The No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish look to put away the Minutemen early. Find out what's in store for this matchup, here.
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.
The final BCS standings of 2013 have been released, the next-to-last standings ever as the BCS will be replaced by a four-team playoff starting next season, and the ramifications for the Big 10 are that two teams will be playing in BCS bowl games while another is in the standings, but far out of the picture.
The No. 4 Michigan State Spartans, who moved up six spots because of their win in the Big 10 Championship game, will represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. Their opponent will be the No. 5 Stanford Cardinal, the Pac-12 champion. A victory in this game would not only bring the Rose Bowl trophy back to the Big 10 for the first time in years, but could move Michigan State as high as No. 2 in the final BCS standings which are released after all the bowl games have been played.
The other Big 10 team that will be playing in a BCS bowl game is the No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes. Down five spots because of their loss to Michigan State yesterday, the Buckeyes will face the Clemson Tigers, an at-large from the ACC, in the Orange Bowl. A victory in this game would give the Big 10 a coveted potential two BCS bowl game victories if the Spartans can take care of business, which would go a long way to improving the perception of the Big 10.
The final Big 10 team that appears in this week’s standings is the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin moved up two spots to No. 19 because of losses by teams in front of them. The Badgers will play the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day. While the Capital One is not a BCS bowl game, it is the top-tier of New Year’s Day bowl games for the Big 10.
If all three of these Big 10 teams can win their bowl games, the chances that the Big 10 will finish the season with three teams in the top 15 of the BCS standings is good. That momentum will be good for the conference to take into 2014 and the new playoff system.