The Florida State Seminoles and the Auburn Tigers. Two teams that prior to the season looked like long shots to even win their own divisional races in their conferences are now meeting for the BCS National Championship. But with two of the most explosive offenses in the country, it's no wonder the two will meet to decide which team is the best in college football this season.
Auburn has gotten the job done all year with its rushing attack thanks to Tre Mason and Nick Marshall while FSU has been as balanced a team as anyone in the country behind Jameis Winston, Devonta Freeman and three receivers at just below 1,000 yards receiving on the season.
Here is a look at each position for the two teams and how it will factor into the outcome of the (hopefully) final BCS National Championship game.
Quarterback: Florida State
The Seminoles' signal-caller is arguably the best player in the country and is expected to hear his name called this Saturday in New York to win the Heisman Trophy.
Jameis Winston has been the one change from last year's team that has set the 'Noles apart from every other team in the country. Behind Winston, FSU ranks 14th in the country in passing yards (322 per game), second in the country in points per game (53) and has destroyed its competition to the tune of a 42-point differential per game, which also ranks second in the NCAA.
The statistics for Winston are almost all unreal, but Joe Schad of ESPN explained how the QB is the driving force behind many of the Seminoles' first-half leads:
Nick Marshall is certainly another one of the best quarterbacks in the country, but his success has been more predicated on his ability to run with the ball rather than pass. Marshall is a very smart quarterback who can beat opponents in a multitude of ways, but Winston has been by far the best quarterback in the country all season.
But if the National Championships gone by have proven anything, quarterbacks like AJ McCarron or Matt Flynn—the offensive MVP's from 2011 and 2007, respectively—can emerge to steal the show.
Running game: Auburn
While the 'Noles have a Heisman hopeful under center, the Tigers have one behind their quarterback. Tre Mason has been spectacular over the entire season, but his last two games have set him apart from any other running backs in the country.
The junior tailback tallied over 150 yards in both contests, including an SEC Championship record of 304 yards with four touchdowns. Mason has eight games this season with 100 yards or more and four with 150 or more to go along with his 22 touchdowns and five multi-touchdown games.
To top it all off, he gives credit to his offensive linemen, according to Chelsa Messinger of NBC 38:
The Seminoles offer a strong backfield with both Devonta Freeman and Karlos Williams rushing for over 700 yards this season. But the combination of Mason and Marshall has led to one of the best rushing attacks in the country, as the Tigers lead the nation in 335.7 rushing yards per game.
Receiving corps: Florida State
Is it the quarterback making the receivers look better, or is it the receivers making the quarterback look good? Whether one is dependent on the other or not, both have been brilliant this season for Florida State.
The 'Noles have a plethora of receivers that all offer different strengths. Rashad Greene is the dependable receiver with 67 catches and 981 yards—both are team highs. Kelvin Benjamin is the tall safety valve for Winston who has caught 14 touchdown passes, more than anyone on the team, and who causes matchup nightmares for opponents. Finally, Kenny Shaw is the elder statesman who, despite his size, is one of the most explosive playmakers for FSU.
Here is a breakdown of each receiver's stats on the season:
|Florida State's Top Receivers|
Auburn's strength clearly does not lie within the passing game. Outside of Sammie Coates, who has been shut down for 60 yards or less six times this season, the Tigers don't have a true threat for Nick Marshall.
Defense: Florida State
This really isn't even up for discussion. The Seminoles have been just as lethal on the defensive side of the ball as they have been on the offensive side. In fact, the 'Noles are actually better at scoring defense (No. 1, 10.7 PPG) than they are at scoring offense (No. 2, 53 PPG).
The stats speak for themselves: Florida State ranks 14th in the country in rush defense (116.5 ypg), first in pass defense (152 ypg) and second in turnovers gained (34). Those totals have come against the likes of Clemson, Maryland and Miami, who were all ranked in the Top 25 at the time.
The last two names may seem strange to bring up when talking about great offenses, but when considering that Miami still had the abilities of Duke Johnson and Maryland was shut out with a healthy Stefon Diggs and Deon Long in the receiving corps, those numbers become a little more noteworthy.
Auburn has been one of the best in the country in scoring defense but, as of late, has needed its offense to bail it out. Much of Auburn's success will once again rely on whether or not its defense can come away with pivotal stops. But against the No. 1 red-zone offense in the country, those stops are going to be increasingly more difficult.