In the final year of the BCS, the fans will be treated to the consensus No. 1 and No. 2 teams. Thanks to a Michigan State comeback over Ohio State and thorough beatdowns by both Florida State and Auburn in their respective conference championship games, the Seminoles and Tigers will battle on January 6 in Pasadena for the BCS National Championship game.
With both teams featuring explosive offenses and two Heisman hopefuls, there will be plenty of keys to this game on that side of the ball. But for two defenses that are polar opposites, this game could come down to which team's offense is actually shut down.
Can Auburn's Defense Stop Florida State?
In its last three games, Auburn has given up an average of 37.3 points per game. Florida State hasn't scored less than 37 points all season. This one looks like it will go in the Seminoles favor.
During the regular season, the Tigers defense ranked 10th in the SEC in rushing yards per game (157.6) and finished 13th in passing yards per game (256.7). In order for Auburn to slow down the Seminoles high-powered offense, it will need to rely on the same thing it's done all season—stopping teams in the red zone.
Out of 48 opportunities, opponents scored just 34 times—only 23 were touchdowns. The Tigers also forced three interceptions and a fumble in the red zone during those games.
The only problem: Florida State ranks first in the NCAA in red-zone offense, scoring 67 times in the red zone this season. Here is a quick comparison of the two teams in the red zone:
|FSU red zone offense vs. AU red zone defense|
|Team||Rush TDs||Pass TDs||Scores||Percentage|
Against the best red-zone scoring offense in the country, the Tigers will need a huge game from their bend but don't break defense.
Tre Mason has had great games all season, but his SEC Championship performance showed that he is still improving. After putting up 304 yards and four touchdowns against Missouri, Mason appears to be able to run against any defense in the country.
Mason has rushed for 115 yards or more in his last five games and has tallied 13 touchdowns during that stretch. In fact, over the last two games against Alabama and Mizzou, the No. 1 and 2 rush defenses in the SEC, the junior rushed for an average of 234 yards with five touchdowns.
John Buccigross of ESPN tweeted another stat that has Mason ahead of Auburn legend Bo Jackson in Tigers history:
With the presence of Nick Marshall in the backfield alongside Mason, defenses have to account for both as runners. Along with Mason's 304-yard game, Marshall tallied his fourth 100-plus yard rushing game of the season
On the other side of Mason stands Jameis Winston, a Heisman favorite and freshman sensation for the Seminoles. Both Winston and Mason share pretty astronomical statistics, but Winston's abilities in and outside of the pocket make him special.
Winston, like Marshall, can beat teams with his arm and legs, but he hasn't shown that ability much this season—until the ACC Championship. The Seminoles signal-caller had rushed for over 50 yards just once this season, but he finished with 59 yards and a touchdown on the ground against the Blue Devils.
The freshman sensation also passed for 330 yards and three touchdowns against Duke, marking Winston's eighth game this season with three or more touchdowns and his seventh with 300 or more yards passing.
Amongst all of the amazing stats Winston has put up, his 37 pass touchdowns broke yet another record:
In order for Florida State to win its first national championship during the Jimbo Fisher era, it will need great play from Winston and the corps of receivers around him. With a defense that allows opponents to score less than 11 points per game, Winston will need to pick apart a less-than-stellar Auburn defense.