Thursday, January 2, 2014

National Championship Game

#1 Florida State Seminoles vs. #2 Auburn Tigers

It's almost weird not having Nick Saban and Alabama in the championship game, but as it stands this looks to be one of the most intriguing title game in years. Florida State rose to number one behind the arm of the phenomenal Jameis Winston while Auburn exploded onto the seen late with incredible and miraculous wins over Georgia and Alabama. Since the game was solidified, the Seminoles have have been the favorites by more than a touchdown. Neither of the these teams were on many peoples' radar prior to the season, but that has been the case quite a bit recently. While some say that Auburn is the best by virtue of the schedule that they played, others say that the sheer margin of victories for Florida State makes them the best team in the country. Has Florida State played too soft a schedule to adequately prepare them for their toughest test of the year?

That might be the case of Florida State was winning games by a rather small margin, but they have been blowing teams out of the water all season long. They have won every game by an average of six touchdowns and only one team (BC) came within two touchdowns of the Seminoles. They outscored the four ranked opponents they played 200 to 35. This isn't a team like Ohio State who stayed undefeated all year long but never completely dominated their competition in this fashion. We all know what Florida State is capable of on offense. Jameis Winston won the Heisman behind a record setting freshman year that also won him AP Player of the Year honors. He has a great trio of receivers, including redshirt sophomore Kelvin Benjamin who has come on this year and proven himself as one of the best in the country. He has great size and speed and can attack the ball in the air as good as anyone else in the country. Florida State also boasts a fantastic defense that ranks in the top three in almost every category. That is going to be the key to this game. Auburn is overly reliant on their offense to be able to win shootouts, and they could grow frustrated by Florida State's athletic defense. The Seminoles have a great run stuffer in Timmy Jernigan who is going to have to stop Tre Mason and Nick Marshall, or at least push them in the direction of star linebacker Christian Jones. Florida State also has a very aggressive secondary that has done a great job of shutting down receivers all year and coming up with interceptions. Auburn hasn't thrown the ball a lot this year, but their receivers are deceptively fast and can get open and into space very quickly.

Auburn has to go into this game with the mentality that they are going to win a shootout. Their defense has been a liability all year long and is going to have a tough day against Florida State's offense. They gave up 42 points to Missouri and 41 points to Texas A&M, each with very potent offenses with a different style than what the Seminoles run. Auburn is going to have the unenviable task of getting pressure on Jameis Winston to disrupt his rhythm. Auburn has a very good defensive line that can get pressure without blitzing, but Florida State has one of the top two offensive lines that the Tigers have seen this year. As you can tell, I'm not very confident in Auburn's chances of stopping Florida State. But if they have one thing going for them, its a ridiculously fast paced offense that can score practically at will. Tre Mason was a Heisman finalists after closing out the season with over 1600 yards and 20 touchdowns while Nick Marshall added a dual threat element that kept defenses on their heels. Auburn has a great offensive line that springs their running backs to the next level with ease, but they may be called upon the hold up more in pass protection this year. Auburn can't rely on the running game for the entire sixty minutes. The good news for them is that when Nick Marshall does throw, good results often come from it. While it isn't as impressive as Cam Newton, Marshall still threw for 12 touchdowns and only threw 5 picks. If Marshall can complete those two or three explosive plays that have carried Auburn to this point, then they have an excellent chance of staying with Florida State.

All in all, I still think that Florida State is going to win this game by double digits. Everyone wants to talk about the daunting SEC schedule that Auburn played, but Florida State was just as impressive in all of their victories this year. They have the athletes to compete with Auburn too. And overall, they are simply a better team. Auburn can barely play defense which is not going to bode well for them against a top five offense. I think that they still have a great chance of putting up points against Florida State's defense however. Florida State gave up almost 150 yards rushing to another Heisman finalist, Andre Williams, which should give a lot of confidence to Auburn and their rush attack. But in the end, Florida State has too much talent on both sides of the ball to lose this game, and the Seminoles win their first title in almost 15 years, 38-28.

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