INDIANAPOLIS — Big Ten, there will be no national championship for you.
But there will be two teams with a chance to win their BCS bowl games, one of them representing a program that has rediscovered its championship history.
No. 10 Michigan State took another massive step Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium toward the prominence and respect it has craved for decades. And when Mark Dantonio’s Spartans were done with a comeback upset of No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game, 34-24, they put roses in their mouths — representing their next stop and capping the mission they were so close to completing two years ago.
It’ll be MSU (12-1) against Stanford (11-2) on Jan. 1, 2014 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. It’ll be the Spartans’ fifth trip there, and first since a 20-17 victory over USC on Jan. 1, 1988.
MSU players, coaches and fans — outnumbered significantly by red-clad Buckeyes backers — celebrated the realization of a long-held dream in the same arena where they suffered a nightmarish loss to Wisconsin in the inaugural Big Ten title game in 2011.
A similar story was unfolding in the third quarter Saturday, after the Buckeyes roared back from an early 17-0 deficit to score 24 points — threatening to run away.
But Connor Cook (304 yards, three touchdowns), Jeremy Langford (128 rush yards) and a revived defense turned it all around. Denicos Allen’s fourth-down stop of Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller in the fourth quarter served as the play of the game.
And Ohio State coach Urban Meyer will have to settle for a BCS at-large bid after his first loss in two seasons with the Buckeyes.
To the delight of Auburn fans and the SEC in general, the Big Ten will again be shut out of the title game — its last appearance was OSU’s loss to LSU in 2008.
For the first 20 minutes of the game, it looked like MSU might cruise past the bewildered Buckeyes. The Ohio State offense managed a total of 36 yards in its first three possessions. And Cook was on fire — hitting Keith Mumphery for a 72-yard touchdown on a blown Ohio State coverage, then lofting a perfect 33-yard pass to Tony Lippett for a score.
That made it 17-0 Spartans with 9:01 left in the second quarter. MSU was rolling. Ohio State was reeling. And the Buckeyes needed a play.
They got it from Miller on the next series. Nearly sacked on a second-and-8 from his 18, he escaped and weaved his way for 48 yards — the first big play of the day for OSU’s rush attack, and the first of many.
Miller capped that drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to OSU’s Philly Brown, and that was the start of 24 straight points for the Buckeyes. By the end of three quarters, had 248 rushing yards — the most of the season by far against MSU, with more than 100 each for Miller and Carlos Hyde.
Still, MSU was hanging around, down 24-20 when Cook rediscovered his big-play touch. A long pass to Macgarrett Kings Jr. keyed a 90-yard drive and set up a 9-yard touchdown loft to a wide-open Josiah Price. It was 27-24 Spartans — the Buckeyes found themselves in MSU territory after a Ryan Shazier block of a Mike Sadler punt.
But on fourth-and-2 from the MSU 39, MSU senior linebacker and Ohio native Allen charged in and stopped Miller on a keeper going right.
Six plays later, Jeremy Langford capped his eighth straight 100-yard game with a 26-yard touchdown run.
Florida State 45, Duke 7
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston threw three touchdown passes and rushed for another score, as No. 1 Florida State rolled to its 14th ACC championship with a 45-7 rout of 20th-ranked Duke at Bank of America Stadium.
On Thursday, Winston was cleared of allegations he sexually assaulted a woman last year, a distraction that had hung over the quarterback’s head since reports of the assault initially surfaced in November. Left to focus solely on football, Winston thrived, throwing for 330 yards on 19-of-32 efficiency while adding 59 yards on 10 carries to help the Seminoles finish 13-0 for the first time in school history while setting the conference and school records for wins in a season. The Heisman hopeful set a number of individual records as well for his stellar freshman campaign, with his 38 TD passes and 3,820 passing yards setting FBS freshman records. Kelvin Benjamin caught five passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns, while Devonta Freeman rushed for 91 yards and a score on 17 carries for Florida State, which will be playing in the National Championship for the first time since winning it all during the 1999-2000 campaign.
Auburn 59, Missouri 42
The Southeastern Conference’s streak of sending teams to the BCS Championship Game appears to live on, and the Auburn Tigers showed themselves to be plenty worthy of the honor.
Riding a 46-carry, 304-yard, four-touchdown effort from Tre Mason, Auburn sewed up the SEC title and likely earned itself a chance to play for a national crown with an emphatic 59-42 victory over Missouri at the Georgia Dome. Auburn (12-1) racked up a whopping 536 yards on the ground in all en route to its third-ever SEC Championship Game victory and first since 2010, when it won the national title later that season behind Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton.
The Tigers entered Saturday’s play behind both Florida State and Ohio State for the all-important top two spots in the BCS standings, but the Buckeyes’ 34-24 loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship all but assures Auburn a matchup with the Seminoles in Pasadena on Jan. 6. Auburn didn’t win a single game in SEC play a season ago before undergoing the biggest turnaround in league history.
Nick Marshall added 101 rushing yards and a touchdown for Auburn, while adding 132 yards and a touchdown through the air while completing a crisp 9-of-11 passes.
Stanford 38, Arizona State 14
Tyler Gaffney found the end zone three times and Ty Montgomery twice as No. 7 Stanford won its second straight Pac-12 title with a convincing 38-14 win over No. 11 Arizona State.
Gaffney carried the ball 22 times for 133 yards while Montgomery had a rushing and receiving touchdown for the Cardinal (11-2), who won their final three games of the season after losing to USC. Kevin Hogan went 12-of-18 for 277 yards and a score as Stanford will be making its 14th appearance in the Rose Bowl On New Year’s Day. Stanford’s opponent will by Michigan State, which defeated Ohio State in the Big Ten championship on Saturday.
Taylor Kelly was 17-of-25 for 173 yards and a score while D.J. Foster had a rushing touchdown and finished with 62 yards on eight carries for the Sun Devils (10-3), who were looking for their first conference championship since sharing it in 2007 with USC.