Florida State in 2013: The Seminoles were known for not getting the most from their talent. What a difference the right quarterback can make. The Seminoles played a soft schedule. But they did what a focused, dominant team would do that schedule: eviscerate it. The Seminoles were No. 1 in scoring and yards/play offense. They were No. 1 in scoring and yards/play defense. Florida State’s average margin of victory was 42.3. They faced only one Top 25 SRS team, Clemson, but beat them by 37 in Death Valley. They were stupendous amidst uncertainty and adversity. Not much more needs to be said.
Auburn in 2013: The Tigers rose to a crescendo. Auburn began by getting outplayed by Washington State at home. They finished by upsetting Alabama, fending off Missouri and winning the SEC title. Their method resembled their 2010 title team. Gus Malzahn’s offense, powered by Nick Marshall and Tre Mason, ranked 3rd nationally in yards/carry and produced 41 touchdowns on the ground over the final 10 games. Their defensive numbers are a tad misleading. Yes, Auburn ranked 95th in yards/play allowed and allowed more than seven yards/play to Georgia, Alabama and Auburn. But they were solid in key situations. The Tigers were 27th in opponent third down conversions and 8th in opponent touchdown percentage in the red zone.
When Florida State Has The Ball: Can the Seminole offense be stopped? Probably not. Can it be slowed? In theory, but probably not by Auburn. FSU played three Top 30 yards/play defenses: Wake Forest, Clemson and Maryland. The latter two forced FSU to lean harder on Winston, which wasn’t a bad thing. The Noles won those games 51-14 and 63-0 respectively. Wake Forest held Winston to a pedestrian game and held Florida State to under 300 total yards at four yards/play. Seven turnovers rendered that effort irrelevant. It’s hard to see Auburn generating enough pressure to offset some blatant coverage mismatches. Their best defense may be getting an early lead. That would give them leeway to be more aggressive. It would force Florida State to do more than just be talented.
When Auburn Has The Ball: Florida State was the best statistical team against the run, or close to it. They allowed just 3.14 yards/carry and only five touchdowns (fewest nationally). Gus Malzahn’s offense, however, is unlike anything the Seminoles have seen or felt. FSU has an elite front seven. They have had a month to prepare. But that also means Malzahn has had a month to spend in the lab devising things that are even more devious. Auburn can, should and probably will score on Florida State. The question is whether they can keep it close enough where that is relevant.
Not the most relevant stat for this opponent, but this is just incredible.
X-Factor: Big plays. Florida State is one of the top teams in the country racking up long plays from scrimmage. Auburn ranks 106th nationally, allowing 19 plays of 40 yards or longer. Can Auburn counter that with a play on Special Teams?
Noteworthy: With both teams traveling more than 2,000 miles, tickets were not a hot item. Both head coaches are also calling plays. The BCS commissioned a pool table made of ice for the media party, because cash-strapped amateur athletics. Jimbo Fisher has settled in with the contract extension and would like to extend his patronage network. An FSU hooligan has been tagging the Auburn campus. Rick Neuheisel reviews the Year in College Football…in song.
Final Score Predictions
Duffy: FSU 45-31
Shamburger: Auburn 49-42
Ryan: Auburn 35-24. The SEC reign and a handy narrative lives another day.
McIntyre: FSU 34-31
Lisk: FSU 41-27
Koster: FSU 36-21.
Glasspiegel: FSU 30-24