Auburn vs. FSU: Lesser-Known Stars Who Will Break Out in Title Game

Jasper SchererAnalyst IIJanuary 6, 2014

WINSTON SALEM, NC - NOVEMBER 09:  James Wilder Jr. #32 of the Florida State Seminoles during their game at BB&T Field on November 9, 2013 in Winston Salem, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The focus in Monday night's BCS National Championship Game will fall primarily on Florida State's Heisman Trophy-winner, Jameis Winston, as well as Auburn's dynamic rushing duo of quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason.

But those aren't the only players who will make an impact in the game. Let's look at a couple of players from each team who could make a contribution, despite flying under the radar a bit during the season.


LaDarius Owens, DE, Auburn

Dec 7, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Missouri Tigers quarterback James Franklin (1) looks to pass as Auburn Tigers defensive end LaDarius Owens (10) comes up from behind during the third quarter of the 2013 SEC Championship game at Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credi
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

With Auburn's offensive dominance (40.2 points per game, ninth in the FBS) and their defensive struggles (38th in points against), not too many of its defensive players get recognized for their performances this year.

But Owens has played exceptionally well, with 11 quarterback hurries, 4.5 tackles for a loss and a pair of sacks.

After redshirting and then serving as a backup, Owens finally settled in at defensive end this year. He'll also be facing Winston for the third time in his life. According to Alabama Crimson Tide Sports, Owens and Winston faced each other twice during their times in high school, and their teams split the matchups.

"It's for old-times sake," Owens said of Monday's BCS Championship Game, via "He texted me and said y'all got some ugly buses. I told him y'all can have the cute buses, our hands will be looking better than yours on Monday."

If Owens can back up his talk and put some pressure on Winston on Monday, Auburn could be in line for the championship.


Corey Grant, RB, Auburn

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 30:  Corey Grant #20 of the Auburn Tigers is tackled by Landon Collins #26 of the Alabama Crimson Tide in the first half at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 30, 2013 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Mason and Marshall should rack up the majority of Auburn's yards on the ground on Monday, but don't forget about Grant.

The junior running back accounted for 650 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 2013, including 65 yards and a touchdown in the SEC title game against Missouri. In total, Grant has a pair of touchdowns in his last three games while averaging 9.73 yards per carry during that span.

That's actually a step below what he's accomplished this year, however, as he's averaging an even 10.0 YPC this season. His ability to consistently rack up big gains, combined with his breakaway potential (75-yard TD run in Week 1) means Grant could have more of an impact than one might expect on Monday night.


James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 07:  Running back James Wilder Jr. #32 of the Florida State Seminoles carries the ball as defensive end Justin Foxx #92 and cornerback Deondre Singleton #33 of the Duke Blue Devils defend during the ACC Championship game at Bank o
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Like Grant, Wilder Jr. plays a backup role on his team. In fact, he's third on the Seminoles in carries. But Wilder also has potential to contribute in Monday's matchup.

For one, he's excellent at finding the end zone when given the opportunity. During the four-game span from FSU's Nov. 2 game against Miami to their matchup against Idaho on Nov. 23, Wilder Jr. averaged an incredible 10.36 YPC while scoring six touchdowns.

Look for Wilder Jr. to find the end zone again on Monday.


Florida State's Offensive Line

TALLAHASSEE, FL - SEPTEMBER 07:  The Miami Hurricanes defense lines up against the offense of the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on September 7, 2009 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Florida State's offensive line doesn't get enough credit for how much of a role it played in Jameis Winston's success (and FSU's success as a whole) this year. For one, Winston was sacked only 23 times, just the 40th-highest total in the FBS.

Also, as the San Diego Union-Tribune notes, Florida State's offensive line is giant. In fact, they average 317 pounds per lineman, while Auburn's defensive front stands at only 263 pounds per player.

Assuming Auburn focuses much of their defensive attention on stopping Winston's passing attack, the success of FSU's running backs (Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and Wilder Jr.) will be key. If FSU can beat Auburn at the line of scrimmage, it will be a long day for the Tigers.


All statistics courtesy of ESPN.