Florida State wins final BCS Championship Game as Winston responds to adversity

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Hollywood could not have scripted a better ending to the BCS era in college football. Following great endings in each of the previous BCS bowl games, the BCS Championship Game did not disappoint. Down four points with just over a minute to play, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston was charged with having to lead the Seminoles 80 yards for the game-winning score, and he delivered. A short pass over the middle to Kelvin Benjamin was held on to for a go-ahead touchdown with just 13 seconds to play. Auburn, the team of destiny heading in to the title game, had seen their magic run out, and Florida State brought a death-blow to the SEC’s BCS championship winning streak in the final BCS Championship Game to be played.

Florida State 34, Auburn 31.

So long BCS. Thanks for the memories.

Florida State was down 21-3 in the second quarter, but the game never got away from them. Any question about how this team would handle adversity was answered in most dramatic fashion under the brightest spotlight of the season. Florida State scored a late touchdown in the second quarter when Winston completed the first of his two touchdowns to Devonta Freeman to make it a 21-10 deficit at the half. The Seminoles tacked on three points in the third quarter and set up a one-score game heading in to the final quarter of the college football season.

Florida State continued to carry the momentum in the fourth quarter by pulling to within one point of the Tigers. A Jameis Winston touchdown pass to Chad Abram on the right side of the field made it a two-point game, 21-19, but an unsportsmanlike penalty on Devonta Freeman for taunting the Auburn sideline following the score held Florida State to nothing more than an extra point attempt rather than potentially going for a game-tying two-point conversion. The video replay showed it may have been a tad of an overreaction by the Big Ten referee, but it was still a situation that could have easily been avoided by Freeman.

The penalty was enforced on the ensuing kickoff, giving Auburn a free 15-yard head start on what turned out to be a pivotal possession. Auburn traveled 69 yards and ran just over six minutes of clock but had to settle for a field goal. This gave Auburn a 24-20 lead, but it was short-lived. A 100-yard kickoff return by Levonte Whitfield electrified the Florida State section of the Rose Bowl with the first lead of the night by the Seminoles since a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. Florida State finally clawed all the way back, but the defense failed to come up with a stop.

Auburn, who had come up with late momentum-shifting plays down the stretch of the season with a bit of flair, did so once again by going to their strength, the running game. the Tigers capped a 75-yard drive on eight plays, leaving 1:19 left on the game clock. The final play of the drive came when Heisman finalist running back Tre Mason ran over a Florida State defender and ran 37-yards for a touchdown. The way things had gone this season for Auburn you may have thought that would have been the cherry on top of a miraculous turnaround season for Gus Malzahn‘s Tigers, but this time it was Florida State who had one last memorable drive in them.

A total of 80 yards separated Florida State from a national title. The team that had been the most dominant team from the start of the season through the conference championships, needed to dig deeper than they had early in the year against Boston College and much deeper than needed against Clemson or Miami. Adversity? Like everything else this season, Winston and Florida State brushed it off their shoulders like it was no big deal. Except that it really was.

Winston completed the first three plays of the drive to move the offense down to the Auburn 17-yard line. The big play was a 49-yard completion to Rashad Greene, but a defensive pass interference on Auburn’s Chris Davis in the end zone on a 3rd and eight gave Florida State a free first down at the two-yard line. On the very next play Winston found his favorite target, Benjamin, for the game and championship clinching touchdown.

Whew.

The college football season is now in the books. Florida State won their third national championship in school history, and brought the BCS era full circle.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson frowns upon Group of Five playoff idea

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The chances a team from the Group of Five ever gets selected to play in the College Football Playoff range from slim to none. As such, talk from within the Group of Five has kicked up from time to time, especially over the last year, about a possible Group of Five-only version of the College Football Playoff. The reactions to that idea has been mixed, but add Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson to the group of people who thinks that idea should be tossed aside.

While attending meetings for the College Football Playoff, Benson told reporters he would prefer to see conference champions from the Group of Five (American, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt) receive better bowl bids instead of playing in a minor version of the College Football Playoff.

It’s time to have a realistic conversation about creating a playoff for the Group of 5,” NIU athletic director Sean Frazier told Brett McMurphy, then of ESPN.com, back in December. “Why not?”

Well, there are a number of reasons. First, not everybody seems to be on board with playing the college football version equivalent of the NIT. Sure, it would be on TV and would get ratings, but the reward at the end of the JV playoff would mean little. Nobody would consider it a national championship. That’s what the FCS is for.

Benson is not alone in his anti-Group of Five playoff stance. MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher also has been on record saying he is not interested in such a plan, and he oversaw a member from his conference go undefeated last season and play in the Cotton Bowl (Western Michigan).

My initial reaction is that’s not something I’m interested in,” Steinbrecher said, according to MLive.com in December. “We’re part of the (College Football Playoff) system, and it’s done a lot of very good things for the Mid-American Conference.”

Without the support from two of the Group of Five commissioners (and you can almost be guaranteed you can add Mike Aresco of the American Athletic Conference to the list given the conference’s push to be considered a power conference), this idea is pretty much dead on arrival.

LSU’s Arden Key: I am not sitting out my junior year

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After taking a little time off from the LSU football program this spring, Arden Key calmed the nerves of Tigers fans on Wednesday with a simple message on his Twitter account.

Key announced to his Twitter followers he will be on the field for the Tigers this fall. Back in February, LSU released a statement saying Key would be stepping away from the program “for personal reasons.” What those personal reasons were is unknown, but he did so with the support of head coach Ed Orgeron and the entire football program at the time.

Key earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading LSU with 14.5 tackles for loss and 12 sacks, a school record. With news, he would be stepping away from the program and the age of top NFL Draft prospects opting out of bowl games, the mere thought that Key might become the first potential NFL Draft pick the following season sitting out the entire football season was difficult to completely ignore. Fortunately, especially for LSU and not so much for LSU’s opponents, Key is choosing not to break that barrier at this time.

Texas A&M removes WR Kirk Merritt from roster

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After being charged for allegedly exposing himself to tutors at Texas A&M, wide receiver Kirk Merritt is no longer an Aggie. Merritt has been removed from the Texas A&M football program, according to a report from The Eagle. Though there has been no official statement confirming such news, Merritt’s name has been wiped off the team’s online roster.

Merritt pleaded not guilty to a pair of indecent exposure charges against him stemming from an incident last October. Merritt allegedly exposed himself to female academic tutors. Merritt was suspended by Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin a few days after the alleged incidents. The suspension was expanded to indefinite status following Merritt’s arrest on November 8. The suspension has since been lifted after the university’s conduct process wrapped up in January.

It has been a bit of a bumpy year for Merritt. Merritt left Oregon for Texas A&M last summer due to family reasons. He participated in Texas A&M’s spring practices but did not play in the spring game.

Big 12 revenue eclipses $300 million mark

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When it comes to revenues, the SEC and Big Ten continue to set the pace and leave the rest of the competition in the dust. That said, the Big 12 saw a second straight sizable revenue bump, according to recent tax returns.

As reported by USA Today, the Big 12 recorded a revenue of $313 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016 on its tax return. The figure is up roughly $40 million from last year’s revenue, and the conference has now doubled its revenue since the 2012 fiscal year amid conference realignment changes. As for the revenue shares for each Big 12 program, the numbers ranged from $28 million to West Virginia to $28.9 million for Oklahoma. This marked the first time West Virginia and TCU were eligible to receive their full conference revenue shares as Big 12 members.

The biggest reason for the big jump in revenue came from increased bowl revenue. The Big 12 pulled in $114.5 million in bowl revenue in 2016, which was just $74.5 million in 2015. The 2015 season, which was included in the fiscal year outlined by this tax return, saw Oklahoma advance to the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma State be selected to play in a New Years Six bowl game (Sugar Bowl), which led to a larger bowl game distribution for the Big 12. The previous year saw no Big 12 team in the College Football Playoff (TCU, Baylor).

The Big 12 still lags well behind the SEC. Most will, of course. The SEC announced a revenue of $584.2 million for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, with each SEC member receiving a revenue share of $40.4 million. The SEC and Big 12 are the only conference revenue numbers currently on record for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but expect the Big Ten to be a solid second in the pecking order, with the ACC likely to come in front of the Big 12 and the Pac-12 to be toward the bottom of the pack.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby had a pay increase as well. Bowlsby reportedly earned a little more than $2.6 million in 2015, earning more than $70,000 than the previous year.