(1) Florida State (13 - 0) vs. (2) Auburn (12 - 1):
I follow both of the ACC and SEC very closely as a Virginia Tech alum and a University of Arkansas supporter and season ticket holder. This game gets a lot of coverage, so there is very little information I can provide that will be new to anyone reading this blog. All I can do is give my own personal take on what I think will happen, and why.
Florida State Seminoles: There is no disputing the excellence of the season that Florida State has put together. Their schedule definitely lacked quality opponents, especially with Florida having a down year. But it didn't really matter, as they knocked #25 Maryland back to mediocrity, took care of #3 Clemson, dominated #7 Miami, avoided an upset against rival Florida and then put #20 Duke in their place in the ACC championship game. Florida State gave up more than seven points in only six games. They gave up more than 14 points in two games and more than 17 points just once. They scored less than 41 points in only one game, and that was a 37 point effort against Florida, which sported a top SEC defense. The 'Noles scored more than 50 points in seven games. Should I go on? Okay, I will. The offense is balanced, averaging 322 yards through the air and 207 on the ground. They have the top defense, both statistically and in points allowed. This is the team that head coach Jimbo Fisher came to FSU to build, having served under Nick Saban, Les Miles and Bobby Bowden. The only weakness that the 'Noles have might be against the run, which is the strength of the Auburn offense.
Auburn Tigers: I know there is talk of Auburn and their destiny, how they've found ways to win against Georgia and Alabama, and that SEC teams have won the last seven national titles. But I've been watching college football for the last fifty years, and what most people are calling destiny, I'm calling luck. Auburn gave up 35 points in a loss to LSU, 41 to Texas A&M, 38 to Georgia, 28 to Alabama and 42 to Missouri. I'll admit that as the season wore on, the offense became much more effective under first year head coach and former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn. And they did a great job in outscoring those opponents to get this far. A big part of that was due to their rushing game, which led the nation at 335 yards per contest. For Auburn to stay on the field against FSU, they will have to establish the run early and hope to get a turnover to slow down the Seminoles. Team of destiny?
Prediction: I'll leave destiny for the movies and sports fiction novels. In my experience, football games are won on the field, in this case the turf of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. There won't be any weather issues, both teams have to travel west and they're all 18 - 22 year olds. Both head coaches were offensive coordinators for national championship teams: Jimbo Fisher for LSU and Gus Malzahn for Auburn. On the offensive side of the ball, the 'Noles and the Tigers can effectively gain yardage and score points. The unit that will have to over perform for their team to have a chance is the Auburn defense. They need to find a way to contain Heisman Trophy winning QB Jameis Winston and a very talented group of wide receivers. The team Auburn has faced that is the closest comparison to Florida State is probably LSU, whose aggressive defense was able to hold the Tigers to 21 points. The Seminoles will probably be able to put up at least 30 on Auburn, even if the Tigers play a good game. I'm sure you can see where this prediction is headed, so I'll cut to the chase. I'm not saying Auburn CAN'T win, but if these teams play ten times, Florida State wins eight or nine. If the Tigers have another miracle in them, then nothing the 'Noles do will make much of difference. But as far as I'm concerned, it's about to strike midnight for Gus Malzahn and his team of very large Cinderellas.
(1) FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES 40 (2) AUBURN TIGERS 23