TEAMS: 1 Florida State (13-0, 8-0 ACC) vs. 2 Auburn (12-1, 7-1 SEC)
TIME: January 6th, 8:30 p.m. ET
After months of games and practices, it all comes down to this. The BCS National Championship represents the official end of the college football season, as one team has the next year to revel in its glory. This year’s game marks the end of the BCS as we know it. In 2014, college football will transition to a four-team playoff to decide a champion.
The 2014 game features a matchup that few saw coming. Sure, it’s not really a surprise that the Florida State Seminoles, a former powerhouse on the rise again, are in the game. However, I’d like to meet anyone out side of Auburn, AL who had the Auburn Tigers in the championship game. Auburn finished 3-9 in 2012 and failed to win a conference game.
Florida State, ranked No. 1 in the land and the favorite to win it all, has been strong all season, finishing 13-0 and winning the ACC Championship. I knew that I was watching someone special on September 2nd when I tuned in to see the Seminoles beating up on the Pitt Panthers in the first game of the season. Some freshman named Jameis Winston threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns in that game.
From that point on, Winston was the clear leader for the Seminoles on offense. He finished the year with 3,820 passing yards and 38 touchdowns and was the run-away winner of the Heisman Trophy. Entering Monday night’s contest, Winston has thrown at least three touchdowns in three-straight games.
As talented a player as Winston is, the Florida State offense doesn’t stop with him. The minute defenses key in on stopping Winston, that’s when Florida State can win with the running game. The combination of running backs Devonta Freeman and Karlos Williams combined for 24 rushing touchdowns.
Winston obviously played a key role in the Florida State passing attack, which ranked 14th in the country with 322 yards a game. Helping Winston in the passing game is a trio of talented wide receivers. Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw all had over 900 yards receiving and combined for 29 touchdowns. Not to be lost among the receivers is tight end Nick O’Leary, who racked up 557 yards and seven touchdowns.
Clearly, the Seminoles boast one of the most potent offenses in the nation. Unfortunately for opposing teams, it’s not just all about offense in Tallahassee. Florida State has the top-ranked defense when it comes to giving up points, allowing just 10.7 points a game. Florida State came up with 25 interceptions, the best in the country, and ranked near the top with 33 sacks on the year.
Auburn is in this game after completing a great season that seems to be one of destiny, as it included two of the most improbable finishes in all of college football.
On November 16th, while trailing against Georgia, it was a deflected 73-yard pass that resulted in an unlikely touchdown with just seconds remaining in the game. After that, it was by far the best and craziest ending I’d ever seen in any football game. In a tie game during the annual Iron Bowl against then-No. 1 Alabama, the Crimson Tide attempted a long field goal to try to end the game. Of course, the kick missed, setting up overtime. However, Auburn’s Chris Davis had other plans. Davis, standing in the end zone, caught the missed field goal, ran out of the end zone and straight into college football lure, returning it all the way for a game-winning touchdown.
Improbable wins aside, Auburn did have a talented team this season that finished with a 12-1 record, going 7-1 in the tough SEC West. The only loss was early in the season to then-No. 6 LSU.
On offense, it’s all about the top rushing team in the country. The Tigers averaged over 335 yards a game on the ground. Leading the way in the backfield is Tre Mason, who rushed for 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns. In the SEC Championship victory over Missouri, Mason ran wild for 304 yards and four touchdowns. Helping to provide the great rushing attack is dual-threat quarterback Nick Marshall, who added 1,023 yards on the ground with 11 touchdowns. Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant can also do damage with their legs, each rushing for six touchdowns and over 600 yards.
The Tigers do not throw the ball much, with Marshall attempting just 212 passes this season. When he does throw it, his favorite target is wide receiver Sammie Coats, who lead the team with 38 receptions, 841 yards and seven touchdowns. Marshall threw for 1,759 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions.
On defense, Auburn was stout all year, allowing just 24 points a game. However, the Tigers struggled to stop Missouri quarterback James Franklin in the SEC Championship, allowing him to throw for 303 yards and three touchdowns. More of that could be in store for the Tigers when they take the field against Winston and the ‘Noles on Monday night.
For fans who don’t like lopsided games, this one may not be for you. This game has the feel of last year’s blowout win by Alabama over Notre Dame. Sure, Auburn has a great running game, but is it going to be enough to keep up with the extremely dangerous Florida State offense? Not to mention the fact that the Seminoles are bringing one of the best defenses in the entire country.
I look for Jameis Winston to have a big game in this one, tossing at least three touchdowns in a fairly easy Florida State victory.
Florida State 42 Auburn 21
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