Seven straight by the SEC, four straight by the state of Alabama.
And one by No. 1 Florida State to close it out.
Chaotic as the BCS system has been since its inception in 1998, it ended with a game for the ages: the Seminoles' 34-31 win over No. 2 Auburn. The team from football's (supposed) preeminent conference blew open an 18-point lead, lost it, stole it back, and squandered it for good.
Entering Monday night, this was the list of the most recent national champions: Alabama, Alabama, Auburn, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana State, Florida. All hailed from south of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Mississippi River.
It is here that true football is said to be played, a place where one-loss teams can be prematurely crowned above undefeated ones. And yes, the 16th and final BCS Championship delivered one more trophy there.
This was different. The Seminoles share the geography, but weren't backed by the might of the “S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!” They steamrolled their way through the ACC, arguably the country's worst major conference, on their way to an undefeated campaign.
Florida State (14-0) walked into the Rose Bowl with the weakest strength of schedule of any BCS finalist of the last decade. Still, Vegas opened FSU as a seven-point favorite, a spread that climbed to 10.5 points by kickoff. Through the first three quarters, however, that looked like empty hype.
Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston couldn't find his rhythm. Through his first 13 games, he complete 70 percent of his passes against the blitz — best among qualified quarterbacks according to ESPN Stats and Info. Midway through the third quarter, he was sitting on 29 percent. At the end of the frame, he was 11 of 24 for 120 yards. He had no touchdowns. He took four sacks.
Florida State trailed for the first time since Sept. 28, when it went down 10-3 in the second quarter to Boston College.
Auburn (12-2) had a 21-13 lead and a superlative game from star running back Tre Mason — sixth in Heisman voting, for the record. At that point, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound runner had 101 yards on 21 carries, balancing quarterback Nick Marshall's two scoring passes.
But the vaunted might of the SEC gave in the end. Florida State's Kermit Whitfield took back a 100-yard kickoff return at 4:31, giving the Seminoles a 31-27 lead. Mason's 37-yard touchdown a little over three minutes later — a pinball run if there ever was one — regained the lead for the Tigers, but Winston came through with a seven-play, 80-yard drive that elapsed 58 seconds.
On his 20th birthday, the quarterback tossed a 2-yard touchdown with 13 ticks on the clock. When cannons spurted confetti, some 30,000 people tomahawked in unison. Tigers fans, the more well-traveled of the two fanbases, filed out in silence.
“I just feel like I let the whole Auburn family down,” said Mason, who finished with 195 yards on the ground.
Following him on the podium a few minutes later, Winston was far more jubilant. He grew up in Hueytown, a two hours' drive from Auburn and less than an hour out of Tuscaloosa. When a reporter asked how it felt to end his home state's run, he cracked a smile.
“I'm pretty sure people back home are going to say five championships in the state of Alabama because of me being from Alabama,” he said.
The BCS is over, giving way to the four-team College Football Playoff — a blandly named venture that simultaneously steps forward while promising to infuriate fans of the fifth- and sixth-best teams.
And in this brave new world, the SEC is no longer on top.