By Ralph D. Russo
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — No. 1 Florida State romped and No. 2 Ohio State stumbled, and now the SEC has chance to win its eighth straight BCS championship.
The Seminoles will play No. 3 Auburn in the BCS title game Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif., after the Tigers capped their remarkable turnaround season with a wild victory over Missouri in the Southeastern Conference title game, and then the Buckeyes were upset by Michigan State in the Big Ten on Saturday night.
For Florida State, it was business as usual against No. 20 Duke. Jameis Winston passed for 330 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, just another huge game for the Heisman Trophy favorite, and the Seminoles' defense smothered the Blue Devils 45-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in Charlotte.
"We're not champs yet," coach Jimbo Fisher yelled to his team after it crushed Duke.
Florida State will play for the national title for the first time since the 2000 season, and Winston will likely have to stop in New York to pick up the Heisman Trophy before Florida State heads to southern California. The Seminoles were will be looking for their first BCS title since 1999, and they'll be trying to break the SEC's vice grip on the national title before the BCS is replaced by a four-team playoff next year.
It looked as if the SEC did in itself last week, when Auburn upset Alabama. Florida State moved to No. 1 in the BCS standings and Ohio State to No. 2.
Auburn was No. 3, but the SEC was not about to go quietly and just hope for an upset.
The Buckeyes have been the target for the SEC supporters, who have insisted that their champion's one loss is as good as the Buckeyes' none because they played a tougher schedule.
"I have nine words," Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs was quoted as saying by SI.com on Saturday after the Tigers' 59-42 victory against Missouri. "Strength of schedule. Strength of schedule. Strength of schedule."
Now it doesn't matter.
Ohio State hadn't lost in 24 games, not since Urban Meyer took over last year. Despite all the SEC's lobbying, a victory against the Spartans would have likely been enough to hold off Auburn and send the Buckeyes to the BCS title game for the first time since the 2007 season.
Instead, Ohio State fell behind by 17, rallied back to take a 24-17 lead, then watched Michigan State score the last 17 points to win 34-24.
Michigan State will go to the Rose Bowl. Ohio State will probably have to settle for the Orange Bowl.
The Big 12 and Pac-12 also settled BCS business Saturday.
No. 7 Stanford is going to the Rose Bowl for the second straight year, the first time that's happened since 1970 and'71, after winning the Pac-12 championship game at No. 11 Arizona State, 38-14.
No. 9 Baylor (11-1) won the Big 12 and locked up an automatic bid to the Fiesta Bowl, with some help from Oklahoma. Before the Bears beat Texas 30-10, the 18th-ranked Sooners upset No. 6 Oklahoma State 33-24 in Stillwater to keep the Cowboys from winning the Big 12. Baylor will play No. 15 UCF (11-1), the American Athletic Conference champion, in its first BCS appearance.