Auburn vs. Florida State: The Matchup That Will Decide the BCS Championship

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterDecember 8, 2013

USA Today

The Florida State Seminoles and Auburn Tigers are all set to lock horns in the BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena, Calif. on January 6.

The 13-0 Seminoles have been the nation's most consistent team, and the 12-1 Tigers have come on strong to finish the year.

Eyeballing the game, the biggest test will be FSU's defensive front against Auburn's rushing attack.

Through 13 games, the Seminoles are surrendering 116.5 yards per game on the ground. Meanwhile, Auburn's ground attack is churning up an average of 335.7 yards per game.

It will be strength against strength, and the nation will get to see just how well head coaches Gus Malzahn and Jimbo Fisher can handle the long layoff and media scrutiny and prepare their teams for the biggest stage in college football.

Although some will point to the Alabama game—a team Florida State has molded itself after—as proof positive to bet on the Tigers, the Seminoles do not share the Crimson Tide's biggest weakness: cornerback play.

Alabama was forced into playing a seven-man box against Auburn's rushing game, which resulted in the Tigers running all over Nick Saban's squad. Alabama committed four pass defenders for fear that Auburn's passing game would take shots downfield.

For Florida State, the secondary is a strength.

Starting with Lamarcus Joyner and P.J. Williams and trickling down to the rest of the unit, the corners are comfortable being on their own. That means Auburn should expect more eight-man boxes and push to disrupt the mesh point.

Malzahn does a fantastic job of creating positive blocking angles for his players, working multiple option looks out of similar sets and remaining committed to the run. Tre Mason has emerged as a big-time running back, and Nick Marshall is proving he's a great decision-maker in the run game.

Florida State is going to have its hands full trying to stop a team that runs the ball as well as anyone in the nation.

In the month leading up to the event, plenty of analysts will talk about the individual matchups: Lamarcus Joyner versus Nick Marshall, Tre Mason versus Telvin Smith, Reese Dismukes versus Timmy Jernigan. People will even mention how C.J. Uzomah and Christian Jones are key role players. 

The individual battles matter, but ultimately it is a game where the run defense has to beat the run offense. One has to out-execute the other.

For Florida State, it will be about gap integrity and getting an extra defender in the box to account for the rushing efforts of Marshall. For Auburn, it will be about spreading Florida State out and making good reads in the run game.

This BCS National Championship Game will be won at the line of scrimmage. Florida State has grown into the 3-4 very nicely over the course of the season. Auburn has become phenomenal as a team that runs the ball.

Auburn and Florida State rose above the rest. Saturday was a culmination of what the season has been building toward, and as Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee noted, the BCS will be getting the two best squads right, again.

Now it will be up to both teams to counter each other's strength in the trenches.