Monday, January 6, 2014
Cram Session - Bowl Edition - 2014 BCS Championship
#1 Florida State (13-0) vs. #2 Auburn (12-1) in Pasadena, California
After years of people proclaiming that Florida State was back and the Seminoles winding up being non-factors in the national championship picture, that all changed this season. It turns out what brought the Seminoles back was the play of a dynamic redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston. Florida State hasn't been challenged all season, with their smallest margin of victory this season being a 14 point win against Boston College. The 34 points they gave up in that game were also the most they gave up all season. Every other game they only allowed 17 points or less. The Seminoles finished the season both first in points scored per game and points allowed. It would seem that the only team that might be able to beat the juggernaut that is the Seminoles is a team of destiny. Enter the Auburn Tigers. Auburn had two of the most incredible wins you would ever see this season. They defeated Georgia on a tipped ball hail mary pass, and then defeated Alabama on a missed field goal return for a touchdown. With coach Gus Malzahn's offense the Tigers only pass when completely necessary, otherwise content to run the ball down team's throats to the tune of 336 yards per game, best in the nation. They have needed their offense to control the ball because their defense is prone to giving up lots of points and lots of big plays.
The Seminoles offense is not just the accomplished Winston, they also have a plethora of weapons at running backs and receivers. Devonta Freeman and Karlos Williams split time and each finished with double digits in rushing touchdowns. At receiver, Winston has Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, and at tight end the dangerous Nick O'Leary. With the flashy Winston on offense, the defense hasn't always gotten the attention it deserves. If they shut down the Tigers lethal rushing attack then they will certainly earn respect from everyone. Some of the more accomplished Seminoles on defense are tackle Timmy Jernigan, defensive back Lamarcus Joyner, and linebacker Telvin Smith. The Seminoles defense specializes in creating turnovers and making opposing offenses move backwards.
Nick Marshall is the Tigers dual threat quarterback, but more of that threat comes from his legs than his arm. Marshall averaged over 6 yards a carry, rushed for 11 touchdowns and 1,023 yards. In his last 8 games Marshall has had more rushing attempts than passing. For some teams that might not be the gameplan, but for Auburn that is exactly how they want Marshall playing. RB Tre Mason is the Tigers other rushing threat and is coming off an incredible 304 yards, 4 touchdown performance in the SEC Championship game victory against Missouri. The Tigers rushing attack might be the unit to successfully move the ball against the stout Seminoles front line. They better, because if Auburn is forced to rely solely on Marshall's arm, this game will get ugly fast. When Auburn does look to pass the name you will probably hear most is Sammie Coates. Coates led the Tigers in receiving and is coming off one of his best games of the season against Missouri, when he 6 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. The biggest question in this game is can the Auburn defense possibly slow down Florida State? They have had problems slowing down anyone this season, giving up 423.5 yards per game. That doesn't mean they aren't without talent. DE Dee Ford leads the team in almost every major defensive statistical category. It will be tantamount that he have a strong game and get pressure and make life hard for Winston. Their other stud defensive player is CB Chris Davis. Davis is most known for returning the winning touchdown against Alabama but he could become infamous quickly in this game if he can't slow down Seminoles WR Benjamin.
Auburn will be looking to make it 8 straight national championships for the SEC. People in SEC country love that, but I think the rest of the country is ready to see a champion from another conference. I have had a hell of a time picking winners correctly in the BCS games but despite that I can't possibly go against the grain and pick against Florida State in this game. Some have expressed concern about the Seminoles lack of tough opponents. It is true that Auburn has played a tougher schedule than Florida State, but the Seminoles haven't just won their games, they have dominated. Auburn has had an incredible year. and is playing quite well, but their defense is not going to be up to the task of slowing down the Seminoles offense. If Auburn had at least a Top 50 defense I might be willing to pick them on the strength of their rushing attack. I think that Marshall and Mason will have their moments against the Seminoles but that when the game turns into a shootout, they won't be able to keep up. Florida State has just so much talent on both sides of the ball, and reminds me a lot of the 2001 Miami Hurricanes. Auburn might be able to hang around for a half or so but eventually the Seminoles will pull away, winning their first national title since 1999.
Prediction: Florida State 41, Auburn 27