Here is my tenth of 10 previews and predictions on the SEC bowl games in college football this season including the BCS National Championship.
VIZIO BCS National Championship Game
#1 Florida State (12-0) vs. #2 Auburn (12-1)
Jan. 6 / 8:30 p.m. / ESPN
The Rose Bowl (91,000) / Pasadena, Calif.
Series History: Auburn leads, 13-4
Last Meeting: AU, 20-17 (1990 at Auburn)
VegasInsider Point Spread: Florida State -8 ½
Vinny’s Vibe: Florida State is loaded with 4-star, 5-star and NFL talent. FSU is #1 in the country in passes intercepted, passing yards allowed, red zone offense, scoring defense, passing efficiency and pass efficiency defense. I think Jameis Winston will play well. Florida State has 3 different style wide receivers and an excellent tight end in Nick O’Leary. Much like the receivers, FSU has different styles at running back. FSU also has a much-improved offensive line as well. The Seminoles offense isn’t overly complex, just very skilled.
Auburn’s defense is better than you think. Auburn makes plays at critical times: third down, end of game drives and in the redzone. Auburn’s defensive line, led by Dee Ford, has made game-changing and game-clinching plays. They gave-up points early to Texas A&M, but then bottled Johnny Manziel up late and won the game up-front. I can see Auburn getting smoked for a good part of the game but then make some plays in key moments.
Auburn’s offense vs. Florida State’s defense is where much of the focus has been in the last month. Auburn leads the nation in rushing at 336 yards per game. In fact, during the Tigers current 9-game winning streak, they’ve averaged 7 yards per rush and had 37 runs of 20 or more yards. That is insane production against mostly elite competition in the SEC.
Will the long time to prepare help FSU to slow-down the Auburn offense? If FSU is successful at that, will Gus Malzahn have in-game adjustments? Will Auburn have wrinkles that FSU hasn’t seen? Can the Seminoles force Auburn into long down and distance, so they have to rely on the passing game? That could happen by either successfully stopping the run or by jumping out to a big lead, FSU’s super-talented D-Line has to get penetration to blow-up Auburn’s plays and misdirection with Timmy Jernigan and the boys leading the way. I think the talent at the skill positions for Auburn, the pressure decisions that Florida State will have to make, the improvisation and big-play ability of Nick Marshall, the underrated offensive line and the scheme of Malzahn will cause the Seminoles big problems all night.
On special teams, FSU has a great freshman kicker in Roberto Aguayo. The Seminoles are excellent on special teams overall, except in punt return coverage (120th). Auburn is great in all phases of special teams. We’ve seen those spectacular plays this season, including in the Iron Bowl. If Auburn can force some punts and set-up returns, it could pop a big return or two.
To review, the keys to look for in the game are: Can Florida State force Auburn into bad down-and-distance? Can FSU jump-out big on Auburn to force them to pass more? Who wins the battle of the redzone? Can Auburn win the battle on special teams including in their punt return game? Which staff makes the best in-game adjustments? I think it’s Auburn in a close, exciting, back-and-forth, high-scoring game.
More than a team of destiny, Auburn is a great team that put itself in position to take advantage of breaks. It has also put it all together in winning the best conference and facing the best competition. I think it is Auburn's night and Auburn's season.
Auburn 42 Florida State 41
Follow me on Twitter @VinceSports and see everything I’m working on in sports.
You can hear the sports talk show that I host, News Sentinel Sports Page, weekdays from 10am to Noon ET in East Tennessee on FM 99.1 & AM 990. Stream the show at www.sportsanimal99.com. Listen anywhere on your mobile device by downloading the WNML Sports Animal App or the iHeart Radio App.