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Sports

BCS Championship Game Preview: #1 Florida State vs. #No. 2 Auburn Tigers

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BCS Championship Game Preview: #1 Florida State vs. #No. 2 Auburn Tigers

2014-01-06 12:33:09

-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Lamarcus Joyner leaps for interception against Miami. (Image Source: Getty Images)

Here’s a look at tonight’s BCS Championship Game between the Florida State Seminoles and Auburn Tigers:

Time: 8:30 PM ET; TV: ESPN (Brent Musberger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox & Tom Rinaldi)

Where They Stand: At 13-0, the Seminoles were the only FBS school that finished the 2013 campaign without a blemish. Not only did they win every game, they won every game convincingly. All 13 victories came by at least two TDs and 12 games by 27 points or greater. Auburn’s run, which started with a seven-point win over Washington State in their opener, wasn’t quite as smooth. The Tigers were tripped up at LSU (35-21), but they were able to play their way into the BCS Championship Game with an upset of No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl and a win over No. 5 Missouri in the SEC Championship Game (along with some help).

When Florida State Has the Ball: Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston is the real deal, with the arm to make plays down the field and the athleticism to make things happen with his legs. He’s a star who can also take on the role of game manger and allow the athletes around him to shine. Wide outs Kelvin Benjamin, Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw are all within 71 yards or less of breaking the 1,000-yard plateau. They can all stretch the field, with Benjamin the most difficult to match up with one on one. Sure-handed TE Nick O’Leary is also someone to keep an eye on, especially in the red zone. There is no shortage of talent in the backfield running behind a strong offensive line. James Wilder Jr. is a powerful big back, Devonta Freeman provides a little more burst, while Karlos Williams is their most explosive runner.

Auburn’s weak link is their defense (ranked 12th in the SEC). They allowed 35 points to LSU, 41 to Texas A&M, 38 to Georgia (while blowing a 20-point fourth-quarter lead) and finally 42 to Missouri. Can they possible slow down FSU’s high-power balanced attack? It’s hard to imagine considering their run D was 10th in the SEC and their pass defense was even worse, ranked dead last. In order to have any chance they will probably have to create turnovers, which means their playmakers need to have a monster game. DE Dee Ford (8.5 sacks) must get into the backfield and Star Robenson Therezie (4 INTs) has to get his hands on the football. If CB Chris Davis (14 PDs)—he of Iron Bowl fame—made his first interception of the season and you know, returned it for a TD, that wouldn’t hurt either.

When Auburn Has the Ball: The Tigers ran their way into the BCS Championship Game and their only chance to pull off the upset is to have a monumental, maybe record-setting, performance on the ground. If their efforts against Missouri and Alabama were any indication that very well might be possible. The key unit is a strong and at times dominant offensive line led by redshirt sophomore left tackle Greg Robinson, a potential high first-round draft choice. Running behind that line with vision, speed and burst is Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason (1,621 yards and 22 TDs), who has done his best work in the biggest games. QB Nick Marshall (1,023 yards and 11 TDs rushing) also needs to be accounted for as a runner. The duo of Marshall and Mason is the best combo FSU has faced all season. He’s not a prolific passer, but Marshall has proven to be efficient this season, taking advantage of defenses cheating to stop the run. The one man who can do damage in Auburn’s passing attack is speedy sophomore Sammie Coates, who averages a whopping 22.1 YPC, hauling in seven TDs through the air.

As many studs as the ‘Noles have on offense they may have even more on defense. There are playmakers at every level and their amazing depth makes it hard for one guy to stand out. Upfront, DT Timmy Jernigan sets the tone with his quickness and ability to knife into the backfield. Coming off the edges, sophomores Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman haven’t put up huge sacks numbers, but they could be primed for a breakout performance tonight, the ability is there. They don’t have an elite pass rusher but still managed 33 sacks, led by CB Lamarcus Joyner (5 sacks), who is a superb blitzer and outstanding in coverage. SS Terrence Brooks has also flashed next-level ability, while sophomore Ronald Darby is FSU’s next great coverman. Freshman Nate Andrews is another star of tomorrow, leading the team with four INTs despite just one start. Speedy LB Telvin Smith leads them in tackles and he can also cover (3 INTs). Joining the super soph at the second level are seniors Terrance Smith and Christian Jones, as well as fellow sophomore Reggie Northrup and star frosh E.J. Levenberry.

Prediction: I expect the Seminoles to outclass the Tigers tonight, as their run offense, throw game and pass D all have clear-cut advantages. Some may tout Auburn as a team of “destiny”, but wasn’t that Notre Dame last season? You know, the team that “knew how to win.” How did that work out when they faced a superior opponent? Has Auburn improved as a team? Sure, but they’re two miraculous plays away from ending the season on a two-game losing streak. There are no miracles tonight, as Florida State’s offense rolls over Auburn and their D does a nice job of slowing down the Tigers attack enough to win rather comfortably.   

Score: Seminoles 45, Auburn 24

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. 

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