Whatever happens on the field in Pasadena tonight, the SEC's streak of consecutive BCS national championships is about to come to an end. The hated series -- which did a lot more good than it critics ever recognized, though not as much good as its organizers would pretend -- is going away for good. For the conference and Auburn, at least, it's an appropriate bookend.
After all, it was Tennessee that won the first BCS title after the regular season ended in 1998. They played the national championship game against Florida State. Fifteen years later, it's another team in orange that once again faces the Seminoles with the title on the line. That was long before the SEC would make a habit of winning the BCS; in the next eight years, only LSU would play for the title, winning it in 2003.
One thing that people don't tend to remember about the streak -- because most of the media agrees that the SEC is now the best conference in the nation, and because the last several SEC teams to play in the national championship game were favorites -- is that it started on a very unlikely night. Florida was not supposed to beat Ohio State in January 2007. Some wondered if the game would even be that close. Ohio State was an undefeated team that had largely skated through the season, though perhaps not as easily as Florida State this year, and Florida was a one-loss SEC team that needed an unlikely intersection of events to get it to the national title game in the first place. The similarities there don't need to be pointed out.
But this is also a bookend of sorts for Auburn, with the 2010 national championship on the other side. There was another national title game out west, with a team powered mostly by offense playing for the national title. That team won, then came an increasingly rocky couple of years for Auburn football, and now they are back where they stood before the whole program imploded under Gene Chizik.
I don't have a lot of reasons to say that Auburn will win this game, because on some level it's completely illogical. Whatever you think of his behavior off the field, Jameis Winston is a fantastic quarterback on it. The Auburn defense still hasn't done that much to convince me that it's strong enough to shut down the Seminoles. If there's a defense that can figure out how to unwind Auburn's running game, it should be Florida State's. The smart money would still go with the Seminoles.
It's just that I've seen the last three games Auburn has played, two of them with endings that were nothing short of magical. You can call it a "team of destiny," you can call it luck, you can call it whatever you please. All I know is that I'm not picking against it until I see it fail.
Auburn 34, Florida State 30