After hundreds of games and more thrills than we can count, the NCAA Football season all comes down to one game – the final BCS Championship Game between Auburn and Florida State. Ahead of the game, our Rocky Boiman put together this list of questions that will be answered tonight in Pasadena.
I. How will Auburn go after Jameis Winston?
It is common knowledge in today’s era of college and pro football that to stop a great offense you MUST negatively affect the quarterback in some way. This is done one of two ways, either by bringing pressure or by dropping seven or eight defenders into coverage. Pressures leads to hits and sacks and, hopefully, errors by the quarterback. Blanket coverage gives the QB no area to distribute the football and you hope he’ll make bad decisions with the football. Jameis Winston has been great versus the blitz, completing a stellar 71% of his passes with 20 TDs and just 3 interceptions. I have long held the belief that against an athletic quarterback it’s dangerous to blitz and allow open areas of the field for him to extend plays with his legs and find open receivers. In my mind, it’s better to frustrate him by having a good rush with just three or four pass rushers and instead give him few areas of the field to fit the ball into. This forces a first-year QB like Winston to rely on his knowledge and limited experience to read the defense and find open areas, which I don’t think he can consistently do.
II. What is Auburn’s answer to Seminole WR Kelvin Benjamin?
Auburn’s biggest weakness on defense is their secondary, which has not matched up well with tall, physical wide receivers. In the SEC title game, Auburn had fits with Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham. The 6’6″, 225-pounder had six receptions for 144 yards. Florida State has a similar and even more dominant, big-bodied WR in Kelvin Benjamin, who stands 6’5″ and weighs in at 234 pounds. Auburn’s starting cornerbacks Jonathan Mincy (5’10”) and Chris Davis (5’11”) will have their hands full and must play the best game of their careers.
III. Who can start the fastest?
Both teams have had a month off since last playing and many BCS Championship Games have been marked by one or both teams starting off extremely slow, trying to get back into rhythm (think Notre Dame in last year’s title game.) To me, this is especially concerning for Auburn, which rode a wave of momentum and big plays for more than a month right through the SEC Championship Game. The Tigers must find a way to recapture that magic again early if they hope to pull off the upset tonight.
IV. Can Auburn find some balance?
While the Tigers have been multidimensional in their run game, they have been very one-dimensional in terms of balance between the run and pass. Quarterback Nick Marshall has only thrown for 1,759 yards this year. When you compare that to Winston, who has thrown for 3,820, you see that Auburn makes its hay on the ground. But FSU has a dominant defensive front, so Auburn will not likely be able to push them around in the run game like they have other opponents. Good news is with the month-long build up to this game, there has been ample time to work on some wrinkles in the passing game.
V. Will Jameis Winston finally falter?
The college football world has been waiting for Winston to have a game where he plays like the redshirt freshman he is, but so far it just hasn’t happened. Winston has shown command of the offense as well as uncanny leadership. But this is the BIGGEST of big games. Will a season with so much emotion, with everything from a nationally covered sexual assault investigation to a Heisman Trophy win, not mention coping with being the most well-recognized college football player in the nation, finally catch up to the 19-year-old Winston? We find out tonight!
– Rocky Boiman
Rocky Boiman is an analyst for WestwoodOne’s coverage of NCAA Football. Each week in “Rocky’s V,” the former Notre Dame captain and Super Bowl champion writes about five topics that have captured his interest from around college football. You can also follow Rocky on Twitter.