The BCS National Championship Game, the final computer- and poll-generated practice in automated futility before the FBS’s playoff system comes to fruition next season, played out last night in operatic, storybook fashion. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, Florida State’s redshirt freshman quarterback, led an 80-yard, 58-second final drive which concluded in a two-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin, sealing an 18-point comeback victory on Winston’s twentieth birthday. The SEC’s seven-year run of preeminence in college football came to a close, at least for the moment, and a valiant performance from Auburn will surely be lost to the annals of time. No one ever remembers who finished second.
While all of that is well and good, including the 100-yard Kermit Whitfield kickoff return which brought the Seminoles back to within striking distance late in the fourth quarter, the real story happened on ESPN2: the BCS Title Talk portion of ESPN’s BCS MegaCast, an all-eyes-on-us cavalcade of programming which included the game itself, analysis from college coaches and, of course, Title Talk. Jemele Hill and Michael Smith co-hosted a quasi-ESPN office party complete with appearances from country singer Taylor Hicks, actress Cheryl Hines, SEC Network poster boy Tim Tebow and Texas A&M renegade Johnny “Football” Manziel. For the first quarter of the game, Rece Davis and Jesse Palmer seemed entirely uninterested in being there, carrying on side conversations between themselves. Smith spent most of the game attempting to hand out sliders and other finger foods, creating the illusion of a jovial atmosphere. In typical conglomerate fashion, ESPN attached the hashtag #TitleTalk to the program and to the game in general, which elicited a wide variety of responses from participants and onlookers alike.