BCS Championship 2014: 10 Bold Predictions for Auburn vs. FSU Showdown
Only days remain before the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles (13-0) and No. 2 Auburn Tigers (12-1) match up in one of the most anticipated BCS Championship Games ever on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN).
Can Florida State quarterback and 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston put the finishing touches on one of the most successful freshman campaigns in college football history? Or will Auburn head coach Guz Malzahn complete the most improbable one-year turnaround the sport has ever seen?
The headlines and storylines are endless with this matchup.
But if you’re having trouble waiting until Monday for all your BCS title needs, you’re in luck. B/R has got you covered.
Join us as we take a closer look and conjure up 10 bold—in some cases, far-fetched—predictions for this highly anticipated showdown.
The First Quarter Will Be Scoreless
Entering Monday’s BCS title matchup, the Seminoles and Tigers boast two of the nation’s highest-powered offenses. Florida State ranks No. 1 in scoring (53.0 PPG) and No. 5 in total offense (529.4 YPG), while Auburn ranks No. 8 in scoring (40.2 PPG) and No. 10 in total offense (505.3 YPG).
There’s no way these two powerful units could possibly be held scoreless after one quarter, right?
It’s not rare for teams to struggle to find points in the opening stages of a championship game. That’s mostly the time when both opponents try to feel out the other one.
In fact, over the last five BCS title matchups, only 23 points combined were scored in the first quarter. Furthermore, only one of those games featured an offensive touchdown in the opening quarter.
That includes the 2011 BCS title matchup between Oregon and the Tigers, which was scoreless through one—the Ducks and Auburn came in averaging 47.0 and 41.2 points per game, respectively.
On Monday, expect for both the Tigers and Seminoles to play it safe early on. We should see a good dose of running from both sides and surprisingly, a good amount of three-and-outs.
What we won’t see through the first quarter is points.
FSU Will Face Halftime Deficit for First Time All Season
The Seminoles have done it all this season.
They’ve beaten Top 25 opponents by 60-plus points. The team has traveled into Death Valley and dominated Clemson in front of its home fans. Florida State has been overall dominating on both sides of the ball.
But what the team hasn’t done in 2013 is trail at halftime.
The Seminoles came awfully close to doing that against Boston College earlier in the season. In fact, the team actually trailed 17-3 early in the second quarter.
However, quarterback Jameis Winston rallied the troops, torching the Eagles secondary for three touchdown passes in the final 10 minutes of the half.
Don’t expect that kind of luck against the Tigers.
Behind all the early success and accolades, it’s hard to remember that Winston is just a redshirt freshman. This is his first year of experience playing at the collegiate level.
Mistakes are bound to happen. And they will.
Look for Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher to turn to his running game to take some of the pressure off Winston.
It might help stop the bleeding, but it won’t be enough to prevent the Seminoles from trailing after two quarters.
Seminoles Will Outrush Tigers
Lost in all the hype of Jameis Winston and the passing attack, few seem to notice that the Seminoles actually have a pretty good rushing attack.
Through 13 games, the unit ranks No. 24 in the nation (207.4 YPG). Florida State has averaged 5.69 yards per carry—good for a No. 9 ranking—while finding the end zone 41 times on the ground.
Whether it’s Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams or James Wilder Jr., the Seminoles have had success running the ball. The trio has combined for 2,190 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Even Winston has scored four times with his legs.
Furthermore, Florida State has been pouring it in as of late. Over the last four games, the team has averaged 232.3 rushing yards per game while finding the end zone 12 times in that span.
Not to mention, the Tigers haven’t been all too great against the run. The team ranks No. 64 in the category (164.2 YPG) while conceding 18 rushing touchdowns on a generous 4.59 yards per carry.
It will all lead to the biggest surprise of the night: The Seminoles will outrush Auburn’s No. 1-ranked rushing attack.
Auburn Will Be Held Without a Rushing TD
Yes, you read that headline correctly. The Tigers’ vaunted rushing attack will come up empty-handed on Monday night.
It doesn’t matter that the unit ranks No. 1 in the nation in terms of rushing (335.7 YPG). It doesn’t matter that only two teams—Navy (50) and Baylor (47)—have scored more rushing touchdowns than Auburn (46). It doesn’t matter that running back Tre Mason (283 CAR, 1,621 YDS, 22 TD) and quarterback Nick Marshall (156 CAR, 1,023 YDS, 11 TD) combine for one of the most formidable rushing duos in the nation.
On Monday night, Auburn will struggle to find answers against a stifling Seminoles run defense.
Through 13 games, the unit ranks No. 13 against the run (116.5 YPG). Furthermore, Florida State has only allowed a nation-low five rushing touchdowns on a meager 3.14 yards per carry.
In fact, the team has held three consecutive opponents to less than 100 yards, and eight of the last nine to less than 150. Not to mention, all five of those rushing touchdowns allowed came after the first-team defense was off the field.
Needless to say, this will be one of the toughest tests the Tigers rushing attack has faced all season, and it will come in the biggest game of them all.
Nobody can blame them for falling flat against one of the most underrated defensive units in the country.
With the Run Game Shut Down, Marshall Will Thrive Through the Air
There’s not a better chance to prove your critics wrong than in the BCS title game.
Look for Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall to take that to heart.
All throughout the season, the junior has been criticized for his lackadaisical performance in the passing game. In 13 games, he has only thrown for 1,759 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions on 60.4 percent passing.
Then again, given Auburn’s superiority in the ground game, when has Marshall really had to throw the ball?
Against the Seminoles, it will be necessary if the Tigers hope to capture their second BCS title in four years.
But although his numbers may not be anything to boast about, Marshall has been effective when called upon. In fact, over his last six games he’s thrown for 857 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception on 61.5 percent passing.
It will certainly be tough to accomplish against Florida State’s No. 1-ranked pass defense (152.0 YPG). However, with so much attention likely focused on Auburn’s rushing attack, there’s a chance Marshall could catch the secondary sleeping.
Jameis Winston Will Finish with More Interceptions Than Touchdowns
It doesn’t sound as crazy as you think.
After a scorching start, Jameis Winston’s accuracy dipped off throughout the second half of the season. In fact, the redshirt freshman threw an interception in six of his final eight games, accounting for eight picks during that span.
Furthermore, Winston completed less than 62 percent of his passing in four of his last five games.
Although he has risen to the occasion countless times before, sooner or later his lack of experience is going to catch up to him.
Not to mention, who could forget the Heisman curse? Five of the eight Heisman Trophy winners to play in the BCS title match have fallen in defeat.
Against a Tigers defense that has heard about its ineptitude for over a month, expect head coach Guz Malzahn to have his players ready to go by Monday.
It’ll all result in a long, long day for Winston and the Seminoles offense.
Both Teams Will Fail to Score 30 Points
This one actually isn’t as bold as it seems.
Since Texas and USC combined for 79 points in 2006, no BCS title matchup has resulted with both participants topping 30 points. Furthermore, in three of the last five BCS title games, both teams failed to reach the mark.
As previously mentioned, that includes the 2011 meeting between the high-powered offenses of Auburn and Oregon, who combined for just 41 points.
This will most likely be a hard-fought battle between two teams that like to control the ball. These are exactly the types of games where defenses tend to step up and make a big play.
There’s a good chance this game won’t be any different.
Winston Will Throw His First TD Pass of the Game with Under 5 Seconds Remaining
In the biggest game of his career, Jameis Winston will fall flat on his face. Well, at least for the first 59 minutes.
With under two minutes remaining, the Seminoles will find themselves trailing by one touchdown. That’s when Winston will showcase the kind of poise and ability that helped him win the 2013 Heisman Trophy in the first place.
Completion after completion, Winston will move the ball down the field. As the clock winds down, and with hope fading away, Florida State finds itself down to its last chance.
Finally, Winston will connect through the air on a memorable touchdown strike, erasing his struggles throughout the game and sending the final BCS title game to overtime.
Better late than never, right?
The Game Will Go into Multiple OTs
With all the storylines surrounding this game, how could it possibly get better?
The answer is simple: multiple overtimes, of course!
Surprisingly, only one of the previous 15 BCS title games has gone into overtime. Not surprisingly, that game—Ohio State’s 31-24, double-overtime victory over Miami in 2003—is considered one of the greatest college football games of all time.
It’s only fitting that the BCS goes out with another multiple-overtime thriller that can match up to that game.
Given the amount of talent on both sides of the ball, it’s very reasonable to believe that the Seminoles and Tigers will need extra time to settle their differences.
We all may have to stay up a little later. But in the end, we all come away as winners.
...and Auburn Will Win Via a Pick-6
Has any team been more destined to win the BCS title than the 2013 Tigers?
After needing a Hail Mary to top Georgia, 43-38, on Nov. 16, Auburn followed that up by returning a missed field goal 106 yards for a touchdown as time expired to knock off two-time defending champions Alabama, 34-28, two weeks later. The team then capped it all off by dominating Missouri in the SEC title game.
Did we mention that the Tigers were 3-9—0-8 in SEC play—just a year ago?
Auburn is a team of destiny. When the chips are down, expect the Tigers to find a way to win.
This game should be no different.
After failing to score any points in its offensive portion of the overtime, Auburn’s defense is faced with the difficult task of holding the Seminoles and quarterback Jameis Winston.
After losing yards on the ground on its first two downs, Florida State decides to throw on 3rd-and-long.
That turns out to be a mistake, as Winston’s pass goes off the helmet of his wide receiver and into the hands of a Tigers defender. With nobody to beat, Auburn takes it all the way back for an improbable pick-six, securing the 2014 BCS title in the process.
As the players scream at the top of the lungs and the fans go berserk in stands, we’re reminded of one thing: Sometimes, miracles do happen.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.