BCS National Championship 2014: X-Factors That Will Decide FSU vs. Auburn

Jesse ReedCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2013

Dec 1, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (8) celebrates with defensive end Bjoern Werner (95) after sacking Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets quarterback Vad Lee (2) (not pictured) in the first quarter in the ACC Championship at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 BCS National Championship Game between Florida State and Auburn features some of the most recognizable superstars in college football, but they can't win the game by themselves. 

Thanks to outstanding performances throughout the 2013 season, Auburn's Tre Mason and Nick Marshall are household names, as is FSU's Jameis Winston. But they're far from the only players who will have an impact on the upcoming title game.

However, both teams will come into the contest with specific game plans designed to stop those top players, meaning others must step up and play big for their respective teams to come away victorious. 

Here's a look at a couple of X-factors from both teams who'll play a major role in determining the outcome of the 2014 BCS National Championship Game.


FSU: Kelvin Benjamin, WR

Winston receives a ton of media love for what he does on the gridiron—as he should. However, many of the amazing highlights you've seen this season feature receiver Kelvin Benjamin on the receiving end of Winston's passes.

The 6'5", 242-pound Benjamin has put in a remarkable season, catching 50 passes for 957 yards (19.1 yards per catch) and 14 touchdowns. 

Benjamin isn't just a big body, either. He's extremely athletic, possesses plenty of speed to get past defensive backs on deep posts and fades and has the leaping ability to elevate and snag passes well above the reach of defenders.

Winston has learned to trust his big receiver to come down with jump balls, as he comes down with them more often than not. Benjamin will test Auburn's secondary to its limit when the two schools meet up in January. 


Auburn: Sammie Coates, WR

Auburn's offense is predicated on the running game, with the passing game coming in a distant second. On average, the Tigers roll out 19.8 passing plays per game, compared to 51.9 running plays, and Nick Marshall only attempted 11 passes during the SEC Championship Game.

However, when the Tigers do need to make a play through the air to move the sticks, Sammie Coates is Marshall's favorite target. Of Marshall's nine completed passes in Week 15, Coates caught six of them for 94 yards and the team's only receiving touchdown.

For the season, the sophomore out of Leroy, Ala., has hauled in 38 passes for 841 yards and seven touchdowns to lead Auburn in all three categories.

If his team struggles to move the ball on the ground against FSU's No. 14-ranked running defense, Coates will need to have a huge game to spur Auburn to victory.


FSU: Timmy Jernigan, DT

Nov 23, 2013; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (8) pressures Idaho Vandals quarterback Taylor Davis (12)   during the first half at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Marshall and Mason are on a tear right now for Auburn, combining to rush for 668 yards and seven touchdowns against Alabama and Missouri in the past two games. 

Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan is as strong as a bull, and at 6'2" and 298 pounds, he's remarkably agile for a big man. Coming into the game with 10.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks, he's shown the ability to penetrate opposing offensive lines with regularity.

If FSU's defense is going to flip the script and shut the Tigers' potent rushing attack down, then Jernigan must dominate the line of scrimmage and disrupt plays in the backfield on a regular basis. However, he—and the rest of his teammates on the defensive line—must play with unerring discipline and maintain their gaps.

Otherwise, Auburn's potent triple-option rushing attack will tear FSU to shreds.


Auburn: Dee Ford, DE

Dec 7, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback James Franklin (1) is taken down by Auburn Tigers defensive end Dee Ford (30) during the fourth quarter of the 2013 SEC Championship game at Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA T
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

If FSU's Winston has time to sit in the pocket and read the field, he'll shred Auburn's secondary. Should this occur, it's hard to imagine the Tigers will win. 

Therefore, it's imperative that Auburn finds a way to bring pressure on a regular basis. Dee Ford is the top pass-rusher for the Tigers. He comes into the game having registered 8.5 sacks, counting this half-sack of James Franklin in the SEC Championship Game, as shown by Bill Wilson:

Ford was highly active in that game against Mizzou, doing much more than the stat sheet indicates. He had Franklin on the run multiple times, and he'll need to do the same against Florida State.

Chris Davis leads a feisty secondary for the Tigers, but Auburn's secondary will be exposed if Winston gets too comfortable.


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