On Jan. 6 in Pasadena, California, the Auburn Tigers and Florida State Seminoles will meet in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game. The game will serve as a coda for the much-maligned BCS, as college football shifts to a playoff next season.
The Seminoles enter the game undefeated, and having dominated ACC play. Their closest game was a 14-point victory over Boston College. Florida State’s next-closest margin of victory was a 27-point win over Miami. They rank first nationally in scoring defense, and second nationally in scoring offense.
Auburn, on the other hand, enters the game with one loss and a pocketful of miracles. The Tigers pulled rabbits out of a hat to defeat rivals Georgia and Alabama. Whereas Florida State has dominated throughout the season, Auburn has progressively gotten better each week.
With each program looking to claim its third national championship, let’s look at some keys to the game.
For Auburn, everything begins and ends with the running game. The Tigers rank first nationally in total rushing yards, rushing yards per game and rushing touchdowns. Nick Marshall has big-play potential through the air, but it’s all set up by the run. For proof of Auburn’s potency on the ground, look no further than the SEC title game: Auburn recorded more rushing yards than Missouri had total offense.
As good as Auburn is on the ground offensively, Florida State may be better on defense. The Seminoles give up just under 117 rushing yards per game (for comparison, the Tigers gain 335.69 per game). Florida State has also allowed the least amount of rushing touchdowns on the season, with a scant five. They jump out to large leads, which forces opponents to pass the ball, but nonetheless Florida State stones the ground game.
Big Game Players
Jameis Winton has played like a man among boys all season. Even while facing sexual assault allegations, Winston excelled on the field. In Florida State’s biggest game of the year, a road contest against then-No. 3 Clemson, the Seminoles forced four turnovers and put the game away by halftime.
After eking out victories against Georgia and Alabama, this Auburn team never feels out of a game. A.J. McCarron’s 99-yard pass and Aaron Murray’s heroic comeback drive should have put the Tigers under; however, they found a way to win. War Eagle fans believe this is a team of destiny. Right now, the Tigers have ultimate confidence in themselves.
Florida State will use its best weapon, Winston, to air the ball out and jump on the Tigers early. Typical of the spread offense, Auburn will dink and dunk until big plays open up.
On defense, the Seminoles must stay patient. Auburn’s unrelenting counters and fakes eventually put opponents on their heels. On offense, FSU must not take its foot off the gas. With Auburn’s confidence level, no deficit is insurmountable.
Auburn has to keep scoring and playing its game. Early rushes may not account for much, but the bend-don’t-break defensive philosophy they have employed all year can keep the Tigers in the game. Auburn’s defense cannot be a sieve, as it was against Missouri, simply because FSU’s defense is not nearly as forgiving.
On paper, it looks like this game tilts heavily in the favor of Florida State. However, Auburn has already toppled one giant on the season. This game should be closer than expected, and serve as an exciting end to the BCS era.
It’s time to settle it. Who closes out the BCS and takes home the final crystal football?