While Florida State and Alabama remain in the mix to finish atop the UPS Performance Index, only one of them has the chance to win a national championship.
Maintaining their hold on the No. 1 spot in the Index following another dominating win in a season full of them, the Seminoles are the only undefeated team in the FBS and will face surging Auburn in the BCS title game next month in Pasadena.
Using an advanced proprietary formula featuring offensive yards per play, defensive yards allowed per play, quality of opponent, various special teams statistics and a microindex of miscues that rewards disciplined teams, UPS has teamed with STATS LLC to normalize those numbers across 125 FBS schools.
From there, overall balance is measured across all of a team's individual units, with the final index weighted toward excellence in those areas as well as overall winning percentage.
Saturday night's 45-7 win over Duke in the ACC championship game secured Florida State (13-0) a spot in the final BCS title game Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl. Averaging 53.0 points while allowing just 10.7 per contest, the Seminoles rank first offensively and second defensively in the Index.
Two days after prosecutors decided not to press charges against freshman quarterback Jameis Winston in a sexual assault case, the Heisman Trophy favorite went 19 of 32 for 330 yards with three touchdowns through the air and another via the ground. Florida State's defense, meanwhile, held the Blue Devils to 239 total yards.
"The football field is our sanctuary," said Winston, who set single-season FBS freshman passing records with 38 TDs and 3,820 yards. "Every time I stepped on the field, every time we stepped on that field, everything that happened outside of our family, it was just zoned out."
The Seminoles hold a 1.77-point lead over second-place - and reigning Index champion - Alabama (11-1), which will face Oklahoma (10-2) in the Sugar Bowl. Possibly still in a state of disbelief after their improbable 34-28 loss at Auburn on Nov. 30 thanks to a game-ending 109-yard kickoff return TD, the Crimson Tide will watch the Tigers (12-1) take on Florida State for the national championship.
Behind an SEC title game-record 304 rushing yards and four touchdowns from Tre Mason, Auburn beat its third top 10 opponent of the season, 59-42 over then-No. 5 Missouri (11-2) on Saturday. The Tigers, who won the national championship to cap the 2010 season with Cam Newton under center, are a year removed from finishing 3-9 and going winless in league play.
"I don't know if I've ever had a team come as far as we have," coach Gus Malzahn said. "The first game of the season we were probably average at best. ... We're playing our best football right now. I don't know if any other team can say that."
Up three sports to fourth in the Index thanks to an offense that's averaged 45.3 points during a nine-game winning streak, Auburn earned the title-game berth after previously undefeated Ohio State (12-1) lost 34-24 to Michigan State (12-1) in the Big Ten championship game.
"We all complain about the BCS, but isn't it funny how often they get it right," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Also a winner of nine straight, the Spartans head to the Rose Bowl for the first since 1987. Michigan State made the biggest progress within the top 10 of the Index with a seven-spot jump to No. 10. Fourth in the FBS allowing 12.7 points per game, the Spartans lead the Seminoles by 0.24 in the Index's defensive ratings.
Yet it was the 304 passing yards and three TDs from Connor Cook and 128 rushing yards from Jeremy Langford that helped Michigan State end the Buckeyes' national championship hopes.
"We're going to live this one for a while, live it for a month," coach Mark Dantonio said. "But it's important that we finish what we started and that will end with a bowl game."
In that bowl, Michigan State will take on Stanford (11-2), which improved one position to third in the Index after a 38-14 victory over Arizona State in the Pac-12 championship game Saturday. During a season which saw the Cardinal hand Oregon (10-2) its first defeat, but also lost at Utah and Southern California, they have a chance to repeat as Rose Bowl champions.
"We had some downs this year, but we love each other," said senior Tyler Gaffney, who ran for 133 yards and three TDs against the Sun Devils. "Being here makes it all worth it."
Central Florida (11-1), which faces high-scoring Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl after earning a BCS berth by winning the American Athletic Conference, remained fifth in the Index and one spot ahead of the Ducks.
Oklahoma State (10-2) dropped four spots to seventh after losing 33-24 at home to rival Oklahoma in Saturday's Bedlam game. The Sooners, who improved 11 spots to 16th in the Index, went ahead with 19 seconds left after Blake Bell hit Jalen Saunders with a 7-yard touchdown pass. They then returned a fumble three yards for a score as time expired.
"I'm just so proud and happy," said Bell, who came into the game as the team's third option at quarterback but went 10 of 16 for 140 yards and the winning TD pass.
Louisville (11-1) moved up two positions to eighth while Missouri fell three to ninth.
On the heels of a third straight victory, South Alabama made the week's biggest jump - 13 spots to 62nd. Though the Jaguars finished 6-6 to become bowl eligible in their first season on the FBS level, they did not receive a postseason bid.
Memphis ended its season on a three-game losing streak and suffered the week's biggest fall, 12 positions to 104th.

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