BCS Championship 2014: Top Challenges Facing FSU and Auburn

Jesse Reed@@JesseReed78Correspondent IJanuary 3, 2014

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 07:  Tre Mason #21 of the Auburn Tigers celebrates his fourth quarter touchdown with teammate quarterback Nick Marshall #14 against the Missouri Tigers during the SEC Championship Game at Georgia Dome on December 7, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Auburn and Florida State reached the 2014 BCS National Championship Game because both teams present matchup nightmares for opponents.

Based on averages, the Seminoles and Tigers put up over 93 points per week in 2013. 

FSU was the top-ranked scoring team in the nation (53 points per game), while Auburn finished as the No. 10-ranked team (40.2). 

Given the fact that both teams have had a month to prepare for this championship matchup, you can be sure the coaching staffs have developed what they believe to be competent game plans for shutting down these high-powered attacks.

Here's a look at what both teams are up against. 

Biggest Challenge for Auburn: Shutting Down FSU's Receiving Corps

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 26: Rashad Greene #80 of the Florida State Seminoles reels in a touchdown pass while Juston Burris #11 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack attempts to defend during the first half at Doak Campbell Stadiumon October 26, 2013 in T
Jeff Gammons/Getty Images

Jameis Winston is brilliant, as his Heisman Trophy suggests, but he had some help this season.

He had three receivers catch at least 50 passes for at least 929 yards and six touchdowns. 

Rashad Greene6798114.672 (TD)9
Kelvin Benjamin5095719.15614
Kenny Shaw5292917.955 (TD)6

Even before the ACC Championship Game, this receiving corps had proved to be uniquely talented, as pointed out by CollegeFootball 24/7:

Of the three, sophomore phenom Kelvin Benjamin presents a particularly daunting challenge for Auburn's defense in the upcoming BCS title game. 

Measuring in at 6'5" and 234 pounds, Benjamin leaps like a gazelle and has made some brilliant catches in traffic this season. He's the team's most dangerous red-zone threat, and his 14 total touchdowns was tied for fifth-most in the nation in 2013. 

Auburn's secondary will have its hands full, as noted by cornerback Jonathon Mincy via Charles Goldberg of Auburn Tigers.com

It’s going to be a big challenge. That’s all I’ve been hearing about, is their wide receivers. It’s a great opportunity that we can go out there to show that we can be a proven defense.

Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee offers a winning formula:

The Tigers have given up an SEC-worst 27 passing plays of 30 or more yards and 14 of 40 or more yards. Conversely, Florida State led the ACC and is fourth in the nation in pass plays of 20 or more yards with 71.

Auburn bends but doesn't break, so when an opportunity presents itself, whether it's generated from pressure or not, the Tigers have to pounce—just as they've done all year.

The battles between Auburn's defensive backs and FSU's receivers will be fun to watch, and they'll likely determine the outcome of the game. 

If Benjamin, Kenny Shaw and Rashad Greene find ways to get open, then Winston will find them more often than not. And if Winston starts getting into a rhythm early, then the Seminoles could romp. 

Biggest Challenge for FSU: Stifle Auburn's Running Game

Nov 2, 2013; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall (14) hands off to running back Tre Mason (21) during the first quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-U
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The juggernaut that is Auburn's offense has been nearly unstoppable all year long, and it was literally unstoppable down the home stretch. 

The two main players in Gus Malzahn's offensive attack are quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason—both of whom performed at their best in the team's biggest games. 

During the final four games, going up against Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Missouri (all SEC opponents), the dynamic duo combined to average a staggering 427.5 total yards per game, totaling 20 touchdowns.


This freight train of an offense is screaming down the track, and it'll take nothing less than another juggernaut to stop it in its tracks. 

Enter FSU's defense, which finished the regular season with the nation's top-ranked scoring defense (10.7 points allowed per game) and No. 13-ranked rushing defense (116.5 rushing yards allowed per game).

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher highlighted defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan as a player who has contributed in a big way to those numbers, via ESPN.com:

"When you have those guys on defense, especially that can control that middle, it makes everyone around you so much better," Fisher said of Jernigan. "He makes two other guys great because he takes the double-team and the stuff you have to do to block him and account for him."

It's worth noting, however, that Alabama featured the nation's No. 4-ranked run defense before the 2013 Iron Bowl, allowing just three yards per carry before that game. 

The Crimson Tide gave up 296 rushing yards to Mason, Marshall and the Tigers that night. 

Hopefully Fisher's defense learned something from Alabama's failures because Auburn's offense is capable of making you pay for little mistakes. 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 


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