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?
What if Georgia had knocked down a fourth-down pass against Auburn, or Alabama back T.J Yeldon had not stepped out of bounds with one second left against Auburn in a play that took four forensic replay scientists to confirm?
Had Yeldon's foot hit one nanosecond later Alabama might have defeated Auburn in overtime instead of losing on a play with lower probable odds than picking a winning NCAA tournament bracket.
Auburn fans would have never printed T-shirts, "Hey Nick [Saban, do you have a second?"
What if Missouri won the Southeastern Conference title and Ohio State won the Big Ten?
Would SEC Commissioner Mike Slive have dared argue for Alabama in the title game instead of his champion?
These are questions that don't have to be answered because the BCS somehow passed another Breathalyzer test.
Everything worked out, remember?
Florida State versus Auburn, all things considered, is the right matchup — and a good one.
Florida State overcame its laughable schedule rank of No. 63 by pummeling opponents so badly it didn't matter.
The demolition continued Saturday when Coach Jimbo Fisher played quarterback Jameis Winston deep into the fourth quarter against Duke. Florida State, after all, was winning only 45-0.
What was that all about?
Winston's back story is not Walter Mitty's and will continue to make some people uncomfortable. Some won't rally around the freshman who got to play in a game on Saturday because he wasn't charged with a crime on Thursday.
Winston dodged the hard questions after his year's Atlantic Coast Conference title win in Charlotte, N.C.
He sounded strong, if not vindicated.
"We're not done yet," Winston said. "We fear no one. Our opponent has no face, so we don't care."
The other BCS bowls are good, if not rigged.
The Rose Bowl is that macho matchup pitting Stanford versus Michigan State, teams that missed being undefeated by 15 total points.
The Fiesta Bowl got what it had to take, Central Florida versus Baylor.
The Sugar Bowl should have been Alabama versus Oregon, the game people have been demanding for years.
The Sugar took Oklahoma instead, because bowls care more about what they want than what we want.
Oklahoma is not only a name brand with a fan base that likes to party. The Big 12 Conference just entered a long-term bowl partnership with the Sugar Bowl. Sorry, Oregon.
Two-loss Clemson also got a free BCS pass to play Ohio State in the Orange because that bowl and the ACC have a business relationship.
It's no different from the Rose Bowl, in 2007, taking BCS No. 13 Illinois (9-3) as the at-large to play USC.
The weird part about this year is that the BCS worked better than next year's four-team playoff would have worked.
Imagine the 13-member selection committee trying to choose a top four this year.
If the committee mimicked the BCS standings, No. 3 would be Alabama and No. 4 would be Michigan State.
Everyone with eyeballs knows Alabama is really good but it also did not win its own division of the SEC and has a Sagarin SOS of 45.
The selection committee is supposed to put a premium on winning conference championships.
Taking Michigan State means you selected a team with the No. 56 schedule ranking ahead of the champions of two better conferences: Pac-12 (Stanford) and Big 12 (Baylor).
Would a committee chaired by the Arkansas athletic director bounce Alabama out in favor of two champions, or keep Alabama and leave out Michigan State, Stanford or Baylor?
No one ever said the BCS was perfect, or that picking four teams is going to be easy.
But few could have ever imagined the BCS, in its last year, would be less controversial than a better system that took 16 years to get ratified.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun