BCS National Championship Game

Florida State vs. Auburn: Who has the edge?

 
 
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, left, and Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher pose with The Coaches' Trophy during a news conference for the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in Newport Beach, Calif. Florida State plays Auburn on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, left, and Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher pose with The Coaches' Trophy during a news conference for the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014, in Newport Beach, Calif. Florida State plays Auburn on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
David J. Phillip / AP

cspencer@MiamiHerald.com

WHEN FLORIDA STATE RUNS

The Seminoles might not be in Auburn’s league when it comes to running the football, but that has more to do with the fact FSU has a more balanced attack and mixes in the pass to a much greater degree than the Tigers. Devonta Freeman leads a four-pronged rushing attack that also includes Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr., not to mention quarterback Jameis Winston. Freeman is closing in on the 1,000-yard mark, something that was last accomplished at FSU by Warrick Dunn in 1996. The Noles ranked 28th nationally in rushing (207 ypg), and could benefit from an Auburn defense that hasn’t stopped the run all that well and must focus its energy on trying to contain Winston. Edge: Florida State

WHEN FLORIDA STATE THROWS

When you take a look at Florida State’s elite receiving corps, it’s not hard to see how Winston ended up winning the Heisman. The Seminoles’ receivers -- Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw -- are extremely gifted and dangerous. Winston distributed the ball almost equally to the three (Greene had 67 catches with 981 yards, Shaw had 52 catches for 929 yards, and Benjamin had 50 catches for 957 yards). Toss in tight end Nick O’Leary (33 catches for 557 yards), and there’s really no one individual receiver that Auburn can devote extra attention. Auburn was awful at stopping the pass (104th nationally in pass defense) and it could be a long night for the Tigers’ secondary if Winston has time to throw. Edge: Florida State

WHEN AUBURN RUNS

An Auburn victory hinges on how well they run the ball, move the chains, consume clock and keep Winston and the Noles offense off the field. If anybody has the ability to pull it off, it’s Auburn. The Tigers led the nation in rushing by averaging 335 yards per game on the ground. Auburn had a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in SEC Offensive Player of the Year Tre Mason, who gained 1,621 yards, and quarterback Nick Marshall, who contributed 1,023 yards on the ground. But the Seminoles pose a stiff challenge for Auburn's robust ground game. The Noles defense gave up only five rushing touchdowns all season and ranked 14th nationally stopping the run. Edge: Auburn

WHEN AUBURN THROWS

The Seminoles would love nothing more than to put Auburn in third-and-long situations to force the Tigers to go away from their running game and put the ball in the air. Marshall is by no means a poor passer (he completed 60 percent of his passes and threw for 12 touchdowns) but the Seminoles are the best team in the nation at defending the pass, holding opponents to 152 yards per game. And FSU led the nation with 25 interceptions. Sammie Coates is Marshall's favorite target, with 38 receptions, including seven for touchdowns. But Marshall had three games in which he threw for fewer than 100 yards and is more effective running the ball than he is throwing it. Edge: Florida State

SPECIAL TEAMS

FSU's Roberto Aguayo, a redshirt freshman, is a one-man scoring machine. Aguayo was 19 for 20 on field goal tries and a perfect 90 for 90 on PATs. Aguayo single-handedly outscored Florida State's 13 opponents, 147-139. But because the Seminoles won their games by such wide margins, Aguayo never had to kick under late-game pressure. Aguayo needs 10 more points to set the single-single season scoring mark for a kicker. Auburn's Cody Parkey led the nation with 67 touchbacks and connected on 14 of 19 field goals. Edge: Florida State

COACHING

Auburn's Gus Malzahn was named the National Coach of the Year, and for good reason. Under Malzahn, the Tigers rebounded from a 3-9 season (0-8 in the SEC) to go 12-1, win the SEC title and earn a berth in the national title game. Jimbo Fisher is in his fourth season at FSU, where he has gone 44-10 and led the Seminoles to three consecutive bowl victories. Edge: Florida State.

PREDICTION

Florida State 38, Auburn 24

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