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Last and 10

Auburn's two miracles and Florida State's perfect finish made for a thrilling season

January 08, 2014|CHRIS DUFRESNE

Turn out the lights, the parity's over. The Bowl Championship Series era of equal access and catering to college football's "little guys" ended Monday night at the Rose Bowl when Florida State ended the Southeastern Conference's winning streak. The new playoff format will weed out the weak, make the big conferences richer and the small conferences poorer. Why do you think Chris Petersen finally left Boise State for Washington? There are exciting times ahead for everyone except the Sun Belt Conference and the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Death to the BCS was finally achieved, and along with it some of the fun that made this sport so fantastically flawed.

Before we move on to the logic and order of a four-team playoff (that will be eight teams within 10 years), let's reflect on the top moments of the last BCS season we'll ever love to hate:

10. He was game-clocked going 110

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, one of the most hyped players in years, finished this season with nearly as many speeding tickets as Heisman Trophy votes. Clowney may own history's earliest exit from Heisman contention.

He was effectively eliminated Aug. 29, three days before Labor Day, with his missing-in-action performance against North Carolina. Clowney was later clocked in his car for speeding at 84 and 110 mph, but pro scouts are much more interested in his 40-yard-dash times. Clowney is still considered a top-five pick in this year's NFL draft.

9. Big comebacks by Mora and Hundley

After a second building-block season, UCLA Coach Jim Mora had more leverage than a sumo wrestler and used it to improve facilities and secure more money for his assistant coaches. UCLA fans can thank job openings at USC, Washington and Texas for allowing Mora to pretend he might actually leave in order to get everything he wanted to make UCLA a national contender. The return of quarterback Brett Hundley, who actually was a threat to leave for the NFL, makes UCLA a preseason top-10 pick with a chance to be the first Pac-12 representative to participate in the new four-team playoff.

8. Oh, the shark bites, with his teeth, babe

Mack Brown got knifed. He was chased out as Texas' coach in the same season he passed Woody Hayes on the career victories list. Brown, in 16 years, led Texas to the 2005 BCS title and the 2009 title game, both at the Rose Bowl. He was replaced this week by Louisville Coach Charlie Strong, a curious fit to some longtime Texas followers. Booster Red McCombs, on a San Antonio radio show, called the hire "a kick in the face" and suggested Strong would make a "fine position coach." This, mind you, was Steve Patterson's first big hire as Texas' new athletic director.

7. Breaking the Cardinal rule

"Third and two at the Utah six" is a down and distance that should haunt Stanford fans for years. The Cardinal was trailing the unranked Utes by six points in Salt Lake on Oct. 12 but had a chance to escape with victory. Instead of sticking to its power mantra of "run, run, run," Stanford opted for two last-minute passes that fell incomplete. Tyler Gaffney, who would carry 45 times in a Nov. 7 win over Oregon, carried only 16 times against Utah. As it turned out, that defeat cost Stanford a spot in the national title game against Florida State.

6. Sweet (Left) Home Alabama

Jameis Winston, a second-year freshman from Alabama, was a relative unknown last August when he beat out sophomore Jacob Coker for the starting quarterback job at Florida State. In four months, he became the second freshman to win the Heisman Trophy and the first freshman quarterback to win a BCS title. Off the field, Winston was named in a sexual assault complaint filed by a Florida State student. Winston's late-season playing status was in doubt until two days before the Atlantic Coast Conference title game, when a state attorney announced there was not enough evidence to file charges.

5. "Sparty" beats Smarty

Michigan State earned back some "street cred" for the Big Ten Conference with a 24-20 win over Stanford in the 100th Rose Bowl game. In a predictably close game pitting Stanford's bullheaded offense against the nation's top-ranked defense, the game came down to a fourth-and-one in the fourth quarter. Stanford lined up in its "Elephant" formation and tried to stampede forward, but fullback Ryan Hewitt was stopped short by middle linebacker Kyler Elsworth, who anticipated the play perfectly. Michigan State (12-1) won its first Rose Bowl since 1988 and finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press media poll.

4. Loading and unloading zone

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