College football’s regular season is over, and the chase for the national championship is down to Florida State and Auburn.
The Seminoles returned only 10 starters this year and had to replace six assistants, but coach Jimbo Fisher has recruited and developed talent as well as any team in the nation.
Florida State scored at least 40 points in 12 of its games this season and only one matchup was decided by 20 points or less.
This is the Seminoles’ first appearance in the BCS Championship since 2000. Florida State is 1-2 in national title appearances in the BCS era, but the Seminoles are 3-0 under Fisher in bowl appearances.
Standing in the way of Florida State’s first national title since 2000 is Auburn. The Tigers represent the SEC – the home of the last seven national champions. Can the Seminoles knock off Auburn and end the SEC’s run?
Here are five reasons why Florida State is the team to beat on Jan. 6. in Pasadena.
5 Reasons Why Florida State Will Beat Auburn for the National Championship
1. Florida State’s passing game will have its way against Auburn’s secondary
The strength of Auburn’s defense is its line, which has generated 28 sacks this year. End Dee Ford leads the way with 8.5 sacks, and talented freshman Carl Lawson has four. Florida State’s offensive line is anchored by tackle Cameron Erving, who was picked as the ACC’s top lineman in 2013. Provided the Seminoles protect quarterback Jameis Winston, he should have plenty of opportunities to make plays against Auburn’s secondary. The Tigers rank last in the SEC against the pass, allowing 259.3 yards per game. Auburn also ranks 63rd nationally in pass efficiency defense and has allowed 27 passing plays of at least 30 yards in 2013. Florida State has one of the deepest receiving corps in college football, with three receivers over 900 yards. Tight end Nick O’Leary is also a difficult matchup for opposing defenses, as the junior has 33 receptions for 557 yards and seven scores. Auburn has allowed two teams to throw for more than 400 yards this season: Georgia and Texas A&M. Considering Florida State’s offense has been more productive than the Bulldogs and the Aggies this year, it should be able to move the ball easily against the Tigers.
Related Content: 5 Reasons Why Auburn Will Beat Florida State for the National Title
2. The Seminoles have the pieces to stop Auburn’s rushing attack
If Florida State wants to win, it has to stop the run. Auburn’s bread and butter on offense is its ground game, which features a dynamic quarterback in Nick Marshall, as well as running back Tre Mason. Over the last five games, Mason is averaging 173.6 rushing yards per game. Marshall isn’t a polished passer but has made strides in the second half of the season. One of the junior’s biggest assets is his ability to handle the necessary reads and fakes in this offense. In order to stop Auburn’s ground attack, Florida State needs to be strong at the point of attack. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan is one of the best in the nation, while the linebacking corps is athletic and fast. The Seminoles have to be disciplined and keep a close watch on the fakes and reads Auburn will use. Florida State held opponents to just 116.5 rushing yards per game this year, while the first-team defense has yet to allow a rushing score. The Seminoles don’t necessarily have to get constant penetration in the backfield, but they have to be able to maintain gaps and block responsibility against Auburn’s offense. And with excellent cornerbacks, Florida State can cheat an extra safety or two into the box to stop the Tigers’ ground game.
3. Florida State is more than Jameis Winston
Even though Florida State’s offense averages 322 passing yards a game, quarterback Jameis Winston isn’t the sole reason for the Seminoles’ success. The backfield goes three-deep in terms of talent. Devonta Freeman is a tough runner between the tackles, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and leads Florida State’s running backs with 19 catches. Karlos Williams switched from safety this season and is averaging 8.2 yards per carry. James Wilder Jr. is another weapon for Jimbo Fisher, averaging 6.9 per carry and has the size and talent to be a punishing option in the fourth quarter. On the other side of the ball, Florida State ranks second nationally with 34 forced turnovers. Roberto Aguayo might be the nation’s best kicker, converting 19 of 20 attempts this year. While Winston is certainly deserving of the Heisman, don’t lose sight the Seminoles are the nation’s most-complete team.
4. Florida State was college football’s most dominant team in 2013
Auburn has the edge in strength of schedule, but Florida State was clearly college football’s most dominant team this year. The Seminoles’ margin of victory was 42.3 points a game, and Jimbo Fisher’s team easily dispatched four ranked opponents by a combined score of 200-35. Sure, the SEC is the best conference. And Florida State’s ability to win close games is uncertain without a game decided by less than 14 points. However, the Seminoles took care of business by simply dominating their competition.
5. Auburn’s luck will run out at some point
It’s unfair to call Auburn a lucky team. But let’s be honest: Ricardo Louis’ catch against Georgia and Chris Davis’ field goal return to beat Alabama aren’t every day plays. While the Tigers deserve credit for beating Alabama, Texas A&M, Missouri, Ole Miss and Georgia, let’s also not overlook the seven-point win to a 6-6 Washington State team and a last-minute touchdown pass to beat 6-6 Mississippi State. The SEC is still the best conference in college football, but it’s also not as strong as it has been. Florida – a traditional SEC East power – finished 4-8. Georgia was hit hard by injuries and finished with an 8-4 mark. Again, Auburn is very good and deserves to play for the national championship. However, despite playing in a weaker conference, Florida State is the better team. While Auburn has a penchant for making plays at the right time, the Seminoles have dominated and that will show in Pasadena on Jan. 6.