SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time for sports.
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SIMON: And a lot of important decisions up ahead in football, and futbol. Florida State is No. 1. Their Heisman front-runner is cleared to play, legally speaking. Ohio State's No. 2 with the championship game in their grasp, but after a miracle on turf, No. 3 Auburn is in their rearview mirror. Also the U.S. gets a daunting draw for next year's World Cup. Ah. For all of this we're joined by NPR's Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.
SIMON: Jameis Winston, Florida State's quarterback, is a great player, top contender for the Heisman, but there were recently a question of whether sexual assault change would be brought against him. Couple of days ago the state attorney said they wouldn't press charges, but he didn't exactly endorse his character either.
Where does that leave Jameis Winston and college sports?
GOLDMAN: Well, you know, in some people's minds, the key question, did Winston rape a young woman who accused him of that. It wasn't directly answered. The state attorney said he didn't believe he had enough evidence to move forward and gain a conviction. But the accuser, you know, still claims she was raped, Scott. And even though the prosecutor denied giving Winston any preferential treatment, some still wonder.
The Steubenville, Ohio rape case involving high school football players is still fresh in people's minds. Winston may never be able to completely escape some of the taint from this event.
SIMON: Jameis Winston's playing in today's game.
SIMON: How does he look for the Heisman?
GOLDMAN: Well, you know, pretty good. He's the front-runner and a lot of the voters who have to make their decision by Monday certainly feel the state attorney's decision makes it strictly a football vote now and not an ethical statement. Certainly his performance tonight could solidify his selection. Many expect him to play great, you know, fueled by both relief and a determination to put this case behind him.
Florida State plays a heavy underdog in Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game, and if Florida State wins, the Seminoles probably punch their ticket to the BCS title game next month.
SIMON: May I ask, but let's remind ourselves. The Heisman is also a character award, isn't it?
GOLDMAN: It is. There's the mention of integrity in there and people will have to make that decision, sure.
SIMON: Some intrigue in other games: Ohio State's matchup with Michigan State. Auburn with Missouri.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. This is where the squawking starts, Scott, about the BSC system, which places two teams in a national title game using polls and computer rankings. The system, as you well know, it's being replaced next year by a playoff. You have Ohio State, No. 2, favored to beat Michigan State in the Big 10 championship game tonight. That would leave Ohio State undefeated for the season, deserving of the other spot in the BSC title game, right?
Not so fast.
SIMON: Give me a chance. Yeah, OK. Go ahead, yeah.
GOLDMAN: Not so fast say Auburn fans. Auburn, one loss this season. If it beats a strong Missouri team in the SCC championship game, it has a valid claim to the national championship game, right, because Auburn beat powerhouse Alabama in that classic, stunning Iron Bowl game last weekend. And Auburn plans in the powerful SCC which has one the last seven national championships and has a tougher schedule, had a tougher schedule than Ohio State this week.
You know, we'll see if today's games bring some sort of clarity.
SIMON: Most of the world calls football this game we call soccer. The World Cup draw was held and the U.S. team might wind up beaten and bedraggled out of it.
GOLDMAN: Oh. The Americans have the most daunting travel schedule of all 32 teams in the cup; over 9,000 miles flying around Brazil next summer to play their opening round opponents. And what a group of opponents. The opening round is made up of eight groups of four teams each. The American's group includes Germany, winner of three world cups; Portugal with superstar Cristiano Ronaldo; and Ghana, which booted the U.S. out of the last two World Cups.
Only the top two in each group advance. It's going to be tough for the U.S. And Scott, I would just like to add, talking about the World Cup, it's appropriate today in light of the sad news from South Africa this week. You know, it reminds us of the last World Cup in 2010 in South Africa when Nelson Mandela made an appearance at the closing ceremony in Johannesburg.
People roared, they made a racket with their vuvuzelas. Remember those?
SIMON: Oh, boy, I still remember.
GOLDMAN: It was quite a moment and a great memory, especially today.
SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks so much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.