NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Destiny will battle perfection on Monday night at the Rose Bowl, as No. 2 Auburn will go up against No. 1 Florida State in the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena.
With all of the press conferences, practices and meetings in the books, what better time to step out on a limb and make some bold predictions?
Who will lead the Tigers in rushing? Can they rattle Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston? Will they successfully stretch the field through the air?
Five bold predictions for the Tigers are in this slide show.
Auburn RB Corey Grant
Most of the focus of the Tigers' running game has been on quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason, but the third dimension of that three-headed rushing attack is speedster Corey Grant.
The 5'11", 205-pound junior is generally used on speed sweeps off the edge, but he also comes in to spell Mason when he needs a breather. He won't touch the ball much on Monday night, but when he does, it will be at times when Marshall and Mason have attacked the middle of the field often and feel like they have the defense guessing.
That's when Grant will shine.
He won't out-gain Mason, and he may not eclipse Marshall's rushing stats either. But he'll have a high yards-per-carry average, make a big impact on field position and make a dent on the scoreboard.
Final stat line prediction: eight carries for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Auburn "star" Robenson Therezie
Robenson Therezie wasn't supposed to be in this position. Justin Garrett had planned to be the starter at the hybrid "star" position for defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's defense, but an injury forced Garrett to redshirt, which allowed Therezie to take advantage.
Boy, has he.
He leads the Tigers with four interceptions this season and returned one for a touchdown. He'll be a star for his team on Monday—pun very much intended.
Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston is at his best when he has pressure in his face. Whether Auburn gets pressure with four or is forced to bring the heat, it will put Therezie in key spots to make plays. They hybrid safety/linebacker will find himself in position to defend those hot routes more times than not and will take advantage with one interception and a few pass breakups.
Will that be the difference in the game?
If those big plays come at key times, they could.
Auburn WR Sammie Coates
A lot of the talk leading up to the game centers around the matchup advantages Florida State's wide receivers have over Auburn's secondary.
But that argument can be made on the other side of the ball too.
At 6'2", 201 pounds, Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates has at least two inches on all of the Seminoles' cornerbacks, and he has a knack for big plays. He leads the SEC and is third in the nation in yards per reception at 22.13.
Auburn used the one-month layoff between the SEC Championship Game and the BCS National Championship Game to address a few things in quarterback Nick Marshall's game that can help him progress as a passer.
"I think it's been a good 30 days for Nick," offensive coordinator Rhett 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."
Coates will be the beneficiary.
You'll see "Malzahn Offense 2.0" Monday night, and that offense will feature a more dynamic passing game. As a result, Coates will have a big night.
Auburn DE Carl Lawson
The ability of Auburn's defensive front to rotate throughout the game has a been a big reason why the Tigers have been able to bend but not break late in games. They've given up just 4.8 points per game in the fourth quarter, which is the 18th-best mark in the country.
Defensive end Dee Ford has been a monster for the Tigers this season, taking over the Georgia game and making the final stop of the game on Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray, then following it up with a big sack of Missouri quarterback James Franklin in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game.
But it won't be Ford who's the star on Monday, it'll be true freshman Carl Lawson.
Lawson had the big stop on fourth down in the fourth quarter of the Iron Bowl that kept the Tigers in it, and he's developed into a tremendous pass-rusher as the season has progressed.
The 6'2" 258-pounder will get Winston behind the line once, pressure him off the edge often and force him to hit those hot routes instead of taking shots deep.
This game won't be a blowout.
Auburn is so well-versed at what it does offensively that, if certain new wrinkles don't work, going back to the old standby of that multi-dimensional rushing attack is not a bad insurance policy.
After a feeling out process early, this game will evolve into a shootout, with Auburn getting a key stop and getting the ball back into the hands of quarterback Nick Marshall and the offense one last time with a chance to tie or win.
It won't happen.
The Tigers will fall 38-35 in the final game of the BCS era, ending the SEC's streak of seven straight national championships. If there is a silver lining, this team will let it be known that destiny has nothing to do with why it got here and that it will be a team to be reckoned with during the 2014 season.
*Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.