It’s with an insincere tear in my eye that I wave goodbye to the BCS. What came about as a good idea and a necessity so as to properly crown the college football national champion, has morphed into a flawed system that has shown to be conference-biased and rewards teams for not winning their conference championship. Tonight is the last night of the BCS era (before a 4-team playoff is instituted for the 2014 season), but at least it’s going out with a doozy.
The final BCS Championship game features the powerhouse, yet relatively untested, Florida State Seminoles against the team of destiny that is the Auburn Tigers. At stake: a return to glory for the team of the 90’s versus the cementing of the SEC legacy of BCS dominance. For the past seven years, the winner of the BCS National Championship game has come from the Southeastern Conference. In fact, for the past 4 years, the BCS Champion has come from the state of Alabama (Alabama ’09, Auburn ’10, Alabama ’11-’12). The Tigers of Auburn have a chance to make it five in a row for the Yellowhammer state.
It won’t be easy. Tonight they face a Florida State team that is 3rd in the nation in total team defense and 6th in total team offense. The Seminoles have outgained their opponents by an average of 261 yards per game (compared to Auburn’s 82).* FSU’s average point differential per game this past season is 42 points. Yes, the Seminoles have defeated their opponents by an average of 6 touchdowns. Auburn’s average point differential is, by comparison, a modest 16 points per game.
However, the Atlantic Coast Conference in which Florida State plays does not hold a candle to the steam train that is the SEC. FSU’s strength of schedule is ranked 43rd nationally.** They’ve played only 4 ranked opponents all year, only one of which ( Clemson) won a bowl game. Still, FSU’s average margin of victory in those four games was 41 points. By contrast, Auburn’s strength of schedule was 6th in the nation. They played 6 ranked opponents in 2013, four of which went on to win their respective bowl games (sorry, Alabama). The Tigers’ average margin of victory in those six games: 4 points.
So who will be hoisting the Sears Trophy in Pasadena come Monday Night?
If Auburn is to win, it will be because they keep Heisman Trophy winner and FSU quarterback Jameis Winston off the field. That is, Auburn needs to rely on Tre Mason and their #1 ranked rushing attack (336 YPG), and win the time-of-possession battle. As tough as Florida State’s defense is, they are vulnerable to a powerful running game. In their earlier matchup against Boston College, FSU allowed the best running back in college football, Andrew Williams (2177 yards for the season), to accumulate 149 yards on 28 carries. That’s 5.3 yards per carry. This season, Auburn’s Mason is averaging 5.7 yards per carry.
Auburn must also win the turnover differential. Taking the ball out of Winston’s hands, by either forcing fumbles or pressuring Winston in hopes of causing an ill-advised pass that leads to an interception, is critical for the Tigers’ defense. Conversely, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, who himself rushed for over 1000 yards and is averaging 6.6 yards per carry, must be diligent in securing the ball. Smart, efficient decisions in the passing game coupled with patience in the run are key if Auburn hopes to pull off the victory.
Auburn has played a much tougher schedule in a significantly stronger conference than has Florida State. But whereas Auburn has been very good as of late (not to mention quite fortunate) and spectacular in the run game, FSU has simply been both dominating and explosive. No team has come close to topping the Noles this season. Their smallest margin of victory all year was 14 points, on the road at Boston College. Again, BC had the best running back in the country on display in that game, but he was no match for the best overall player in the country in Jameis Winston, and Winston’s virtually score-at-will offense.
Auburn will come out and play with the emotion of a team the feels destined to win it all. The Prayer at Jordan-Hare and the Kick Six helped elevate this squad into the title game, and fans in Auburn feel they’re meant to emerge as national champions this season. But Florida State is a more complete team. Although the Tigers keep it close in the first half, FSU will begin to pull away in the middle of the 3rd quarter and win the game, securing Jimbo Fisher’s first national championship as a head coach. Final score: FSU 38 – Auburn 24
With the Florida State win, here ate my predictions for the final rankings in college football.
- Florida State
- Michigan State
- Central Florida
- South Carolina
- Ohio State
- Louisiana State
- Texas A&M
- Northern Illinois
- Oklahoma State
- Southern California
- Arizona State
- Notre Dame