More times than not in the BCS era, fans of teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference have had to endure chants of “SEC! SEC! SEC!” while walking out of football stadiums across the south and east. Teams from the Southeastern Conference have earned that –- winning seven national championships in a row.
That all ends Monday night in the Arroyo Seco Canyon at the Rose Bowl when Florida State defeats Auburn in the final BCS national championship game.
Florida State’s statistics on both sides of the ball are downright gaudy. No team has been able to come close, as the Seminoles have won by at least 14 points in all 13 games they’ve played. Sure, their schedule wasn’t even close to being one of the toughest in the nation, but there wasn’t one point in any second half this season where anyone thought they could actually lose.
Auburn beat teams this year with a smash-mouth rushing attack. The unusual option attack has left even the best defenses the Tigers faced scratching its heads. Those teams didn’t have time to prepare for the athletes that Jimbo Fisher has collected on that side of the ball.
The two Smiths in the middle – Terrance and Telvin -- will be key for the Seminoles in stopping Nick Marshall and Tre Mason. FSU’s first-team defense hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season and teams averaged just 3.1 yards per carry. As a group, the Noles are No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 10.7 points per game.
But OK, let’s say Auburn is able to score some points. Enter Jameis Winston and the Florida State offense. You remember him right? The kid that turns 20 years-old on Monday threw a freshman-record 38 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.
He’ll face an Auburn defense which ranks 104th nationally in pass defense. Five quarterbacks threw for more than 300 yards on the Tigers and even if Winston has an off night, FSU’s stable of running backs – Devonta Freeman, James Wilder Jr. and Karlos Williams -- is lethal.
Lost in the shuffle? Freshman kicker Roberto Aguayo has made all but one kick, going 19-of-20 on field goals and 90-of-90 on his extra points. He’s outscored FSU opponents all by himself 147-139.
I could go on and on … and on … about this team. Auburn has ridden destiny to Pasadena, but it all ends Monday night against the loaded Seminoles.
-- Doug Kroll, NCAA.com
Auburn will win the 2014 BCS championship because its running game will prove to be too much for Florida State, despite what the Seminoles’ gaudy offensive and defensive stats may lead many to believe.
Bottom line: Florida State has not played a team of Auburn’s caliber. When the fourth quarter rolls around, and FSU doesn’t have a 37-point advantage (that’s the Seminoles’ average lead through three quarters this season) what will Florida State do?
It won’t matter. Auburn will dictate the line of scrimmage and from which angle it will attack. In the end, it will be too much for the Seminoles.
The Tigers’ O-line is anchored by junior center Reese Dismukes, who is flanked by left guard Alex Kozan, right guard Chad Slade, left tackle Greg Robinson and right tackle Avery Young. These five will rule the trenches, either opening running lanes (52 rushing attempts per game) or holding up the pocket (19 passing attempts).
It’s a relentless offensive attack, run at a tempo unlike anything Florida State has faced this season. Auburn wants to wear down the opposition -- especially during the final 15 minutes –- and that will be the case in the waning moments Monday night. If the game is close, that plays into the Tigers’ paws; Auburn has six wins by eight or fewer points this season. More over, the Tigers tallied four come-from-behind victories in the fourth quarter.
Auburn features a nation-leading four players with more than 600 yards rushing -- Tre Mason (1,621), Nick Marshall (1,023), Corey Grant (650) and Cameron Artis-Payne (609) – and the Tigers average 6.5 yards per carry while piling up an NCAA-best 335.7 yards per game.
Should Florida State make Auburn one dimensional by taking away the running game, Marshall is a dual-threat quarterback: He has passed for 1,759 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging only 17 attempts per game.
Offensively, the Tigers’ playbook is a pamphlet – a handful of plays with a handful of options. Gus Malzahn isn’t coaching rocket scientists; he’s running an offense designed to put his players in the best possible position to succeed. The scheme is so basic, so simple that it dares opposing defenses to load the box –- and Florida State will fall into that trap.
In the end, the SEC will close the book on the 15-year BCS era with its eighth consecutive national title, ninth overall, and fifth in a row for the state of Alabama.
-- Duane Cross, NCAA.com