We're less than a week away from the 2014 BCS National Championship, which will end either as the culmination of a dominant season for Florida State, or the cap on an improbable run for Auburn. Both teams will be at full strength when they meet on Monday night, setting aside one potential distraction.
Our team blogs, Tomahawk Nation and College And Magnolia, have an ongoing Q-and-A series about the game. In the latest installments, the two discussed the matchup between FSU's offense and Auburn's defense. C&M was asked how the Tigers should approach Jameis Winston:
Winston is a great quarterback, and normally, I'd like to see Auburn try to get after him with some more blitzes and aggressive play calls. Against guys like Johnny Manziel, Aaron Murray, A.J. McCarron and James Franklin, the Tigers had much more success when they applied pressure and rattled the QB. But with Winston, I sort of feel like the opposite approach may be better. He seems to thrive in the face of pressure, and when he has time and is forced sit back and wait for things to develop, that's when he might make a true freshman-like mistake. I'd like to see Auburn concede shorter routes and try to avoid giving up big plays. Then in the red zone, the secondary can tighten up and hopefully force the 'Noles to kick field goals. If the Tigers are able to force a few field goal tries instead of giving up touchdowns, I'll feel great about their chances.
Winston has been tremendous against pressure all season, which really adds some perspective to just how good his 2013 was — this is a first-year starter we're talking about, after all. Blitzes led to 12 sacks on Winston and three interceptions, but when opponents didn't get to him, he killed them, completing more than 70 percent of his throws while tossing 20 touchdown passes.
Getting pressure on Winston without blitzing may be a problem for the Tigers, as Tomahawk Nation explained:
Florida State's offensive line is big, talented, and experienced. And probably most importantly, it is healthy. The ‘Noles have had great injury luck this year overall, and particularly on the offensive line, where it has seen its bouts with injury in the past. The starters have played nearly all of the first team minutes except for those lost to a few minor in game injuries. LT Cam Erving won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the best blocker in the ACC and has had a nice year. Center Bryan Stork won the Rimington Trophy. RT Bobby Hart has had a great year. Honestly, the guards are probably the more talented position group than the tackles. Left guard Josue Matias and right guard Tre Jackson are very good players on the interior.
There's no doubt that Auburn has a tough task ahead of it, and that the Tigers head into this game as decided underdogs. Still, that hasn't stopped their fans from pondering the rollability of the palm trees in Pasadena. Rose Bowl officials were quick to shoot down that idea, though. Auburn fans not at the game can roll all the trees in their yard if they're so inclined, but they will have to endure Nick Saban's analysis during the lead-up to the game — the Alabama coach will be a part of ESPN's pre-game coverage.
Getting back to the action on the field, College And Magnolia recently broke down FSU defensive back Lamarcus Joyner's role in FSU's pass rush, as well as the Seminoles' potetent group of pass-catchers. Tomahawk Nation has been posting videos throughout the lead-up to the game, including a recent post-practice interview with Jimbo Fisher (he's pleased with how things are going) and an interview with Kenny Shaw, who says the team is staying focused.