By Eric Schmidt

The final Bowl Championship Series National Championship game  will be played this evening as the undefeated Florida State Seminoles take on the one-loss Auburn Tigers. Auburn tries this evening to try to extend the current winning streak of SEC teams hoisting the National Championship trophy for the eighth straight year. Florida State played in the first three championship games once the BCS era began in 1998.

Tonight’s game features two high scoring offenses. Florida State has been blowing opponents out this season, winning every game by 14 or more points. Aside from the Boston College game, the Seminoles never allowed a team more than 17 points and seven times held opponents to seven points or less. Florida State is the first team in the BCS era to defeat every opponent by 14 points or more during the season.

The Florida State offense features redshirt Freshman and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston under center. Winston easily took home the Heisman after dominating play on the field. He completed 67.9% of his passes for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns. Winston added four rushing touchdowns. His totals could have easily been much higher, but in most games, he was out of the lineup by halftime.

With a win tonight, Winston would become just the third quarterback to win the Heisman, lead an undefeated team and win the National Championship, following Matt Leinart and Cam Newton.

Auburn’s path to the National Championship was a bit tougher. The Tigers pulled off an improbable win against their rival, Alabama by returning a missed field goal for a last second touchdown. The Tigers then won the SEC Championship by defeating Missouri 59-42, but still needed help. That help came from Michaigan State, who defeated the previously unbeaten Ohio State, in the Big-10 championship.

The Auburn offense is centered around a read-option which features Heisman Trophy candidate RB Tre Mason. Mason rushed for 1,621 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2013. QB Nick Marshall, while not as prolific through the air as Winston, added 1,023 yards on the ground and 11 scores.

Florida State can run the football as well but uses a trio of backs made up of Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr. The three combined for 32 touchdowns this season.

Keys for an Auburn win-

The Tigers are going to have to get a pass rush on Winston with contain. While Winston does not primarily choose to run, he is very mobile and can be a threat on the outside. Auburn’s defense will need good discipline.

Auburn needs to blanket the Seminoles receivers. Florida State has three receivers, Rashard Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw that all had over 900 yards receiving this year. They totaled 29 scores. Be careful not to overlook tight end Nick O’Leary. While a fierce blocker, O’Leary is a very athletic pass receiver who averaged 16.9 yards per reception and found the endzone seven times. Benjamin, six-foot-five-inches, creates some mismatches and is very physical. The Seminoles finished the season with the 11th ranked passing offense.

Keys for Florida State to win-

The Florida State Seminoles have not faced a team that can run the ball as well as Auburn. The Tigers lead the nation on the ground with 335 yards per game. The read-option can create some issues and the Seminoles linebackers tend to be a bit on the smallish side.

Jameis Winston has appeared unflappable in pressure situations this season, but the pressure doesn’t get any tougher than what he’ll face tonight. While he has been very accurate with the ball this year and doesn’t turn the ball over much, if he has a turnover or two early, how he responds will be key to the Seminoles offense.

While opening as 7.5 point favorite, the line has moved to the Seminoles giving 10.5 points. The over/under line currently sits at 68 points. Florida State is number one in offensive scoring, averaging 53 while the Tigers average 40.2 points per game. Auburn allows 24 per game on defense, while the Seminoles lead the nation, allowing just 10.7 points.

I see no way that the Seminoles hold the Tigers under at least 24. Conversely, I believe that the Tigers are going to need to hold Florida State under 34.

Both teams have had 30 days to prepare, so expect to see some new wrinkles in tonight’s contest. Both teams feature very good head coaches and every aspect of this game has been well thought out and planned for this evening.

Final prediction-

Florida State 41 Auburn 30

 

 

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