Florida State 34, Auburn 31
Basically … The BCS era went out with a bang as Florida State rallied back from the biggest deficit ever to win a BCS championship game as Jameis Winston took advantage of a pass interference penalty in the end zone to connect with Kelvin Benjamin for a two-yard touchdown pass with just 13 seconds to play for the win. A sloppy start from the Seminoles led to a 21-3 Auburn lead as Tre Mason ran for a 12-yard touchdown and Nick Marshall connected with Melvin Ray for a 50-yard score, FSU showed signs of life, building off a fake punt to march to a late second quarter Devonta Freeman touchdown run from two yards out. After FSU only managed a 41-yard Roberto Aguayo field goal in the third quarter, the fireworks began as Winston found fullback had Abram for an 11-yard score to pull within two, but a penalty on Freeman forced the Noles to kick the extra point. Auburn answered with a long march, bu had to settle for a 22-yard Cody Parkey field goal. The Noles took the lead and momentum right back with a 100-yard kickoff return for a score from Levonte Whitfield, but Auburn appeared to have the BCS championship won going 75 yards in eight plays culminating with a 37-yard Mason run for a 31-27 lead. There was still over a minute to play, and Winston went to work taking the team down the field helped by a 49-yard pass play to Rashad Greene to help set up the final scoring play to Benjamin.
- Third Down Conversions: Auburn 10-of-18 – Florida State 2-of-12
- Fourth Quarter Time of Possession: Auburn 11:27 – Florida State 3:33
- Florida State QB Jameis Winston completed 20-of-35 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran 11 times for 26 yards.
- Florida State WR Rashad Greene caught nine passes for 147 yards and a touchdown.
- Auburn P Steven Clark averaged 43.2 yards per punt on his six kicks, putting five down inside the 20.
- Auburn RB Tre Mason ran 34 times for 195 yards and two touchdowns
- Auburn QB Nick Marshall completed 14-of-27 passes for 217 yards and two scores with a pick, and ran 16 times for 45 yards.
- Florida State LB Telvin Smith made 15 tackles.
- Florida State KR Levonte Whitfield returned four kickoffs for 172 yards and a score.
Florida State (13-0) at Auburn (12-1) Jan. 6, 8:30, ESPN
Here's The Deal … It's officially the end of the BCS era, and it closes as it begins with the SEC champion playing Florida State for the national title.
Is it a shocker that the SEC champion is here? Absolutely not, especially considering the conference has won seven of these things in a row and took its brand and its level of play to a whole other level during the BCS era, but it required a little bit of luck/good fortune/big breaks – whatever you want to call it – for Auburn to be playing in Pasadena.
Despite appearances and revisionist history, the SEC has needed several mega-breaks for this national title run to happen.
2011 and 2012 Alabama, 2003 and 2007 LSU, and 2010 Auburn – if you consider the NCAA allowing Cam Newton to play – all needed help to get into national title position, but to give all due credit to the SEC, the conference kicked the door in when it got its chance. Will 2013 Auburn take advantage of the same breaks
From the miraculous touchdown pass to beat Georgia (luck), to the "Davis! Davis!! Davis!!!" return to beat Alabama (execution, not luck), to Ohio State losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship, you'll have to forgive the Tigers if they really are buying into the whole Team of Destiny thing. But even though it's in the BCS championship, is Auburn actually any good, or is this all a mix of good fortune, great coaching and a gimmick that made this all happen?
There are two ways to view the miraculous Auburn season and its chances against the Seminoles. On the one hand, the team improved by leaps and bounds as the season went on. It could be argued that Michigan State improved more, at least offensively, from September to December, but Auburn went from good to devastating. Yeah, it took a dogfight to get by Washington State in the opener, and the Mississippi State game was rough, and the loss to LSU was big, and it took a big stop to get to Texas A&M, the team that struggled so much over the first half of the season was far different than that team was humming on all cylinders by the end of the year and ended up scoring 43 points or more in six of the last eight games. On the other hand, whether it's 2010 Oregon, or 2003, 2004 and 2008 Oklahoma, or 2006 Ohio State, 2001 Nebraska, or 2000 Florida State, the team that comes into the national title game in the BCS offense with the it offense tends to lose.
But there's the Destiny factor. 1998 Tennessee and 2002 Ohio State won close game after close game, coming into their respective national championship games battle tested and feeling like they were going to win partly because that's the way the script was written. Some actually believe it really was His will that Tim Tebow led 2008 Florida to a national championship, but Notre Dame discovered last year against Alabama that fate sometimes gets a cold dose of reality.
Auburn might have belief, but Florida State has Jameis Winston.
One of the easy pro-Auburn talking points has been the fourth quarter – it hasn't meant anything all year to Florida State. In fact, there's been absolutely no on-field adversity whatsoever on the field for a Seminole team that waltzed through the season without any sort of a hiccup beating everyone but Boston College by 27 points or more, and there wasn't any drama in the 48-34 win over the Eagles.
Blasting Clemson on the road was the one and only win of note, though. Beating Pitt, Maryland, Miami, Syracuse and Duke just doesn't compare to dealing with an SEC schedule. Can the Seminoles get the job done if they need to go on a scoring drive with five minutes to play? Can they keep their cool if Tre Mason and the Tiger running game are ripping up nine yards a rushing pop?
Or, can Auburn make it an interesting game to even get it to that point? Maybe Florida State hasn't had any problems because it's just that good. Maybe this is just the right team at the right time to end the SEC's run of dominance.
The Seminoles have won five straight bowl games and have gone 23-7-1 since losing the 1981 Orange Bowl to Oklahoma with two national championships. Auburn has been every bit as good lately winning five straight bowls including the 2011 BCS Championship and has gone 8-1 since losing to North Carolina in the 2001 Peach.
On January 12, 2015, College Football Playoff will conclude in Jerry World in Arlington, Texas, and you won't have the BCS to kick around anymore. Let's just hope it ends with a thriller.
Players to Watch: So just how good is Jameis Winston? Obviously he's good enough to win the Heisman trophy and be the leader of one of the most dominant teams in the history of college football – at least so far – but he's been so strong and so great that Florida State lost the first quarterback taken in last year's draft, and an NFL starter, and it upgraded. The coaching staff has been really, really hard on him throughout the year, with head coach Jimbo Fisher getting on him about every little thing, but he has the make-up and personality to not only handle it, but ask for more.
Of course, the off-the-field controversy was the sour part of an otherwise dream season – even though he was never charged with anything – but that only seemed to focus the team. It's not like there were any hiccups. An elite deep ball thrower, he was helped by utilizing his very big, very strong receivers to hang it up and let them get it, but he was also a great decision maker from the start hitting 68% of his passes for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns with ten picks averaging a whopping 10.9 yards per throw.. He'll throw picks, giving up two against Miami and Boston College, but he's great at quickly making up for his mistakes. Can he handle himself in a tight game? If all goes according to plan, he shouldn't have to.
Same question. So just how good is Tre Mason? The Heisman finalist ran for 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns, highlighted by his 304-yard, four touchdown day in the SEC championship win over Missouri, but it he a product of a system that's perfect for his rushing style, or is he just that good? It seems like it's a little bit of both, liking to run inside or out, but at the same time getting the ball in space more often and not while being able to rank out yards in chunks before getting popped. Only Mississippi State was able to truly shut him down cold, and that forced Auburn to turn into a passing team to get the win. Nick Marshall got the job done, but the Tiger O needs No. 21 to average over five yards per crack and be able to handle the ball over 20 times or the machine might break down.
The Auburn defensive line has to get to Winston early and often – he has rarely been pressured in meaningful situations. Senior Dee Ford has been able to stay healthy, and while he might not be huge at 6-2 and around 240 pounds, he holds up extremely well to go along with his pass rushing ability, leading the team with 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss to go along with 26 stops. Even if he doesn't bring down Winston, he has to attack, attack and attack some more to provide pressure. If Winston gets comfortable, it's uh-oh time.
Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan is going to be the key to the defensive front. Even if the stat sheet doesn't show it, he could be extremely effective just by holding up in the interior. Whether he has to get into the backfield to blow up the play, get to Nick Marshall before he can get rolling, or hold firm so the interior rushing isn't there, the future NFL starter needs to be the one everything works around. The NFL prototype is fourth on the team in tackles with 54 with 4.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. If he's getting pushed around, the Seminoles could be in trouble.
Florida State will win if … the corners lock down one on one. The Seminole coaching staff thinks that stopping that Auburn running game starts with the two guys on the outside – the fabulous Lamarcus Joyner and sophomore Ronald Darby. As long as these two, and whoever is in the rotation, can take away the Auburn receivers deep, the other nine defenders can fully focus on dealing with the run. It's not like the Tigers throw on a regular basis, but if the deep ball isn't there, the safeties can do even more to help out a fast front seven that has to be as smart and as cool as possible.
The buzzword is discipline. Discipline, discipline, discipline. Discipline to maintain the gap integrity, discipline to follow assignments no matter what, and discipline to blow off a big play or two and get back in a position in a hurry to come up with a stop. It's not just the one big run that Auburn comes up with to kill teams; it's the second, third and fourth in quick succession that keeps defenses on their heels. FSU has the athletes and it had the time to prepare. Now it has to deal with the high-powered attack for real.
Auburn will win if … Nick Marshall doesn't have to throw more than 20 times. One of the biggest keys of the time off between games is the ability to heal up. Marshall fought through a shoulder injury and was just fine, but he might be at a whole other level of good now that he's fresh. However, the less he has to put the ball through the air, the better. He had to bomb away 34 times for 339 yards in the close call against Mississippi State, and he threw it 33 times in the loss to LSU. Texas A&M was a dogfight – he completed 11-of-23 passes – and the 26th pass against Georgia turned out to be a big one. He didn't hit the 20-throw mark against anyone else, partially because the running game was rolling so well. If this turned into the 2011 BCS championship, when Oregon had to start throwing against Auburn because the running game was shut down, it's going to be a long night.
However, Auburn has to mix it up. Gus Malzahn made it clear that for the offense to work against the athletic and talented Seminole D, it's all about the play-calling and keeping everyone guessing. That doesn't necessarily mean Marshall will be passing all the time, but everything has to be done with the idea of setting things up. Both coaching staffs mentioned that the outside is the key – Auburn has to get there and FSU has to keep the offense from doing that. That means the interior blocking has to work, and it also means Marshall has to be razor sharp.
What Will Happen: You never, ever, ever, ever pick against the SEC in BCS championships. However, in this case, the other team is just plain better. Over the seven-game BCS championship winning streak, with the possible exception of 2009 Texas against Alabama – before Colt McCoy got hurt, and maybe 2006 Ohio State against Florida, the SEC has always had the stronger more talented team. This is the first time in the run that the SEC opponent is far better, at least talent-wise.
Over the previous 15 BCS championships, 2000 Oklahoma managed to get by a more talented Florida State thanks to a phenomenal defense. In hindsight, 2002 Ohio State had as much talent as Miami, and 2005 Texas and USC were even, but for the most part, there haven't been any massive championship shockers because of a scheme. Yeah, you never, ever, ever, ever pick against the SEC in BCS championships, but you also never pick against the better team.
Prediction: Florida State 45 … Auburn 34
Line: Florida State -7.5 … o/u: 67
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December 8 -
EARLY QUICK PREVIEW
There was a time when Florida State playing for the national championship was the norm, but the 2001 Orange Bowl loss to Oklahoma was a long, long time ago. The program is back and roaring under head coach Jimbo Fisher, with a loaded team full of next-level talents and elite athletes, built up over the last few years thanks to several whopper recruiting classes. The Seminoles have rolled through everyone on the schedule on the way to Pasadena, with all 13 wins by double digits and none of them remotely dramatic. If the streak of SEC championship dominance is going to be over, Florida State is the worthy team to make it happen.
Auburn has been more than just a team of destiny; it's been a team of momentum.
The Tigers struggled against Washington State and Mississippi State early in the season, and lost to LSU by 14, but slowly, the offense started to kick in. As the season wore on, Auburn held on against Texas A&M, rumbled through the weak part of the late, and then came up with all-time miracles in back-to-back games against Georgia and Alabama to be the improbable representative of the SEC West in the conference title game. But there wasn't any Team of Destiny thing happening against Missouri, with the unstoppable running game rolling at will. With Ohio State losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship, the shocking run was complete, and now Auburn has a chance at its second national title in four years.
Three Reasons Why You Have To Watch This Bowl
1. It's the last season in the BCS era, and it's the last national championship without a playoff format. Either it'll be Florida State's first national championship since Peter Warrick and the 1999 Seminoles outgunned Michael Vick and Virginia Tech in the 2000 Sugar Bowl, or it'll be the eighth straight BCS championship for the SEC, with no end to the dominance in sight. Next year, with the playoff, there will be a slight margin of error for one-loss superstud teams like Alabama. Florida State can end the run, or be a part of a trivia question.
2. Can the Auburn rushing attack really do that again? The Missouri run defense was among the best in the nation all year, and then Auburn ripped up 545 yards and seven touchdowns in the SEC championship. Alabama's defense was arguably the best in college football, but the Tiger had few problems with 296 yards on the ground with two scores. Florida State's run defense has allowed just five scores all year and only one team – Boston College – to hit the 200-yard mark.
3. Can Florida State really be that good? The Seminoles ripped and roared through everything it their path, highlighted by a 51-14 win over a jacked up Clemson in its own house. Since mid-October, it's been a true walk-in-the-park for a team that hasn't come close to being challenge. Boston College lost by 14; no one else has come closer than 27.
And Why You Shouldn't Care A Lick: Even though Alabama did lose to Auburn, it came on the flukiest of fluky endings. If the Tide wins its bowl game in an ugly blowout, and/or if Michigan State whacks around Stanford, the BCS championship outcome might be a bit unsatisfying. College Football Playoff can't get here fast enough.
Three Names To Drop To Make Every Man Want You And Every Woman Fear You
1. QB Jameis Winston, Fr. Florida State – It's not official yet, but Winston is going to be a landslide Heisman winner as the signature star of the 2013 college football season. Past the legal issues and concerns, not the focus will be on to see if the young superstar can go from legendary to an even higher level with a national title as a freshman and a Heisman. Auburn's Cam Newton was the last quarterback to accomplish the double-double back in 2010.
2. RB Tre Mason, Jr. Auburn – He was having a nice year, highlighted by a 178-yard performance against Texas A&M, and then came the finishing kick with five straight 100-yard games to close the year with 164 yards and a score against Alabama and 304 yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries against Missouri. Yes, he's a product of the system, but the 1,621 yards and 22 scores are impressive in any attack.
3. QB Nick Marshall, Jr. Auburn – A decent passer, he came up with 339 yards and two scores in the win over Mississippi State, but he didn't exactly bomb away on a regular basis throughout the rest of the season, finishing with just 1,759 yards and 12 touchdowns with five picks. As a runner and peerless leader of the Gus Malzahn offense, he's something truly special, tearing off 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns with 101 yards and a touchdown against Missouri.
Gut-Reaction Pick That Might Change In The Next Few Days On A Whim: Auburn 38, Florida State 34