PASADENA, CA—This is it.
The culmination of 13 games, of hundreds of hours of practice and countless amounts of sweat, blood and tears, the conclusion of a thrilling 2013 season that saw expectations shattered and nobodies become heroes.
No. 1 Florida State will take on No. 2 Auburn in a California clash of southern schools for all the marbles, and it will serve as the BCS' final bow before it is replaced by the playoff system. It's the SEC vs. ACC, the "Team of Destiny" against the team that does it big.
Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
Place: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
Radio: Florida State IMG Sports Network
Spread: Florida State by 8 according to Bovada.lv
Expose Auburn's secondary
As it's been said, Auburn has one of the country's weakest pass defenses, allowing 260.2 yards per game through the air. Jameis Winston will look to his star trio of Kelvin Benjamin, Rashad Greene and Kenny Shaw to aid in exploiting that, in addition to tight end Nick O'Leary and the occasional screen to Devonta Freeman.
Stop the Tigers on the ground
Auburn's lifeblood is its run game, which centers around the abilities of Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason. Florida State's starting defense hasn't allowed a rushing touchdown all year and allows 126.3 yards per game, while Auburn has scored 46 on the ground and averages 335.7 yards.
Play disciplined football
The key to stopping Auburn is sticking to your guns and not doing more than is asked of you. Florida State has week in and week out been the most dominant team in college football, and for good reason. If FSU plays to its strengths, the Seminoles will leave California with a victory.
Play with a purpose
A good majority of America believes in Auburn, but most of the media is leaning in favor of Florida State. The Tigers are an eight-point underdog, and that will give them a bit of motivation. They've already beaten the No. 1 team in the country once; what's doing it again?
Attack the ground
One of FSU's few weaknesses is, to an extent, its run defense, which so happens to be the biggest strength of the Tigers. Alabama and Missouri were both strong defenses, and the Tigers ran for 296 and 545 yards on them, respectively. A stout defense won't be a new opponent for the Auburn run game, so expect plenty of carries by Tre Mason.
The 6'6" receiver is in prime position to have a career day against Auburn, as a player who is similar to him, Texas A&M's Mike Evans, had 287 yards and four touchdowns when the two teams met. Benjamin is also in position to make a jump to the NFL, and his draft stock would be greatly aided by a strong showing.
Easy pick, but all eyes will be on the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner when the teams take the field Monday night. He'll be doing his best to avoid the Heisman curse; Heisman winners who have played in the last five national championships are 2-3, with the last two wins coming from Mark Ingram in 2009 and Cam Newton in 2010.
Jones made the switch from linebacker to defensive end this year and has greatly benefited from the move. Auburn likes to run a lot of read-option, and the key to stopping it is disciplined play from defensive ends.
All focus will be on Auburn's run game, so will that give Marshall a chance to pull some trickery through the air? The former cornerback has 1,759 yards this year, and though FSU has the best pass defense in the country, there's a chance that they could forget about Marshall's arm.
Mason wasn't a Heisman finalist for tricks and giggles. He's one of the top running backs in the country and is as responsible for Auburn's success as anybody. Mason broke Bo Jackson's all-purpose yard record of 1,859 with 2,137 yards this season. He went off for 304 yards in his last game against Missouri and is going to be FSU's biggest obstacle in winning a title.
Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee, Adam Kramer and Michael Felder break down the national championship.
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall on run game:
That's something that's something we take pride in, running the football, it's just something we do. Like Coach Lashlee and Coach Malzahn tell us, we're going to run the football at them until they stop us. We're going to go out there and keep doing what we've been doing this whole year and just hope we come out with this win.
Jeremy Pruitt on Auburn's run game:
Well, if you just watch the entire year, it's kind of been a work in progress for them. Obviously the quarterback doesn't get there until August, doesn't go through spring ball, so they've kind of developed who they are over the course of the year. They've done an outstanding job over the course of the year. They've been really stubborn about it. They're going to run the football. Everybody knows they're going to run the football, and you've got to be able to stop them.
So watching Alabama, yes, that helped us some because we're familiar with who Alabama is, what they're trying to get done, but these guys have had success running the football against everybody.
Terrence Brooks on possibly overlooking Auburn's pass game:
Not at all. We respect their passing game just like their running game. We know they do some great things over there. They have a good quarterback that can throw it around. They've got a great receiver. But we also have a lot of confidence in our defense. We're ready for the match up, and that's what we want.
Auburn has had an amazing season, perhaps one of the most miraculous in recent history. The Tigers completed a successful turnaround from only winning three games last year, and they earned their place in the national championship, no questions asked.
But when it comes down to it, the Tigers don't have a clear-cut advantage in any one category over the Seminoles, and football comes down to talent and execution, not God's will or destiny. Auburn will compete. But in the end, Florida State's skill will shine through, and FSU will bring home its third national championship.
Final score: FSU 34, Auburn 20