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Mizzou Finishes No. 5 in Final Poll

Tuesday, 07 January 2014 07:36 Published in Local News

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- Move over SEC, Florida State is back on top.

Florida State finished No. 1 in the final Associated Press college football poll, ending the Southeastern Conference's record streak of seven national championships.

The Seminoles received all 60 first-place votes from the media panel after beating Auburn 34-31 in the BCS championship game on Monday night in the Rose Bowl.

Florida State's third AP national title (1993 and '99) ties it for ninth-most with rival Florida and Texas.

The Tigers (12-2) finished second in their extraordinary turnaround season, but for the first time since Texas in 2005, the Southeastern Conference is not on top of the final rankings.

Michigan State was third, followed by South Carolina and Missouri. Oklahoma finished sixth and Alabama was No. 7. So the SEC will have to settle for having four teams in the top seven. The SEC has seven ranked teams overall with No. 14 LSU, No. 18 Texas A&M and No. 24 Vanderbilt.

No. 8 Clemson, Oregon and UCF finished out the top 10.

No. 11 Stanford, No. 12 Ohio State and No. 13 Baylor finished outside the top 10 after spending much of the season in it.

No. 15 Louisville was followed by UCLA and Oklahoma State.

Rivals Southern California and Notre Dame were, 19th and 20th respectively.

The final five were Arizona State, Wisconsin, Duke, Vanderbilt and Washington.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about ourPRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

WINSTON LEADS TOP-RANKED FLORIDA STATE OVER AUBURN

Tuesday, 07 January 2014 06:29 Published in Sports

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- After a regular season filled with blowout victories and easy fourth quarters, Jameis Winston and Florida State showed they could close like champions, too.

No. 2 Auburn wobbled the top-ranked Seminoles by jumping out to an 18-point lead in the first half, and then put Florida State on the brink of defeat for the first time this season.

Winston responded with the drive of his life and a game-winning touchdown pass with 13 seconds left that topped everything else he has done in one of the most sensational debut seasons a college quarterback has ever had.

The Heisman Trophy winner led the Seminoles 80 yards in the final 79 seconds, flicking a 2-yard TD pass to Kelvin Benjamin to give No. 1 Florida State a 34-31 victory against Auburn in the last BCS championship game Monday night.

"The last drive, that's a great way to cap off our season," Winston said. "That's the way we wanted to cap off our season."

The Bowl Championship Series went out with a bang, too, with one of the best title games in its 16-year history, right there with Texas 41, USC 38 at the Rose Bowl in 2006. That night it was Vince Young leading the Longhorns and capping a comeback by scooting into the end zone with 19 seconds left.

Now Winston is the Prince of Pasadena.

Next season the BCS will be replaced by a four-team playoff. Winston and the Seminoles should be contenders again after snapping the Southeastern Conference's seven-year national title streak.

"The SEC is great football, I coached in that league for 13 years, I respect every bit of it," coach Jimbo Fisher said, "but there's some other folks in this country that can play some football, too."

Florida State, which played in the first BCS championship games but had not been back since, was voted a unanimous No. 1 in the final AP Top 25. Auburn finished second.

Winston struggled much of the night but was near perfect when the Seminoles (14-0) needed it most, going 6 for 7 for 77 yards on the last drive.

"It was the best football game he's played all year," Fisher said of Winston, "and I'll tell you why, because for three quarters he was up and down and he fought."

Winston was 20 for 35 for 237 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdown passes on his 20th birthday. He zipped the Seminoles down the field on the final drive, with a 49-yard catch and run from Rashad Greene.

"I was ready," Winston said. "I wanted to be in that situation because that's what great quarterbacks do. That's what the Tom Bradys, Peyton Mannings, Drew Brees, that's what they do."

Florida State also got help from Auburn. A pass interference penalty in the end zone on Chris Davis on third-and-8 from the 10 gave Florida State a first down at the 2.

"Thought it was great defense. That's all I can say," Davis said, adding, the officials "should have just let us play."

On the next play Winston threw high to the 6-foot-5 Benjamin for the touchdown.

"Once the ball is in the air on that post route, I've got to go get it, and I did," Benjamin said. "Simple as that."

There was no miracle finish this time for the turnaround Tigers, who went from 3-9 to SEC champions in their first season under coach Gus Malzahn. They tossed the ball around on one final play, but it ended with Florida State jumping on a fumble, and the Seminoles sprinting onto the field under a storm of garnet and gold confetti.

Florida State scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, and the teams combined for 24 in a breathtaking last 4:42.

"It felt storybook again," Auburn defensive tackle Gabe Wright said. "It really felt like we were going to bring it out again. We're just on the other end of the stick. It's usually us going out on the field and celebrating. It's been a long time since we had an `L' in this locker room."

Auburn won nine straight to get here after starting the season unranked.

Tre Mason gave Auburn (12-2) a 31-27 lead with a 37-yard touchdown run with 1:19 left after Kermit Whitfield had put Florida State in the lead for the first time since the first quarter with a 100-yard kickoff return to make it 27-24 with 4:31 left.

Mason ran for 195 yards and scored two touchdowns, and Nick Marshall threw two touchdown passes for the Tigers.

"I told them in the locker room, we put together the biggest turnaround in the history of college football. We were on the brink of making it one of those magical seasons," Malzahn said.

Florida State hadn't been challenged like this all season, winning by an average of 42 points.

Florida State and Winston's biggest problem this season came off the field. Winston was investigated for a year-old sexual assault complaint in November, but after three weeks the Florida state attorney's office determined it did not have enough evidence to charge him.

The Seminoles were down 21-3 in the first half to Auburn. They hadn't trailed in a game since Sept. 28.

"I knew we were fighters," nose tackle Timmy Jernigan said.

And now Florida State is national champion for the first time since 1999, the first team to win the BCS title game after being down at halftime. The state of Alabama's national championship run is over at four, stopped by a quarterback from Bessemer who never rooted for the Tigers or Tide.

"Only thing is we're victorious and glad to say Florida State is the national champion again, and I guarantee you we're bringing that swag back," Winston said. "You'd better believe it."

---

Follow Ralph D. Russo at WWW.TWITTER.COM/RALPHDRUSSOAP

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

SHOWDOWN SET ON UNEMPLOYMENT BILL IN SENATE

Tuesday, 07 January 2014 06:28 Published in National News

WASHINGTON (AP) — The new year looks a lot like the old one in the Senate, with Democrats scratching for votes to pass an agenda they share with President Barack Obama, and Republicans decidedly unenthusiastic about supporting legislation without changes.

At the dawn of the 2014 election year, the issue is unemployment benefits, and a White House-backed bill to renew benefits that lapsed last month for the long-term jobless.

The three-month measure is the leading edge of a Democratic program that also includes raising the minimum wage, closing tax loopholes on the wealthy and corporations, and enacting other measures designed to demonstrate sympathy with those who suffered during the worst recession in decades and a subsequent long, slow recovery.

With bad weather preventing more than a dozen senators from traveling to Washington on Monday evening, a showdown vote was postponed until Tuesday.

But not before Republicans accused Democrats of playing politics.

"It is transparent that this is a political exercise, not a real effort to try to fix the problem," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a protest followed immediately by Majority Leader Harry Reid's agreement to delay the vote.

It was unclear whether the delay would affect the fate of the bill.

Democratic supporters of the three-month extension of jobless benefits need 60 votes to advance the White House-backed bill, and their chances hinge on securing backing from at least four Republicans in addition to Sen. Dean Heller of high-unemployment Nevada.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told reporters she would vote to advance the bill, in the hope that Republicans would have a chance to offer changes that would offset the cost and prevent deficits from rising.

Other Republicans weren't as optimistic.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee said he would vote the other way. "Unfortunately, this bill is being jammed through, has not been considered in committee and will not be able to be amended on the floor," he said. "Spending $6.5 billion in three months without trying to find ways to pay for it or improve the underlying policy is irresponsible and takes us in the wrong direction," he added.

As drafted, the bill would restore between 14 weeks and 47 weeks of benefits averaging $256 weekly to an estimated 1.3 million long-term jobless who were affected when the program expired Dec. 28. Without action by Congress, thousands more each week would feel the impact as their state-funded benefits expire, generally after 26 weeks.

"These are people who want to work, but they need some help," Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said of the men and women who have been out of work longer than 26 weeks. He said many are middle-class, middle-aged people who never thought they would wind up in the situation in which they find themselves.

Reid said that as the unemployed spend the funds they receive, the overall economy grows by $1.50 for every $1 in benefits.

But Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said without steps to offset the legislation's expense, all of the $6 billion or more it costs would add to deficits. He called it "just a total violation of promised fiscal responsibility."

Heller said he would have preferred to have paid for the benefits "in a manner that does not burden our nation with more debt." At the same time, he said, "for these benefits to simply vanish without giving families the time to plan ... is just not right."

Nevada's unemployment was measured at 9 percent in November, tied with Rhode Island for the highest in the nation.

Republicans appeared split into three camps: Heller and an unknown number of others; a group that is willing to renew the benefits, but insists that the $6.4 billion cost be paid for; and a third group opposed under any circumstances.

Two influential outside organizations opposed the bill, including Heritage Action, which called the program of extended unemployment benefits "ineffective and wasteful."

At issue was a complicated system that provides as much as 47 weeks of federally-funded benefits, which begin after state benefits, usually 26 weeks in duration, are exhausted.

The first tier of additional benefits is 14 weeks and generally available to all who have used up their state benefits.

An additional 14 weeks is available to the unemployed in states where unemployment is 6 percent or higher. Nine more weeks of benefits are available in states with joblessness of 7 percent or higher. In states where unemployment is 9 percent or higher, another 10 weeks of benefits are available.

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