CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

With Florida State vs. Auburn in BCS title game, the system works

Plenty of 'what ifs?' could have clouded the Bowl Championship Series picture, but the undefeated Seminoles and the one-loss Tigers are a good matchup.

Kenny Shaw

Florida State wide receiver Kenny Shaw celebrates a touchdown reception during the Seminoles' victory over Duke on Saturday. Florida State defied early expectations in finishing the regular season undefeated. (Streeter Lecka / Getty Images / December 7, 2013)

There were eight undefeated teams on Oct. 27 and six left on Nov. 17 and it appeared the last year of the Bowl Championship Series might get the fist in the face it deserved.

Then Auburn's moon jumped to the seventh house, Jupiter aligned with Michigan State and by Saturday night college football had one undefeated team: Florida State.

The BCS worked, thanks to blind luck more than planning.

Auburn said "thank you" and swiped the second spot Ohio State offered up after its Big Ten Conference title loss.

The top five of the final BCS standings ever published were Florida State, Auburn, Alabama, Michigan State and Stanford.

Florida State plays Auburn on Jan. 6 in the final BCS title game, sponsored by "Hallelujah."

The last fan leaving the Rose Bowl will be asked to blow out the bulbs.

The Pac-12 Conference got a great Rose Bowl, Stanford and Michigan State, followed by the old BCS stiff-arm.

The nation's second-best conference qualified three BCS-eligible teams but landed only one mandatory take: Stanford.

It was fitting the Pac-12 provided the bookends for the BCS but not very many of its stories.

UCLA graced the top line of the very first standings in BCS history in 1998, at No. 1, and USC was the last team ever listed at No. 25.

Really, though, this BCS year could have been much worse.

What if Stanford had won in Salt Lake City on Oct. 16? The Cardinal faced third and two at the six in the final minute against Utah and decided to throw twice. Oops.

Had Stanford won it would have caused a rip-snorting argument with one-loss Auburn over which team deserved to play Florida State.

Stanford's lawyers would have argued a three-point loss at USC against Auburn's 14-point defeat at Louisiana State and that — excuse me? — miracle win against Georgia.

Stanford ended with the nation's No. 4 schedule ranking in Sunday's Sagarin ratings. Auburn —even after consecutive wins over BCS No. 3 Alabama and No. 8 Missouri — still ended up No. 20.

But we won't have that fight.

What if Michigan State had defeated Notre Dame on Sept. 21? The Irish won by four, 17-13, aided by four pass-interference calls.

Spartans Coach Mark Dantonio diplomatically said afterward he'd never seen anything like that in 30 years — and then bit a hole through his lower lip.

What if Michigan State was 13-0 today instead of 12-1? Would the Spartans be in the title game instead of Auburn?

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