PASADENA, Cali. (CBSMiami) – Only one team stands between the SEC closing out the BCS era with eight straight national championships, the Florida State Seminoles. FSU will try to dethrone the SEC Monday night by beating the Auburn Tigers in the final BCS National Championship Game.
Dating back to the beginning of the BCS-era, the SEC has won 10 of the 15 national championships and has not come home with the championship just twice since 2001 (not including USC’s vacated championship in 2004.)
This year’s game between the Seminoles and Tigers matches up two teams that got to the game in wildly different styles. FSU dominated the competition all season long including a thumping of the Clemson Tigers, who went on to win the Orange Bowl.
No team finished within 14 points of the Seminoles this season. FSU mauled some teams, including Maryland, which lost to the Seminoles 63-0.
“I still think our best game is out there,” FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I’m looking forward to playing it on Monday night, and our kids are looking forward to the challenge.”
If FSU hasn’t played its best game and has still knocked around the competition like it has this year; that should probably instill a little fear into every Auburn fan. But fear is something that Auburn fans haven’t felt much this season as destiny has seemed to be on the side of the Tigers.
From the answered prayer at Jordan-Hare that beat Georgia to the Kick-Six that beat arch-rival and then-number one Alabama, Auburn has gone from worst to first in the toughest conference in the country and largely without much of a passing game.
“Hey, I know we’re a team of hard work, I know that,” said tailback Tre Mason, a Heisman finalist who has run for 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns for the No. 1 rushing offense in the country. “These guys put a lot of hard work in with me every day, blood, sweat and tears all year long.”
Auburn displayed the full power of its turnaround this season during the SEC Championship. Auburn mauled a good Missouri defense by running for 545 yards against the Tigers. Auburn’s version of the triple option has confused top defenses like Alabama and Missouri all season and FSU’s lights out defense will be tested by the Tigers.
“Well, you have to have eye discipline,” Fisher said. “Any time you have moving parts, any time you bring something in front of you, just like when you’re driving, if somebody flashes a hand in front of you while you’re driving down the road it makes you blink, it makes your eyes distracted and you get off of what you’re looking at and then at the same time they become very physical with how they play, and you get yourself out of position, they knock you out of the way, and there’s a four, five, eight, 10 or they break a run right up the middle.”
Auburn’s defense has a big challenge of its own, stopping the Heisman Trophy winner, FSU quarterback Jameis Winston. The Seminoles’ offensive leader has played lights out football almost all season long and is just 20 years old.
Winston threw for 3,820 yards with 38 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. He posted a quarterback rating of 190.1 and averaged nearly 11 yards per attempt while completing 67.9 percent of his passes this season.
During FSU’s biggest games, Winston came up huge. Against Clemson, which was ranked in the top five at the time Winston was 22-34 for 444 yards, 3 touchdowns, and one interception. Against Miami, another top ten opponent at the time, Jameis was 21-29 for 325 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Finally against Duke in the ACC championship game, Winston was 19-32 for 330 yards, 3 touchdowns, two interceptions, and ran the ball 10 times for 59 yards and a touchdown.
What makes Winston especially lethal is his weapons at wide receiver, namely Kelvin Benjamin, who stands more than 6’4” tall. But, Auburn has plenty of experience dealing with tall wideouts from the SEC championship game against Missouri’s trio of 6’4” or taller wide receivers.
That said, Missouri’s receivers torched Auburn for 213 receiving yards in the SEC title game and Auburn gave up 303 passing yards and three touchdowns overall.
The game will come down to FSU’s defense against Auburn’s run game. If Auburn can confuse FSU and start running downhill early in the game, the Seminoles could be in for a long, long night.
Conversely, if FSU can at least slow down Auburn’s running game, the Tigers may not have the passing game needed to keep up with the Seminoles’ high-powered offensive attack.
An Auburn win will further cement the reputation of the SEC as the top college football conference in the country. An FSU win will end the SEC’s dynasty and perhaps setup the Seminoles to make a series of title runs heading into the first years of the college playoffs.
Auburn and FSU will tee it up in Pasadena at 8:30 p.m. with the game airing on ESPN.
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)