.
“I still think our best game is out there,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said Sunday. “I’m looking forward to playing it on Monday night, and our kids are looking forward to the challenge.”
The turnaround Tigers (12-1) are the most unlikely group ever to reach the BCS championship game. Auburn went from 3-9 last year to Southeastern Conference champions in their first season under coach Gus Malzahn. It was a wild ride. The Prayer at Jordan-Hare beat Georgia. The Kick-Six beat Alabama. Destiny? Fate? Luck? The Tigers don’t see it that way.
“Hey, I know we’re a team of hard work, I know that,” said tailback Tre Mason, a Heisman finalist who has run for 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns for the No. 1 rushing offense in the country. “These guys put a lot of hard work in with me every day, blood, sweat and tears all year long.”
Auburn is the first team to reach the BCS championship game after having a losing season the previous season, and would become the first national champion to start the season unranked since BYU in 1984.
At Florida State, Fisher has put together the most talented two-deep depth in the country, a collection of five-star recruits and NFL prospects reminiscent of coach Bobby Bowden’s best Florida State teams. The Seminoles won two national titles under Fisher’s Hall of Fame predecessor and played in the first three BCS title games. The Seminoles haven’t been back since 2000.
The Seminoles outscored their opponents by 42 points per game and have not trailed since Sept. 28. Winston and the rest of the starters have spent most fourth quarters relaxing.
Florida State is also trying to break the SEC’s grip on the national championship. The streak is at seven, but never has the SEC team been as big an underdog (Auburn is getting 8 1-2 points from oddsmakers).
The Seminoles are fine being the favorites.
“I’m glad everybody’s calling Auburn a team of destiny,” Winston said, “because at Florida State we control our own destiny.”
Auburn vs. Florida State
WHEN: Monday, 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: Rose Bowl, Pasadena
TV: ESPN, ESPN2
RADIO: KGMZ (95.7 FM)