While most of the attention paid to the Florida State Seminoles in 2013 has been on quarterback Jameis Winston and the FSU offensive fireworks show, the key for the Noles run to 13-0 and the BCS National Championship has been their defense. They lead the nation in scoring, allowing just 10.7 points per game, and allow just 116.54 yards rushing per game. But don’t expect the Auburn Tigers to be intimidated as they have found ways to shred the best defenses of the SEC in their run to Pasadena.
Auburn has produced the No. 1 rushing attack in college football this season, averaging 335.69 points per game and they have done against some strong defensive fronts. In the Iron Bowl, they were able to find daylight against the Alabama Crimson Tide, the No. 2 scoring defense in the country, and racked up 296 yards on the ground, averaging 5.69 yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns. In the SEC Championship, the Auburn offense carved up the Missouri Tigers defense, who came into the game as one of the tougher units in the conference. They left with their tails between their legs, however, after allowing 545 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground to Auburn.
Now, Gus Malzahn will take his fast-paced read-option attack to Pasadena to pit it against the FSU defense. The Noles are as athletic and strong at all three levels as any team in the country which has been a major part of their dominating performances this season. The difference for Auburn in this game compared to their last two games is the physical secondary of the Seminioles. FSU has some of the best defensive backs in the country who can lock up receivers man-to-man and come up in support of the run. Alabama and Missouri relied on their front seven to stop the run, so when Auburn broke into the secondary there were huge windows to daylight. Against FSU, those windows will close shut fast as the cornerbacks and safeties of the Noles come up in run support.
The Tigers have proven that they are up to the challenge of running their offense against tough defenses. But in the BCS National Championship, they’ll face possibly their toughest challenge yet. Will Auburn be able to methodically move the ball down the field against the FSU defense even if they’re unable to break off big gains?