Head Coach: Gus Malzahn
Overview: Auburn is by far the best offensive attack that Florida State will have faced -- on the ground, anyway. Anybody that thinks the Seminoles can just completely stuff the Tigers' rushing attack is being foolish. Auburn does too many things well on the ground to be completely stopped. Whether it's play-calling or just their players making the right reads and cuts, it's difficult for any defense to key on what the Tigers do for an entire game and stop it.
That being said, Auburn is not the most balanced offense that FSU has faced and that lack of balance could be the Tigers' achilles heel.
Auburn doesn't have to rely on the pass often -- although they have proven they can throw it when they need to -- and their defense is not one of the better units that has made it to a BCS title game in recent memory.
Both of those facts seem to be getting overlooked in favor of that rushing attack and the Tigers' SEC ties.
Keep in mind one very important -- and understated -- fact from Auburn's miraculous last-second win over Alabama. The Tide were without both of their starting safeties. That's a pretty glaring omission to make when people are so quick to tout the rushing totals that the Tigers rolled up in that game. Why would safeties matter in run support? Well against option packages that use multiple receivers a physical safety actually has quite a bit to do with the run. Missing two starters? That hurts.
Technically Florida State IS missing one of its starting safeties -- Tyler Hunter has been out most of the season with a neck injury. Fortunately, several years of good recruiting have helped cover up that loss. True freshman Jalen Ramsey moved from corner to safety and freshman Nick Andrews ended up leading the team in the interceptions.
On the other side of the ball Auburn is going to give up points. They have done that all year. That being said, Auburn's defense is best described as opportunistic. The Tigers can get after the passer on third and long, they tighten up in the red zone and they always seem to do just enough to keep their offense in position to win come late in the game.
How FSU Stacks Up: There are two key areas that FSU has to exploit if they want to win this game. First of all, the Seminole offense has to start fast and score often. Given Auburn's defense, as long as the Seminoles can be productive on early downs and maintain balance that shouldn't be a problem. On the other side of the ball the defense will need to get a few early stops.
If the Seminoles can put a little bit of distance between themselves and the Tigers they can break Auburn's tendencies and force Nick Marshall to beat them in the air. That's not an ideal situation for Marshall or the Tigers -- typicaly Auburn's offense likes to throw between 10-15 times per game. On a good day that would take FSU's talented secondary out of the equation on most downs. Fortunately for the Seminoles, that's where physical safety play comes in.
Between Terrence Brooks and Ramsey at the safety spots, and with Lamarcus Joyner lining up at the nickel, FSU will have three very talented tacklers helping out in run support when Auburn keeps it on the ground. Provided FSU's front does its job and takes up blockers and running lanes, that trio of DB's -- along with linebackers Telvin Smith and Terrance Smith -- should end up with plenty of tackles near the line of scrimmage.
If FSU's offense does its part and the defense can shut down the Auburn run early, FSU could force the Tigers into a very uncomfortable position where they need to throw to keep up. That is not how Auburn's offense is built.
The flipside of that though is what happens if Auburn can run successfully on FSU and keep this game tight all the way through? In that case, all bets are off given how battle-tested the Tigers are and how little the Seminoles have even had to play in the fourth quarter this season. Auburn will carry with it the confidence that comes from having won two games on the final play. That confidence will only grow if this game is tight coming down to the wire.
FSU might be fine in that situation too, the problem is nobody can know because as of yet the Seminoles have not been tested that way. We have no information on that. That's why Auburn's best bet is if the Tigers can keep it close late, they are not well-equipped to come from more than a couple scores behind.
Three to Watch:
1.) Nick Marshall, QB -- If Auburn beats FSU it will need a huge game from its quarterback.
2.) Tre Mason, RB -- The Heisman finalist will be the Seminoles' chief concern come kickoff.
3.) Sammie Coates, WR -- Auburn's biggest receiving threat ranks amongst the most talented WR's FSU has had to cover all year.
Quote of the Week: "My life hasn't changed at all because our goal as a team, it still isn't over yet. At Florida State, we began the season as everybody was looking at us as, like okay, they've got a freshman quarterback. Nobody is going to pay any attention, now we're in the National Championship."
- Jameis Winston
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