Florida State played in the first three Bowl Championship Series title games that began 16 years ago. Now the Seminoles will play in the final one.
FSU (13-0) and Auburn (12-1) finished the season ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the final BCS standings released Sunday night, and will play for the national championship on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif.
FSU is the only unbeaten Division I-A team in the nation.
In the final year of the current BCS format, the Seminoles finished No. 1 for the first time since 1999. This is FSU's first trip to the BCS title game since 2000.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher and his players knew following Saturday night's victory over Duke in the ACC Championship Game they would play in the BCS title game, but Fisher said it wasn't until the announcement was made official Sunday night that the reality finally set in.
"(Saturday) night you're so caught up in the emotions of the game and trying to win a conference championship," Fisher said Sunday night. "We talk about the national championship, but winning the conference championship is a tremendous accomplishment and there's a great sense of pride in that. … Then after you woke up today it kind of sunk in, but once you heard on TV that you were the No. 1 team and you're going into the national championship game against a great opponent like Auburn, it does sink in. All the hard work is paying off."
Auburn will be making its second BCS national championship appearance in the past four years. The Tigers won the national championship in 2011.
"This team's gotten better each week and they are playing their best football, I think, at the end of the year," coach Gus Malzahn said. "We're looking forward to playing a great Florida State team in the national championship game. It ought to be a good one."
FSU will have an opportunity to do what many across the country have hoped for: dethrone the SEC. Four SEC teams — Alabama, Florida, LSU and Auburn — have combined to win the past seven BCS championships.
"I was in the SEC for a long time, I coached there for 15 years and I remember when the SEC couldn't crack it," Fisher said. "In the '90s it was Florida State and Miami and the SEC was always fighting to get somebody in. . . It's very unique that it's the SEC, which is dominating now, and FSU which was in the first three national championships. It's kind of funny that it did come full circle like that."
The game will have many storylines, including the fact that Fisher is a former Auburn assistant and FSU quarterback Jameis Winston is an Alabama native. But Winston said the Seminoles won't get caught up in the external facets of the game. What matters is on the field.
"We've got the utmost respect for everybody that we play," Winston said. "But at the end of the day, we're Florida State and they're University of Auburn. Me being from Alabama, I'm going to be excited to play this game. Coach Fisher coached in Alabama, and there's a man that me and Coach Fisher both love on that coaching staff, his name is Dameyune Craig. We're not going to get involved in all this SEC/ACC stuff because we done made it to where we are and we're not done yet. We fear no one. Our opponent has no face, so we don't care."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.