OK, maybe Seminoles alum and ESPN analyst Danny Kanell has been stanning for FSU long enough and hard enough that everything he has to say should be discounted—he's certainly catching enough crap for it. But what is college football for if not reveling in the misery of others to make yourself feel better?

The lack of an SEC team in the championship game—the first time since that epic 2006 Rose Bowl—is the culmination of a season-long metastoryline that saw fans believing the hype had gotten out of hand, that the SEC was cynically being pushed by ESPN and its new, direct financial interest in the conference. (It was, largely, an empty complaint. Nothing was better for TV ratings than the continual escapes of tailor-made villains Florida State. And the SEC really was that deep and that strong; the weekly AP polls spoke to it.)

The college football playoff, in just its first year of existence, has been everything we could have hoped for. More than just providing two meaningful games that were awesome to watch—it's how things shook out when compared with the alternate reality where the BCS still exists.

This season, the BCS would have pitted Alabama and Florida State in the championship game. An SEC dynasty and the undefeated defending champs? There's no question. There would have been plenty of gnashing of teeth on behalf of Oregon, and it would have been valid, but the BCS was as predictable as it was set in its ways. And if yesterday's games (plus an entire season of evidence) are valid indicators, Bama would have destroyed FSU. The game would have sucked, and the SEC would have reigned once more.


Instead! We get Oregon and we get Ohio State, both powers but neither quite "conventional" finalists. And yet, they had to earn this—they each had to beat one of the four best teams in the country in no-bullshit, head-to-head competition—which makes their ascendance inherently more valid than any team from the BCS era. The Ducks are early seven-point favorites for the Jan. 12 final, and it has the potential to be fun—both are offensive juggernauts with aggressive, opportunistic defenses, and even if it's a blowout, no one's going to dispute that they each deserve to be there. It's the entire concept of sports, and it's not that hard to grasp, and it's taken college football too damn long, but it's finally here and we couldn't be more thrilled: you now have to win your legitimacy.

That this year's alternate-reality BCS championship would have been, here in the real world, the consolation game, makes the point better than anything else ever could.