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Title-Bound

FSU vs. Alabama looks like national championship tilt

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With Oregon's loss to Stanford, the road has been cleared for Florida State University to play in the college football national championship game against University of Alabama. As we get ready to say our last goodbye to the Bowl Championship Series, it seems somehow fitting that we look poised for a national title game for the ages.

There's a slight possibility that it might not come to pass.

"We already know there is a 99.9 percent chance Florida State is going to be in the BCS National Championship Game by virtue of Oregon going down to Stanford on Thursday night, but I've got news for you: The Seminoles will not be playing Alabama; they'll be playing the Evil Genius — Urban Meyer — and his Ohio State Buckeyes," Mike Bianchi wrote in the Orlando Sentinel.

"Alabama has games left at No. 7 Auburn, at Mississippi State and an SEC championship game against either No. 9 Missouri or No. 13 South Carolina. I realize the Crimson Tide have won three of the last four national titles, but they haven't proven anything THIS year. The only decent team they've beaten is Texas A&M — and they had to hold on for dear life to win that game 49-42."

Well, maybe. Maybe Auburn will test them. Maybe Missouri or the Gamecocks. But having watched Alabama dominate its competition year after year, it's hard to imagine 'Bama falling to any of those teams.

Not with AJ McCarron, not with excellent lines on both sides of the ball and not with those outstanding running backs. And not with the ever-present Alabama Mystique — something South Carolina (despite occasional flirtations with greatness during the Steve Spurrier Era) and Missouri simply don't have.

Florida State, compared to the Crimson Tide, has nothing but cake on its plate. A decimated, discouraged and discombobulated Gators squad, and whatever will pass for an ACC championship game, will only be appetizers for the main course — a program-defining contest against this century's college football standard-bearer. And if all of that comes to pass, questions will be asked.

Over the last few months, FSU quarterback Jameis Winston has gone from being a wildcard to a real-deal Heisman Trophy candidate. Can he actually win the award? Some facts mitigate against it — even if we don't count the recent report of a complaint of sexual battery to Tallahassee police from 2012. The case remains open, but no charges have been filed and Winston's attorney denied the allegation, according to a Tallahassee Democrat story.

Games against Syracuse and Idaho won't require the freshman signal-caller to be on the field much; the book on the Seminoles' season is that the defense can score as much when on the field as the other team's offense.

The Nov. 30 game against the Gators, meanwhile, seems to promise more of that — given the offensive woes with Tyler Murphy at quarterback, manifested most acutely in the recent embarrassment against football powerhouse Vanderbilt. It's hard to imagine the Gators keeping up for much of the game.

Which is not to say it won't happen — but it's clear the Gators look worse and worse as the season progresses. The only factor that reduces chances of a blowout is that teams in this region tend to flash an extra gear against their rivals, as we saw most recently at a surprisingly competitive Florida-Georgia game.

And maybe the Gators will play hard for their coach against FSU. But I wouldn't bet my paycheck on it.

If the Florida State-Alabama matchup does come to pass, and FSU wins, we could see a real paradigm shift in big-time college football.

Most sane people wouldn't argue that the Atlantic Coast Conference is on par with the Southeastern Conference. However, if Winston leads the Seminoles to victory in the national championship game, it means that — sanity aside — the discussion will take place.

Then we might actually wonder if college football is more than "the SEC and everyone else." One of the arguments leveled at programs outside the SEC — FSU, Ohio State, Oregon and so on — is that those teams don't face the consistent level of competition faced by the Gators, the Crimson Tide, the Gamecocks and Mizzou. If Florida State runs the table and beats Alabama, that question has to be tabled for a while at least — doesn't it?

Time will tell, but right now, it's exciting to follow college football in the Sunshine State. The Seminoles have earned everyone's attention — though it seems their toughest adversary now might not be on the gridiron, but in the courtroom. More will be revealed on that front in the weeks ahead.

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