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BCS Championship Game 2014: Layoff Is Exactly What Auburn's Passing Game Needed

USA Today
Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJanuary 4, 2014

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — A lot is made of the layoff between the end of college football's regular season and the bowl season, particularly for teams participating in the BCS National Championship Game, which have to wait a month or more to play for the crystal football.

That layoff is particularly important with No. 2 Auburn, which rode a wave of late-season momentum all the way to Pasadena for a title game tilt with top-ranked Florida State.

With time to prepare, it's only natural that an advantage could sway towards Tallahassee since the coaching staff will have plenty of time to dissect that multi-dimensional Auburn rushing attack.

Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner
Florida State cornerback Lamarcus JoynerMatthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Only don't tell Florida State cornerback Lamarcus Joyner that, because he's clearly concerned.

"I don't think if you got a year, a month, a week or two days off, at the end of the day, it's no secret what Auburn is doing," he said. "They do what they do, and they do it well. Teams know that. You just have to stop them and be disciplined."

But what if Auburn changes up what they do in the title tilt on Monday night?

Quarterback Nick Marshall only had five weeks in this offense before the season-opener versus Washington State. During the time off, Marshall and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee self-scouted the Tigers' passing game, and worked on Marshall taking that next step as a passer.

"We've been working on fundamental things like footwork, and fundamentals with our feet," Marshall said. "I think it helped me a lot."

Auburn QB Nick Marshall
Auburn QB Nick MarshallKevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Lashlee has been impressed with the attitude of his junior quarterback, as the two went back to the drawing board.

"I think it's been a good 30 days for Nick," Lashlee said. "He's practiced extremely well not just from his mindset and the way he's attacked it to get better, but he's thrown the ball extremely well over the break. He got an extra 30 days to focus on just being a quarterback, which hopefully we'll see on Monday night and he'll play pretty well."

Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee
Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett LashleeKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Sammie Coates has been Marshall's go-to receiver this season catching 38 passes for 841 yards, seven touchdowns and an SEC-best 22.13 yards per catch. But for Auburn's passing game to get a boost, somebody has to step up outside to compliment Coates.

Could that be tight end C.J. Uzomah

The 6'4", 258-pound junior has nine catches for three touchdowns this season; and emerged as one of Marshall's go-to guys in the red zone through the air. He's back to 100 percent after nursing an injury and only seeing one snap during the Missouri game, and he will be ready in the red zone against Florida State if his number is called.

"Yeah, probably," he said. "Coach [Gus] Malzahn has a plan and he hasn't really given us too, too much because of all of the media and stuff, so I guess we'll just have to see."

Make no mistake, Auburn isn't going to sling it all over the Rose Bowl on Monday night.

"He's always been a great quarterback," wide receiver Trovon Reed said. "But like Coach Malzahn says, 'in order for us to change something, they have to stop something'."

If Florida State stops something in the title game, the work Marshall, Lashlee and the receiving corps put in during the layoff may determine which team leaves Southern California with that crystal football.

 

*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.


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