BCS Championship Primer: Florida State vs. Auburn
By Eric Russell
The penultimate moment of the BCS era is just around the corner.
It's already on its way out with a bang: The biggest underdog in BCS history (UCF) knocked off Baylor. Then Oklahoma did what was considered unthinkable and picked apart the vaunted Alabama defense. Both teams entered as 17-point underdogs.
Now it's time for two of the biggest stories of the year to collide.
Florida State (13-0) and their fearless redshirt freshman leader Jameis Winston will take on this year's "team of destiny," as many refer to Auburn (12-1).
However, the Hail Mary against Georgia and the Iron Bowl "Kick Six" won't matter once the teams take the field. Neither will Famous Jameis' fairy tale/roller coaster of a year. For the loser of this game, all those moments will be nothing more than thrilling sidebars to a great college football season that still came up short.
Motivation: Florida State has been the only ACC school to play in a championship game during the BCS era. All year, the Seminoles have called capturing another title the team's only goal. When you look back at some of the moments this season, like the speech Winston gave his team prior to the Clemson game, it's safe to say Florida State will have plenty of energy come Monday night.
If You've Never Seen Them: Winston is a lethal weapon for the Florida State offense. Not only has he led the Seminoles to be to highest scoring offense in the nation, he has done so with few blemishes. Winston has thrown 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He finished the season completing nearly 68 percent of his passes. Receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Rashad Greene have put up impressive numbers catching Winston's passes. Benjamin and Greene will have some opportunities to attack the Tigers secondary. Florida State has the nation's top pass efficiency rating, while Auburn comes in at 61st in the nation in terms of pass efficiency defense.
Weakness: Florida State has been running like a well-oiled machine for most of the season. The Seminoles haven't made too many mistakes on offense or defense. However, what will happen if the Seminoles find themselves in a tight game late? Most of their contests this season haven't been in question. It's a bit of an unknown how the team will react if they are in a close game headed into the final few minutes.
Motivation: For Auburn, it's simple. It wants get back to where it was. They've done part of the job. After a couple of down years following the national title win, it has to feel good to be back in this position playing for a title. Certainly nobody was expecting this much success out of the Tigers in their first season under Gus Malzahn, but the moral victories wont satisfy the crew from Auburn.
If You've Never Seen Them: Auburn rode its top-ranked run offense to success this year. Heisman finalist Tre Mason has 1,621 yards on the season and is coming off his best performance of the year in the SEC title game. Quarterback Nick Marshall also has shown the ability to move the football on the ground. He has four 100-yard rushing performances this season, and he ran for 99 yards in the Iron Bowl.
Weakness: Though teams have tried all season with limited success, Florida State may be able to force Auburn to get production out of its passing game. It likely will take more than the 169 passing yards the Tigers average. The problem is Florida State's top-ranked pass defense hasn't been known to give up much yardage through the air. Plus, the defense seems to turn it up a notch in big games. It held the ACC's second-best quarterback, Tajh Boyd, to 156 yards on 17 of 37 passing and no touchdowns.
Las Vegas Hilton Line: Florida State -8.5.