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College Football Winds Down Ahead Of Final BCS Championship


Well, this is rivalry week in college football. It's that annual period when the cheering and the insults get noticeably louder. And this weekend there's some extra spice as games from Alabama to Florida to Michigan could all have an impact on which two teams end up playing for the national championship. This is the last year of the so-called BCS Championship, the Bowl Championship Series.

College football fans are happy to know that next year we'll be heading to a playoff season. And let's bring in our sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, hi.


GREENE: Yahoo is right.


GREENE: Well, let's start with some of the big games this weekend. And at the top of the list, the big match-up tomorrow between number one ranked Alabama and number four Auburn. It's called the Iron Bowl. How important is this game, Tom?

GOLDMAN: Very important. You know, which is striking, David, because last year's meeting between these two teams was dreadful. It was a 49 to nothing route by Alabama...


GOLDMAN: ...for an Auburn Tigers team that finished three and nine. But Auburn first year coach Gus Malzahn has done a fantastic job turning his team into a powerful, powerful unit. They're second in the nation in running. 'Bama has the fourth best rushing defense. So there'll be a lot of focus on the run and stopping the run.

You figure passing may hold the key because of that, the key to an Auburn upset. The fun scenario, of course, for everyone other than Alabama fans is Auburn winning and then seeing how the dominos fall with other teams suddenly having a chance to get to the title game.

GREENE: Well, speaking of other teams with potential, the two teams ranked two and three squeezed in between Alabama and Auburn are Florida State and Ohio State. And they're both on the road against bitter rivals.

GOLDMAN: Right. Florida State playing at Florida; Ohio State at Michigan. You know, college football is an emotion-driven game and the home field advantage may have an impact here. If the home teams, all underdogs, can jump out early in these games, get those raucous crowds going, it could be a factor. Even with a team like Florida which is a heavy underdog to Florida State.

Florida has lost six in a row but a couple of those losses have been close ones to top 10 teams.

GREENE: And Florida State, they're undefeated. They're ranked number two and there's a pretty serious non-football story surrounding the best Seminoles player this year, quarterback Jameis Winston. What can you tell us about that?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. There is an accusation of sexual assault allegedly involving Winston. A young woman has accused him of rape. His lawyer says there was consensual sex. There was news this week that most likely it'll be a couple of weeks before there's a decision whether or not to file charges against Winston. Now, David, as repulsive as it might seem, the timing of the possible charges sets up some potentially unprecedented scenarios in relation to football.

If Florida State qualifies for the title game and Winston is charged after that, school rules say he can't play. Now, considering he is the team's best player wouldn't the college football officials then reorder the lineup and put in another team in the championship game? Because Florida States, in theory, wouldn't be as strong. The officials can't do that. It's too difficult logistically.

GREENE: You know, not only does Winston, Florida State team, you know, they're in the running for the national championship, he's one of the favorites in the race for this year's Heisman Trophy, which is given to the country's best player. I mean, could these charges affect that?

GOLDMAN: Well, yeah. Again, timing is key here. Winston is considered a frontrunner for the Heisman. Ballots have gone out to voters. They're due back on December 9th. The winner is announced December 14th. It's potentially embarrassing, obviously, if Winston were charged and then won the Heisman. I spoke to someone from the Heisman Trophy Trust who said, quote, "We don't comment on hypotheticals." But the person did say they couldn't think of anything historically to compare to this situation.

GREENE: All right. So a lot of questions surrounding Florida State's quarterback. NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks a lot.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.