The 2014 BCS National Championship Game isn’t expected to be a close one. On Monday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, the No.1 Florida State Seminoles are heavy favorites to defeat the No.2 Auburn Tigers in a clash of ACC and SEC titans.
Florida State opened up giving Auburn 7.5 points. Since the end of the regular season, the betting line has jumped to 10 points.
It’s easy to see why many expect Florida State to cruise to a double-digit victory. They have the runaway Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback in Jameis Winston. The Seminoles are the only undefeated team in the FBS, and no team come close to defeating them in 2013. Not only do they have the best record and best player in college football, but they also dwarf all other teams statistically. No team has scored more points or allowed fewer points than Florida State.
However, it wouldn’t be inconceivable for Auburn to pull off an upset. They’re playing in the national title game for a reason and have proven to be the second-best team in the country. For as dominant as Florida State was, the Seminoles didn’t face the challenges that the Tigers did. Auburn won the most difficult conference in the country, defeating the likes of Alabama, Missouri, Ole Miss, Georgia and Texas A&M. Any team that has beaten that many quality opponents should have a chance against anybody.
Playing in the SEC, many of Auburn’s games were very close, and were even decided on the final few plays. Having played in so many tight games could give them a major advantage on Monday night. The Seminoles blew out all 13 of their opponents, which has led many to believe that a similar outcome is inevitable against Auburn. If the contest is close, though, the Tigers will be much more prepared, having faced similar situations this year.
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While Winston will be the best player on the field, he is still just a freshman. It’s unknown how he would handle being forced to make big plays down the stretch of a one possession game. The margin for error could be minimal against a worthy opponent like Auburn.
The Tigers have some weapons of their own. Running back Tre Mason, who became a late dark horse to win the Heisman, is expected to be crucial to the team's success. The junior put up excellent numbers in the final stretch of the season and finished with 1,621 yards for the season. In his last five games, Mason rushed for more than 100 yards in each game. Against Missouri in the SEC title game, he carried the ball a staggering 46 times for a total of 304 yards and four touchdowns. It's highly unlikely that such a performance will be replicated against Florida State, but Mason has proven he can carry an offense. Though Winston is considered the game's most prolific player, Mason is not too far behind.
In some of Auburn’s close wins, special teams played a big role in helping them pick up victories. Chris Davis’s field goal return for a touchdown helped propel the team over Alabama, and he averages over 20 yards on punt returns. The Seminoles are superior to Auburn on both offense and defense, so having the edge on special teams could be key for the Tigers. Kicker Cody Parker has the ability to make field goals over 50 yards, which could help keep Auburn in the game.
The question for many will be if Auburn can cover the point spread, not whether or not they can win the game outright. This year’s bowl games, though, have showed that the underdogs always have a chance. Oklahoma beat Alabama, despite getting more than two scores at Las Vegas casinos. Clemson beat Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, and Michigan State defeated Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Both winners were underdogs.
The Seminoles are rightly favored by a lot, but Auburn’s 20213 regular season and the rest of the bowl season are proof that the Tigers have a legitimate chance to be crowned national champions.