When Auburn beat Alabama in the 2013 Iron Bowl, I became the biggest Michigan State fan in the state of Texas. After last year’s catastrophe of a BCS National Championship Game, I’ve I have craved a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire title game in college football and thanks to Sparty, we won’t have to witness that again this year. Everybody and their dog knows Florida State would have thrashed Ohio State, but thankfully we won’t have to suffer through that. However, Auburn is going to have to turn things up on a notch (or six) on defense for this game to be a good way to send the BCS off with a bang.
The Tigers’ 59-42 win over Missouri in the SEC Championship Game was very impressive. Watching Tre Mason bring back memories of the good old days of workhorse running backs made this old football soul smile, as did the fact Auburn’s running game put up 49 of the team’s 59 total points. That’s just something you don’t see very often, especially in today’s pass-happy era. But even with Auburn’s impressive victory, there was just one problem: The fact Missouri scored 42 points.
Auburn has been really good all year long and has put up a lot of points in every one of its games, but the glaring concern that could cause major problems in the title game is the Tigers’ defense. Auburn has the 99th-ranked total defense while giving up an average of 444.3 yards per game in 2013. What’s worse is the Tigers have allowed their opponents to score an average of 26 points per game this year, which isn’t good considering Florida State boasts the fourth-best total offense and the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation.
Now some folks say the best defense is a good offense and when that “defense” is Auburn’s running game, I might tend to agree. If the Tigers can keep Jameis Winston off the field, that will be their best bet at upsetting the Seminoles. But once again, the No. 1 team in the country might just be too good: FSU also boasts the 11th-best rushing defense, which means Auburn won’t be rushing for 545 yards again.
Look, numbers are just that, and BCS National Championship Games are usually sloppy since the teams have to wait over a month to play each other, so anything can happen. But the point is this: If Auburn doesn’t eat up clock and put points on the board with its running game, Nick Marshall dang sure ain’t going to out-duel Winston in shootout.
Sure, Auburn put up 59 points against Missouri, but Marshall only threw the ball 11 times. The Tigers should definitely try to duplicate that pattern of success against Florida State, but to think the national title game will be the same as Auburn’s conference title game is foolish. Oh well, Gus Malzahn has a new six-year contract and a month to figure out how to win this game.