Just a few random observations I typed into the ol’ iPad while taking in Florida State’s 34-31 victory over Auburn in last night’s BCS Championship Game…
* What would happen if a network simply opened its broadcast of a football game with a simple intro tune? Would the game even be played if some country/rock/rap star didn’t provide the music bed for a 1,000 mph, over-produced “hype you up” video?
* Poor Brent Musburger. The guy is a legend. And unlike a lot of aging broadcasters, he’s not prone to stumbles, bungles or gaffes. He still speaks clearly and — at least to my generation — he’s still the go-to voice for big events (along with Al Michaels and Jim Nantz). But he just intro’d himself as Kirk Herbstreit “along with Brent Musburger.” Surely he wouldn’t have joked like that. Most wouldn’t get it. If he was joking, I didn’t get it.
* 20 years ago if Musburger says that it’s on its way to Mars, forgotten about in the grand scheme of things. In this day and age, it lights up Twitter. It’ll be a story tomorrow.
* OK, we get it, Brent. Renegade is on hand for FSU.
* By the way, watching Tim Tebow during the pre-game, he’s way too nice to provide anything of interest on the SEC Network. A guy doesn’t have to be mean, of course, but if he never says anything critical it’s hard to believe him when he says something positive. Tebow is as likable as they come, but his nice guy personality will likely make him a Jon Gruden-esque bouquet-tosser. I have no clue, however, how anyone could dislike the guy.
* John Legend with a straight-forward, excellent anthem. Let this guy do more of ‘em.
* ESPN’s “Title Talk” room is a little too peppy. Michael W. Smith pushing the “party” angle of the channel. Celebs, players and coaches are supposed to drop in and watch and talk. You’re selling it too hard, Michael.
* The “Film Room” looks to be a cool concept, but will it fly once the action begins?
* After a big Auburn run on the first play of the game, FSU forces a 3rd-and-7 and Gus Malzahn has to take a timeout. If that’s to settle the troops, OK. But blowing a timeout just 1:16 into the game isn’t a great sign.
* Terrific play call by Malzahn to get Ricardo Louis open deep but Nick Marshall underthrows by a mile. Still shoulda been caught, but Auburn just missed a chance to go up 7-0 and land a haymaker in the first round.
* Nice drive by the Seminoles, but AU’s red zone defense holds. They’ve been good all year at prevent red zone TDs. Gonna have to keep it up to win this one.
* Florida State’s defense is fast. SEC fast. The rush has Marshall looking a little addled.
* Super punt by Auburn. Downed at the two to fill the field. But will it flip momentum?
* Uh, yep. AU stops ‘em then Chris Davis with the nice return and the Tigers are in business near FSU’s 30.
* FSU is too fast for Auburn to get its perimeter run game going. That’s their bread and butter. Not a good sign for the SEC.
* Beautiful 3rd-and-9 screen for the TD. Nice call by Malzahn. As play-caller, AU’s coach is a master.
* ESPN’s “Film Room” has great post-TD discussion. Maybe this does fly for a live game. Split screen makes the action a bit too small, but the info is excellent.
* Special teams played a big role on that exchange. Momentum in AU’s favor now… all due to punt downed deep.
* Aaron Eckhart, what happened, dude? You go from “Thank You For Smoking” to “I, Frankenstein?” Ah, well, that kind of fare will probably buy him a new beach house.
* Fingers-crossed there’ll be no “discount double-check” ads in tonight’s game. When you have to go back to a 20-year-old SNL skit for your ads, you’ve probably run out of ideas.
* FSU’s speed is still making life tough on the edge for Auburn, but Malzahn catches the Noles in no man’s land for a 50-yard TD pass. FSU’s linebackers looked like they didn’t know whether to blitz or cover. As they stood there, feed in wet cement, Melvin Ray went house from 50 yards out.
* Malzhan might be the play-calling maestro for the new decade. Steve Spurrier was ahead of the game in the 1990s. Bobby Petrino was the man in the 2000s. Already with one national title ring, Malzahn is shaping up to be the best play-caller of the 2010s. Just a beautiful piece of work on that TD. To steal a line, FSU’s linebackers were “stepping’ and fetching’ like their heads were on fire and their asses were catchin’.” Lost.
* How big was that punt downed at the two? Fourteen straight for Auburn since that special teams play. Huge.
* OK, I’m falling of the “Film Room.” Sticking around for a while.
* Uh-oh. A first down deep ball attempt from FSU. Sort of a panic move if you ask me. Winston’s not comfortable yet. And Ellis Johnson’s defense is getting pressure with four up front.
* Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin in the “Film Room” suggests FSU might need a basketball-like timeout just to calm everyone down. Sumlin’s Mr. Smooth on this ESPN channel.
* One downside to the “Film Room,” it’s great if you’re watching with a small group and listening intently. In a party atmosphere, forget it. Folks will be talking over the coaches and analysts and watching a small, split-screen picture. Not worth the trade off. Call it “The Lonely Guy” channel. But it IS danged interesting.
* Marshall not having his best night through the air. Said in our preview that he’d need to be the passer from the Bama/Mizzou games. So far he’s not been that guy.
* Malzahn starting to pound the middle of the FSU defense. AU up 14-3 and driving.
* Wow, Sumlin is fantastic. Great recruiting tool for A&M if any kids are watching this channel (and they’re probably not). Calm, sharp, friendly. Forget the Longhorn Network, Sumlin’s starring in ESPN’s “Film Room.”
* A missed 33-yard field goal by Cody Parker. That’s 10 points Auburn’s left on the field. Starting to add up. Still a 14-3 lead, but this thing could be a little worse with better execution on one deep pass and one short FG attempt.
* Winston fumbles. He’s looking like a freshman now as AU’s rush is getting in his head. Jimbo Fisher’s gonna have to give him a sedative at the half.
* Run, run, pass, run, run and another run for the TD by Marshall. And this time the Tigers do get around the edge on FSU. The Noles are looking winded and the Tigers are looking strong. Five to play in the half and AU is up 21-3.
* How many gamblers are peering over ledges and bridges right now? FSU was favored by 10+.
* SEC on the verge of eight in a row. Just as impressive, if Auburn can keep it up the state of Alabama will have grabbed five straight BCS trophies. Crazy stuff.
* Auburn holds on another third down. FSU’s defense will have to head right back out with a gassed bunch of guys.
* Or not. Sumlin, Chris Spielman, Steve Addazio and crew called for the fake punt in the “Film Room” and they nailed it. Great call by Fisher. Greater TV from ESPN’s side channel. I’m sold. The “Film Room” is a winner.
* Momentum flips again. After the fake punt, Winston looks more relaxed, the Noles get a touchdown to make it 21-10, and Auburn’s dominance for 25 minutes doesn’t look so impressive now. Those 10 points not gained could come back to haunt ‘em.
* Wow. Malzahn just said he wants to “wear them down” in the second half. No surprise that that’s Auburn’s goal, but it’s unusual to hear a coach make that kind of comment during what’s normally a do-nothing halftime Q&A with a sideline reporter.
* First drive, second half, Auburn holds. Big to slow FSU’s end o’ half momentum.
* Nice drive, first down on a 3rd-and-8 conversion for Auburn BUT a hold brings it all back. Now a 3rd-and-18.
* Marshall incomplete on the screen pass. Huge hold. Just huge. If the Tigers could have put up three or seven right there it would’ve put more pressure on Winston and the Noles’ offense.
* Right now, you get the feeling that Auburn’s a prize fighter that’s thisclose to landing the knockout punch. But they just can’t connect and put the champ on the mat. Most times, that means the champ’s gonna win.
* Another nice punt to drop State at their nine. Special teams — aside from a missed FG — working in Auburn’s favor tonight.
* ”Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.” Is Chris Pyne the go-to guy for action series re-boots? He’s Kirk, he’s Ryan… how long before he’s the next Batman. Guy’s gotta be rich as hell.
* The “Film Room” is just plain interesting. Everyone but Paul Chryst of Pitt is tossing out good info. And though they’re all talking at the same time, it never gets out of control. They’re all savvy enough media-wise to know when to dial it down and let the other guy finish his point. Credit Tom Luginbill for running the room like a point guard. He knows when to make a point and he knows when to let the other guys talk.
* Kudos to Chris Spielman for trying to get Chryst involved. Not working, though.
* FSU starting to find a little bit of a passing rhythm. Timeout FSU, 21-10 Auburn, under 10 in the third quarter.
* OK, this ad for the Taco Bell “12 pack.” All these folks just reaching in and chomping down. No plates, no napkins. Anyone who’s ever eaten Taco Bell has to watch this spot and think: “Oh, God, all those little bits of cheese and lettuce and that orange grease… it’s gonna be all over the couch, the chairs, the carpet.” Taco Bell is NOT easy to eat. If 12 people mowed through a box of tacos like that the homeowner would have to call in a cleaning team ASAP.
* Random thought on another Taco Bell ad. The kid is running down the street with the latest “meat/cheese pouch” that Taco Bell’s dreamed up. An adult runs behind him. The voiceover says you need the meat/cheese pouch on the go because her parents came home early. Well, if the parents came home early and found them eating Taco Bell, would they really raise hell? I mean, most teenage boys don’t sneak over to a girl’s house in hopes of sharing fast food. So would there really be a need to run down the street with a meat/cheese pouch? As George Carlin once said, “These are the thoughts that kept me out of the really good schools.”
* After timeout, back to Brent and Kirk on the main channel. Camera on Charles Barkley, Musburger takes it straight to gambling suggesting Sir Charles probably hit Vegas on his way to Pasadena. Again, I like Musburger, but if he’s creepy about anything — and he wasn’t about Katherine Webb — it’s sports gambling. The guy brings up betting in every broadcast. Come to think of it, maybe his “I’m Kirk Herbstreit” line at the top of the broadcast was a means of paying off a bet. ”If you lose, you’re gonna have to say something really weird on a big broadcast.”
* Auburn holds FSU to a field goal attempt and Roberto Aguayo doesn’t miss. The guy’s missed one FG attempt all year and outscored State’s opponents by his lonesome as we pointed out this morning. Getting a little tight for the Tigers’ liking, 21-13.
* New Gatorade — I’m sorry — new “G” ad with “Hard work, work” chant reminiscent of the “Aw my Lawd, Lawd, Lawd, Lawd” scene from “Glory.” ”And if tomorrow is our great getting-up morning…” Great movie, good ad. Switching from Gatorade to G still one of the colossal bonehead moves of all time. Brand equity? Burn it.
* A three-and-out for Auburn, but another nice defensive stand culminating with a sack of Winston. Through three quarters this is the best Auburn’s D has looked all year. Tip of the cap to Ellis Johnson for a good game plan.
* Another punt for Auburn. FSU’s defense barely held on in the first half but they’ve pitched a third-quarter shutout. How big was that fake punt by Fisher in Quarter Two? If his defense has to go back out there against Auburn’s then-rolling offense it might have been lights out. Instead we go to the fourth in an eight-point game.
* Over to “Title Talk” and it’s worse than expected. Johnny Manziel and James Franklin are staring quietly at a television. David Pollack and Jemele Hill sit another table staring at the TV. No one wants to talk. Painful. Michael W. Smith said it would be a party at the open of the show. It actually looks like the sidewall of an 8th grade dance — all the folks not picked to dance are just sitting quietly, uncomfortably by themselves. Hill winds it into the break by quietly observing, “It looks like they’re going to let the clock wind down in the third quarter.” Now THAT is a party.
* Auburn has now muffed three punts on the day. Coupled with the missed field goal, FSU’s fake field goal and two Aguayo kicks, the special teams game has starting to go in Florida State’s favor now. Big in a tight game.
* Back to the “Film Room” and it’s hard to tell who’s looking better tonight — Malzahn for leading a big favorite into the fourth or Sumlin for being the sharpest guy in ESPN’s chat room? Where’s the LOI? I’d sign for that guy.
* Big shock from the “Film Room,” none of these ex-jocks or coaches has slipped with a curse word from what I’ve seen. In such a relaxed setting, that’s a bit of a surprise.
* FSU holds Auburn once again. So much for Malzahn’s goal of wearing FSU down in the second half. The pendulum seems to be swinging in the other direction. But… Auburn downs another punt at State’s four. How big have special teams been in this title game? Someone will look back and say that’s where they won (or lost) a championship.
* How many poor parents are going to have to sit through a Lego movie?
* Back in the “Film Room,” I’ve finally put my finger on who Pitt’s Paul Chryst reminds me of — Alan from “The Hangover.” Slightly oafish, soft spoken. I’m waiting for him to ask, “Did, umm, Caesar live here?” Probably a nice guy and a sharp coach, but the “Film Room” isn’t the best spot for him. Send him over to the party at “Title Talk” and let him hand out roofies to the other guests. Mayhem!
* Speaking of “Title Talk,” Paul Finebaum is now over there. He looks like he knows that channel sucks. I bet he’d be a great guy to sit around and chat with, but if the top draw to your “party” is Paul Finebaum, it might be a lame party.
* Marshall just throws a pick. Poor throw. Momentum clearly in State’s favor, but can they capitalize?
* Yes. Winston with a TD pass. Auburn with about 50 yards of offense in the second half. It’s 21-19 but a ridiculous unsportsmanlike conduct call — I hope the flagged kid cursed because there was nothing in the video that looked “flaggable” — will prevent FSU from going for two and the tie.
* Auburn answers with a nice drive but has to settle for a field goal. Tigers, 24-20 with under five to play.
* Ouch. AU lived by the kick return versus Bama but them might’ve died by it tonight vs FSU. Levonte Whitfield goes 100 yards for the score and puts FSU in the lead (after they’d been down by 18). The “Film Room” breaking down that the man assigned to Whitfield’s return lane fell with a hamstring injury and opened up the play. I’m completely sold on the “Film Room.” It’s as great as the “Title Talk” room is bad.”
* Can Auburn now bounce back. They’ve blown a lead. FSU has taken the lead. Will doubt finally creep in for a team that’s believed in miracles all night. I’ll guess they’ve got something left in the tank.
* Indeed. A championship-worthy drive for the Tigers. Eight plays, 79 yards and 3:12 taken off the clock. Tre Mason just blows past the FSU defense — Tim Jernigan was out of the game for the Noles — for 37 yards. Credit Herbstreit — yeah, I’m flipping around — for his foresight on this series. Nice job as an analyst. He’s one of the best going.
* Mason should have been flagged for spiking the ball… especially after FSU got an unsportsmanlike call for their post-TD taunt.
* So it comes down to this: 1:19 to play. The Heisman-winner quarterbacking FSU. Eighty yards to go against an SEC defense. Auburn’s D has played pretty well tonight, but they’ve not been the typical strong SEC D all season. Can they get one stop?
* Oh, a dagger. Second-and-two at their own 28, Winston takes the underneath pass to Rashad Greene but two Tiger defenders bounce off one another — and off Greene — allowing him to scamper down the right sideline for 49 yards. A killer. Now the Noles need only cover 23 yards and they’ve got a little under a minute to do it. Gut punch of a play for AU>
* FSU inside the 10 to the 5… delay of game. The Noles were going to run the ball, but they didn’t get the snap off. That just can’t happen in that situation.
* Third-and-8 at the 10. Interference on Chris Davis — the hero of the Alabama game. No question about it, either. Good call.
* Touch. Down. Noles. A two-yard pass from Winston to Kelvin Benjamin has given FSU — it seems — the victory. FSU’s now scored 21 fourth quarter points. Auburn simply couldn’t get the defensive stop it needed.
* Do the Tigers have another miracle?
* Uh, no. Davis brings the kick out of the end zone, gets to the 17 and burns four seconds of the clock unnecessarily. Gimmick play time.
* No miracles tonight. FSU wins the crystal football. Auburn puts on a helluva show but falls in the end. The SEC’s seven-year run of BCS titles is at an end. Next year, we’ll be talking about the first-ever College Football Playoff.
* Farewell, BCS, you served the SEC well.
* Here’s an SEC-related note. FSU quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders just won his second BCS title ring. He won the first title game in 1998 against Florida State and then — after being fired at Kentucky last year — he won the final title game WITH Florida State. Congrats to Sanders.
* How much do UAB fans hate life right now? They had Jimbo Fisher all lined up years ago but the U of A system wouldn’t allow them to spend big bucks on a football coach. The same system that now pays Nick Saban $7 million per year (reportedly).
* There’s no question FSU deserved this one, but Fisher’s comment about the ACC being a great league is a bit over the top. Nothing wrong with conference pride, but only one ACC team stayed within 14 points of the Noles. None others were closer than 27 points. One game against the SEC and they were pushed to the wall, forced to fight back from an 18-point deficit and win with 13 seconds to go. FSU is a great team. The SEC is a great league (though not as good defensively this year). But the ACC is not a great league. Not a bad league, but not a great league.
* One last blast for the “Film Room.” That thing — in the right circumstances — is aces. Nice job, ESPN. (Did I just write that?)