Auburn and Florida State are gearing up for what should be an exciting national title game this January, and our team blogs Tomahawk Nation and College and Magnolia have been on top of the coverage leading up the game.
The two blogs are participating in a fascinating Q&A series, with part one of Tomahawk Nation's questions going up Friday. They get down to the nitty-gritty of the matchup between the two schools, and College and Magnolia addressed the differences between Auburn's successful offense this year and the poor unit last season.
It's all about Nick Marshall's improvement, total grasp of the offense and contributions in the running game. At a recent press conference, Gus Malzahn said Marshall knew about 25 percent of the playbook when Auburn kicked off the season against Washington State, and looking back, it's pretty easy to see when he was allowed to run the complete offense: Oct. 5 vs. Ole Miss. That was the Tigers' fifth game of the year, and it was the first in which Marshall made a big impact in the option game, rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. Before that, his season-high rushing total was 53 against Arkansas State.
Timmy Jernigan is a key player at nose tackle for the ‘Noles against Auburn. He's a big, nasty, freak of a player capable of holding up at the point of attack against the run and getting into the backfield in passing situations. He'll be asked to do the former against the Tigers and will be huge in defending the A-gap runs. Life gets tougher for option offenses if the A and B gap runs are well defended, and FSU will rely heavily on Jernigan to try to accomplish this. For all of Jernigan's play-making ability in the backfield, a key attribute that will be on display against AU is his discipline. Jernigan is rarely out of his lane, and this was true even earlier in the season when many on the FSU defense were playing selfishly while still learning the new system.
Tomahawk Nation has posted a series of videos with various Seminoles leading up to the game, including the team reacting to its title game selection, an interview with Lamarcus Joyner and Telvin Smith, a press conference with head coach Jimbo Fisher, a feature on the school's mascot and Heisman winner Jameis Winston on Letterman. They also have reports from Wednesday's and Thursday's practices.
College and Magnolia also took a close look at the Florida State running game, which boasts three of the most dangerous options in the country, and is most effective when its opponents attempt to defend the pass:
The receivers are so good at getting open, and even when they are well covered, quarterback Jameis Winston is able to throw the ball where only his teammates can reach it. Often times, the 'Noles start the game passing more often than running. Teams determined to stop the run usually get torched either by a long and methodical drive full of screens and quick outs or by a long shot down the seam between defenders. Either way, teams start to back off, leaving only six men in the box. That's when Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr. start to break out of the backfield.