The final "BCS National Championship Game" is set. Before college football employs its playoff system next year, the No.1 Florida State Seminoles and the No.2 Auburn Tigers will square off on Jan. 6, 2014, for the right to be crowed national champions.
Unlike in some previous seasons, there is little to no controversy surrounding the choice of these two teams. The Seminoles clearly deserve the top spot in the polls, entering the bowl games as the only undefeated team in the FBS. The Tigers are one of seven one-loss BCS teams, but they won arguably the toughest conference in college football. Auburn separated themselves with wins against the likes of Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama and Missouri.
While both teams are deserving of competing in the BCS National Championship Game, the Seminoles are the clear-cut favorite. The early betting line at most Las Vegas casinos has Auburn listed as 8.5-point underdogs. Both teams went 11-2 against the point spread in 2013, which is the best mark in the sport.
Florida State’s dominance is not only reflected in their unblemished record, but can also be seen in their statistics. The Seminoles are better than just about every team on both sides of the ball, leading the nation with a 10.7 points against average and trailing only Baylor by scoring 53 points per game.
The ACC wasn’t as strong as the SEC this year, but nobody even came close to giving Florida State a scare. Boston College had the best chance of handing the Seminoles a loss, and they fell by 14 points. FSU actually played their best against ranked opponents. They shut out then-No.24 Maryland, 63-0. In their other games against ranked programs (Clemson, Miami and Duke), the Noles won by an average of 34 points.
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Auburn has been terrific, but many of their wins have come down to the wire. Of their 12 victories, six were by one score, including four that were decided in the final two minutes. If it weren’t for a few last-second touchdowns, the Tigers could have finished in the middle of the conference.
The Tigers’ experiences in close games, though, could give them an advantage over their opponent. Florida State hasn’t been challenged, and it’s unknown how they would react if the game is still undecided in the final minutes.
If the Seminoles do have to make a few big plays late in the fourth quarter, the ball will be in the hands of the best player in the country. Jameis Winston is expected to win the Heisman Trophy by a wide margin after throwing for 3,820 yards, 38 touchdown and 10 interceptions. The freshman has been incredibly consistent, failing to have a one subpar performance. He had one game in which he threw two interceptions, but he still managed to complete 72.4 percent of his passes for 325 yards and defeat the No.7 team in the country, 41-14.
The biggest question will be if Nick Marshall can lead an offensive attack that can stay with the Seminoles. The Auburn quarterback hasn’t put up passing statistics close to Winston’s, but he’s rushed for over 1,000 yards on the season and made some big throws late in games. He’s aided by running back Tre Mason, who’s sixth in college football with 1,621 yards on the ground. Mason has come up big when the Tigers needed it most, picking up 164 yards against Alabama and 304 in the SEC Championship Game.
Betting Odds: Florida State -8.5
Prediction: The Tigers are one of the most talented teams in the country, but they’d have a few losses if it weren’t for a couple of miraculous plays to end their games. No team has been able to slow down Florida State, as they haven’t scored less than 37 points once this season. That means Auburn will have to keep pace with the Florida State offense, which isn’t likely. The Tigers have had a terrific season, but their luck is bound to run out soon.
Predicted Score: Florida State over Auburn, 44 - 27