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Florida State earns best comeback

Updated: January 8, 2014 11:54PM



The 16th and final BCS championship game had one element of greatness over any that came before it: a monumental comeback. Florida State came from 18 points down, 21-3, to beat Auburn, a much bigger climb than the previous standard, a 12-point deficit Texas erased against USC to cap the 2005 season.

More telling, Monday night was the first time the team trailing at halftime in a title game rallied to win. Teams leading at halftime had been 14-0.

Surely that qualifies FSU-Auburn as one of the best title games of the BCS era, but was it the best? Definitely not. Here’s one stab at the top five:

1. Texas 41, USC 38 (2005 season): One of the great finales in any sport.

2. Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (2002): Double overtime and a huge upset.

3. Florida State 34, Auburn 31 (2013): Twenty-four points in the final 4:42.

4. Auburn 22, Oregon 19 (2010): Winning field goal came on the last play.

5. Florida 24, Oklahoma 14 (2008): Anticipated shootout was 14-14 in the fourth before the Gators pulled away.

‘New Year’s Six’

That’s the working title for the national semifinals under the four-team playoff beginning next season. The 2014 playoff will begin with the Rose and the Sugar Bowl and conclude with the championship game in Arlington, Texas.

In 2015, the Orange Bowl and the Cotton Bowl will host the semifinals, with the title game being played in Glendale, Ariz. In 2016, the semis will take place at the Fiesta Bowl and the Chick-fil-A Bowl, with Raymond James Stadium in Tampa entering the mix as a championship site.

The semis will continue to rotate among the above pairs of bowl games, with championship sites yet to be determined.

Coaching changes

The brightest spotlight will be on new Texas coach Charlie Strong. But will it be too bright?

Strong did A-plus work at Louisville in a fairly high-profile position, but it’s nothing compared with the constant demands he’ll face from alumni and fans in Austin. This might be a misfit because Strong — unlike endlessly charming front man Mack Brown — has shown a real disdain for the public-relations side of coaching. How he holds it together will be one of the stories of the season, even if the Longhorns are winning.

Steve Sarkisian left Washington for USC, where he served with tremendous success under Pete Carroll, and Chris Petersen left Boise State to replace Sarkisian in Seattle. Both seem to be excellent hires, though one never knows: Last year’s highest-profile coaching change — Bret Bielema from Wisconsin to Arkansas — gave way to a disastrous 0-8 SEC campaign for the Razorbacks.

By far the biggest remaining question mark is what will happen at Penn State. If the frontrunner, as widely reported, is Vanderbilt’s James Franklin, it invites further investigation into what happened in Nashville last summer.

Four Commodores were charged with raping an unconscious fellow student, and a fifth player was charged with attempting to cover up the crime. There is no reason at this point to believe there were any missteps by Franklin, who dismissed all five players from the team. In light of Penn State’s history with Jerry Sandusky, though, hiring a coach with this sort of stain on his previous program might be ill-conceived.

Far too early look at 2014

Florida State, led by Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, will have most of the same cast back. There is little doubt the Seminoles will be ranked No. 1 in the polls heading into next season.

“I think this team will look very, very similar to the one you just saw,” coach Jimbo Fisher said.

Here goes nothing:

1. Florida State 2. Oklahoma
3. Alabama 4. Ohio State 5. Oregon 6. Auburn 7. UCLA 8. Michigan State 9. South Carolina 10. Baylor

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @slgreenberg



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