Monday, December 30, 2013

SEC’s Run in the BCS Will End With FSU

By Adam Russell

All good things must come to an end, and I suppose the same is true for bad things, as well. A week from today, the much maligned Bowl Championship Series will come to a close when No. 2 Auburn faces No. 1 Florida State in the National Championship Game. Not only will the BCS end, so will the Southeastern Conference's string of seven straight national titles.

Now unlike Joe Namath or Matt Hasselbeck, I'm not one who usually makes bold predictions about the outcomes of football games, but in this case I have a strong feeling that Florida State will emerge as the top team in college football come next Monday night. I'm about as sure of this as I was last year when I said that Notre Dame would get rolled by Alabama, and I'll tell you why. Here's a brief breakdown of the two teams in five major categories.

Quarterback — Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston threw for 3,820 yards, 38 TDs, and 10 interceptions, and ran for another 193 yards and 4 scores for the Seminoles. Auburn's Nick Marshall had less than half that many yards passing (1,759) and scoring tosses (12), but only 5 picks. However, he rushed for more than a thousand yards (1,023) with 12 TDs. While Marshall can definitely keep defenses honest with his feet, the fact that he has no real weapons at wideout makes Auburn a fairly one-dimensional team. Meanwhile, Winston is considered to be the best player in the country and can hurt the opposition with both his arm and his feet, even though his rushing stats don't reflect that. Advantage: Florida State.

Running back — Along with Marshall, the Tigers have another thousand-yard rusher in Tre Mason, who also scored one less touchdown than Marshall did both passing and running. Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne ran for more than 600 yards and 6 TDs apiece, helping lead Auburn to the top rushing team in the nation. The 'Noles rely mainly on Devonta Freeman to carry the rock, along with Karlos Williams and James Wilder, Jr., although none rushed for more than a thousand yards and only 32 TDs between them. Advantage: Auburn.

Receiver — Thanks to the pass-oriented offense that Florida State runs, the Seminoles boast three receivers with nearly 1,000 yards each — Rashad Greene (981), Kelvin Benjamin (957), and Kenny Shaw (929) — and a collective 29 scores, and are deep threats with longest catches of more than 50 yards each. Auburn, with its more run-heavy offense, ranks near the bottom in the nation in passing offense and depends mainly on Sammie Coates to catch passes. Coates has 841 yards receiving with 7 scores, while the next closest receiver has less than 300 yards and only 2 TDs. Advantage: Florida State.

Defense — Florida State has the No. 3 defense in the nation overall, allowing only 268 yards per game, and is No. 1 in points allowed at 10. Auburn is way down the list in both categories at No. 88 in total defense (423 yard allowed per game) and 36th in scoring defense at 24 points per game. FSU also leads the nation in interceptions with 25 and is No. 26 in sacks with 33. Auburn is No. 44 in sacks with 28 and 49th in picks with 13. Advantage: Florida State.

Body of Work — Checking the two teams' season results, Florida State was one of the most dominant teams in the country. while Auburn struggled at times to win games. The Seminoles scored less than 41 points only once and allowed 7 or less points in seven games. The closest game they played was a 14-point win over Boston College in late September. On the other side, Auburn lost a game, barely beat lesser opponents like Washington State and Mississippi State, and got lucky against both Georgia and Alabama. Florida State's average margin of victory was about 42 points, while Auburn's was just 16. Advantage: Florida State.

In just these five categories, Florida State is clearly the better team and the oddsmakers seem to agree as most Vegas lines have the 'Noles favored by about 8 points. And while the SEC's title streak is on the line, the assertion that the conference is the most dominate one in the country may start to wane a bit with an FSU win.

Many college football fans agree that if a playoff was in place this year, Alabama would probably win through to take another national championship back to Tuscaloosa. However, since the team that a lot of folks believe is still the best lost in horrible fashion to Auburn, a lot of folks also believe that the SEC's streak will come to an end. The conference has won every national championship since the BCS installed a standalone title game eight seasons ago, and its hopes for a clean sweep in the five-game BCS era ride on an Auburn upset.

Personally, I still would have loved to see an Alabama/Oregon matchup for all the marbles (too bad the Sugar Bowl people couldn't have brokered a deal to get the Ducks to New Orleans), and maybe something like that will materialize in next year's playoff format (or future expansion — don't worry, it'll come).

But for this year, we get arguably the best team in the country against arguably the luckiest team in the country, and just like last year, the best team will show itself mighty on the field and walk away with the title. Plus, it seems only fitting that the one school that played in the first three BCS-era championship games — winning one — would close this chapter of college football history with a national title. Florida State appears to be a team destined to win it all.

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