The Bowl Championship Series comes to an end this evening in Pasadena and for most college football fans this is a good thing. Since Tennessee captured the very first BCS title in January of 1999, the system has been under fire for any number of reasons. One thing I can tell you the BCS has accomplished is it has created tremendous talking points.
Without the BCS would we have had the conference bragging rights debate we’ve seen in recent years? Hard to say but the BCS more often than not got it right. The problem is and always will be is that fans want a playoff. They want to see the top teams battle it out over the course of a few weeks rather than on just one night. The College Football Playoffs will be a step in that direction next year as the top four teams will compete for the National Title.
With all that said, let’s get on to tonight’s game.
Auburn (+9) vs. Florida State – You’ll notice this line has moved very little since it opened and I don’t think you’ll see much more movement today. Florida State enters as the prohibitive favorite because of dominance they’ve shown on both sides of the ball. They rank at or near the top of most key categories on offense and defense. Some will tell you that is the result of a weak Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.
For once-beaten Auburn (loss was to LSU), the defense isn’t a good as Florida State’s but it has shown to be opportunistic and has a very good rotation of defensive linemen. The offense is the type you can never take a rest on because of the constant pressure they put on you. Whether it’s Nick Marshall or Tre Mason the pressure the Tigers put on a defense is immense.
So what will this game boil down to?
For Florida State, what will their response be to a close game late in the second half? The closest margin of victory FSU has seen in 2013 was a 14-point win at Boston College. If this game is close in the fourth quarter, will the Seminoles rise to the challenge or will they falter?
Auburn is no stranger to close games so they are battle-tested in this regard. Wins over Alabama and Georgia for example came in the waning moments and were close games throughout. This advantage goes to the Tigers.
The challenge that Auburn will face is if the Seminoles are able to shut down their running game. Can Nick Marshall pass this team to victory? So much of what Head Coach Gus Malzahn’s offense is predicated on is the run setting up the pass. If Florida State can take the run away with their athletic defense, then can Marshall pass the Tigers to victory?
The over/under tonight is 68. Florida State averages 53 points per game and Auburn averages 40. The math would suggest taking the over is a no-brainer but I’m seeing a game in the high 20’s or low 30’s so take the under this evening.
Both teams are 5-0 straight up in their last five games. Despite facing huge margins all season, Jameis Winston led the ‘Noles to an 11-2 mark against the spread this year which is something to consider. Ironically, Auburn was also 11-2 ATS this season so in a game that’s tough to call, what’s one more close statistic?
My Pick: Trends are difficult to ignore. One that I take seriously is the success or lack thereof of Heisman winners in the title game. Since 2000, winners of the Heisman Trophy are 6-7 in their bowl games. The problem? The last four winners have won their bowl games so what is the destiny for Jameis Winston? He will make mistakes tonight but I’m not certain how serious they’ll be.
As good as the Florida State defense is, they a relatively small. I think the Auburn offensive line wears them down. I like the Tigers and the nine points tonight.