Coverage of championship events has turned from mere broadcast of the game to an all-you-can-eat buffet that one could drown in. The 2014 BCS Championship game is no exception, and ESPN has pulled out all the stops for their coverage of the clash between Florida State and Auburn. Here are some of the more notable highlights from ESPN's "BCS Megacast."
- ESPN2 will have a segment during the game called "BCS Title Talk," where fans can eavesdrop on the conversations of the network's college football analysts and its guests. On-screen graphics will display game statistics. In addition, a "social stripe" will provide live social media reaction.
- ESPNEWS will host college football experts in a segment called "BCS Film Room." Coaches and analysts will provide an X's-and-O's breakdown of the game as it happens, utilizing touchscreens and multiple camera angles.
- ESPN Goal Line will broadcast "BCS Command Center," which will provide a split screen with both a live broadcast and replays of the previous play.
- "Sounds of the BCS" will be aired on ESPN Classic. The segment will air only the sounds of the game, with no broadcast or commentary.
As for the game itself, here are a few last-minute predictions for what will happen in the final college football game of the season.
Jameis Winston Will Set a Season-High in Rushing Yardage
Heisman winner Jameis Winston is certainly a mobile quarterback, but he uses that athleticism more to escape pressure than to create plays with his legs. Indeed, Winston has rushed for over 50 yards just twice this season, which are also the only two games in which he carried the ball more than 10 times.
However, given Auburn's propensity to concede the big play defensively, the Tigers are likely to sit back in a soft zone to prevent Florida State's explosive receivers from getting past the secondary. Consequently, while Winston's reads might be covered, there should be plenty of open green pastures to scramble. As Bud Elliott of SB Nation notes, Auburn's preferred zones will leave them vulnerable to Winston's legs early:
FSU has certain looks against which we believe it has an auto-check to a quarterback sweep play, and I would not be surprised to see some quarterback draw or quarterback power.
Scramble opportunities will also be there. This is particularly true against Cover-2 man, in which two defenders are in deep zones, and five defenders match up in man coverage. With four pass rushers, that leaves nobody on the quarterback. When Winston gets this look, he needs to scramble and take the free yards, then get down without getting hit.
Auburn will not concede big plays to the Seminoles offense easily, so it's up to Winston and the ground game to stretch the Tigers defense until it snaps. Florida State's prolific offense might be a bit more methodical at first, but expect that to pay dividends by game's end.
Nick Marshall Will Pass For Two TDs and Over 200 Yards
Like Winston, Marshall will need to play a bit out of his comfort zone for the Tigers to overcome a stingy Florida State defense. The converted cornerback has accomplished the aforementioned combination just once this year, a mid-September romp over Mississippi State.
But while Auburn will surely get their yards on the ground tonight, Marshall's arm will need to come through in critical situations. The Seminoles are too fast and athletic to get gashed on an every-down basis by the read-option, meaning Marshall will have to convert a few third downs to keep drives alive, as he did against Alabama.
The Tigers quarterback will also likely need a big chunk play or two to loosen up the box. If the Auburn offense is in need of a jumpstart at some point, look for Gus Malzahn to dial up a deep play-action pass to take advantage of Marshall's tremendous arm strength. As Brandon Marcello of AllAlabama.com notes, that attribute in particular has caught the attention of 'Noles' defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt:
"The thing that I think is overlooked is his arm talent," Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said. "Nick Marshall has as good of arm talent as anybody in the country."
"I mean, that goes back to being a point guard," Pruitt said. "He's kinda attacked the line of scrimmage, sees a guy open and, bam, throws him the ball. That's something that we've had to stress with our defenders every day."
Marshall and the Auburn offense might be in trouble if he has to throw more than 15 passes, as this is still a game the Tigers must win with the legs of Tre Mason Jr. and Marshall. Nevertheless, expect Marshall to get his money's worth when he does drop back.
In their run of seven consecutive BCS national championships, the SEC has almost always fielded the more talented team. With a combination of a stifling defense, superb coaching and a key offensive star or two, most opposing teams have not been able to match the sheer talent from the Southeastern Conference.
But Florida State has flipped those circumstances, and the Seminoles are at a clear advantage on a man-to-man basis. That's not to say that Auburn cannot win tonight for the Tigers' ground game and excellent situational defense are winning ingredients. If the Seminoles do not bring their A-game, or falter in a few critical situations, the game is Auburn's for the taking.
However, Florida State has crushed every test they have faced this season. Sure, an ACC schedule is nothing in comparison to what Auburn has faced. But the Seminoles have been men among boys this season. The Tigers will give them they're toughest test of the season, but expect Winston and company to finish the storybook season.
Prediction: Florida State 41, Auburn 35