Fans of both teams in the National Championship this Monday who felt confident based off the outcomes of games played in the regular season undoubtedly felt different after this year’s Bowl series.
The loss making the biggest waves is of course Alabama’s defeat at the hands of Oklahoma. Not only were fans of the two-time National Champions fooled into thinking they were unstoppable, everyone was. Vegas had the Tide as 16-point favorites; the third time this season that Oklahoma was a two-digit underdog. Even Alabama’s golden boy and Heisman runner-up, AJ McCarron, was outshined by Freshman Trevor Knight, who threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns.
All season, teams in the top five had to face accusations that their conference allowed for an easy schedule. Alabama, being the only team to avoid such scrutiny, could blame their abrupt removal from the NC on a late-season loss and no one would think to argue. Everyone considered Alabama the best team in the nation, even after their loss to Auburn. Only after being outplayed by Oklahoma did people begin to look around, acknowledging that they might have been wrong.
What implication, if any, does this hold for the Auburn Tigers in the upcoming National Championship against Florida State? Watching their most vaunted opponent fall to the Sooners showed that the Tiger’s claim to fame could be replicated, albeit by a squad that had beaten two Top 10 ranked teams in the regular season — Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.
Auburn’s only solace is watching Boston College, who the Seminoles beat by two touchdowns, getting blown out by Arizona. Boston College was the closest Florida State came to losing, the second lowest margin of victory coming from their first game of the season where they won against Pittsburgh by four touchdowns. A small consolation for a team whose highest ranked opponents — sans Missouri — did not play as well as expected in their respective bowl games.
Texas A&M, who Auburn beat by a mere four points after sacking Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel on 4th down, was at one point down against Duke, a team that lost to Florida State 45-7 in the ACC Championship game. A&M finished the game with a four-point victory over the Blue Devils, a parallel that is hard to ignore. Out of the eight bowls featuring Auburn’s regular season opponents*, five have been won. Seven featuring FSU’s opponents resulted in three victories.
Florida State has behaved exactly as expected all season. With a victory this Monday they would end the season undefeated national champions, a feat the Seminoles last accomplished in 1999. Auburn heads into the game as 9 point underdogs, something that they are used to at this point. With parity all the rage this season, bowl outcomes hold little credence to the teams vying for the crystal trophy in Pasadena.
*Arkansas State is set to play Ball State Sunday, January 5th, making it nine bowls featuring regular season opponents for Auburn