The BCS National Championship Game is finally here, as Auburn and Florida State square off in what will be the last national championship of its kind (one without a playoff before it, that is). Kickoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The Seminoles are undefeated and the top-ranked team in the country, while Auburn is seemingly the team of destiny after two last-second improbable victories in the late season. Both are looking for a return to the top stage of college football after a lag period (for Auburn, that period was significantly shorter), and it should be an intriguing matchup in Pasadena.
Bud Elliott at Tomahawk Nation took a look at how Florida State's offense can score best against an Auburn defense that has struggled at times this year.
FSU cannot get caught up in a situation where it is rushing unnecessarily as a result of Auburn's own offensive tempo. FSU's offense is the most dominant in the history of the sport running a moderate tempo, and while some situational up-tempo is used when the opposition is caught with personnel it doesn't like, FSU needs to maintain its comfort level at its own pace.
Elliott also took a look at how the two teams in the title game have recruited, noting that both teams have blue-chip percentages above 50 percent.
These two schools have recruited very evenly over the last four years, with only a few percentage points separating them, no matter the metric. In some years, recruiting rankings can be very predictive, and while Florida State does have a noticeable edge in its starting lineup, it is not one that would be predictive of a blowout.
Dustin Tackett at Tomahawk Nation compared Jameis Winston to Peyton Manning, saying that's how the Tigers have to prepare for the game.
If Auburn wants to celebrate as National Champions on Monday, its offense will have to be consistently slow and methodical against the Florida State defense, chipping away at the clock to keep the Florida State offense off the field. Explosive, quick scores won't do it. But if the Seminoles possess the ball for more than 30 minutes on Monday, the Crystal Ball will be making its way back to Tallahassee.
Tomahawk Nation also had a chance to catch up with Winston, Telvin Smith, Rashad Greene and Lamarcus Joyner, interviewing the quarterback, linebacker, wide receiver and defensive back on media day. Joyner and Terrence Brooks even interviewed each other.
Tomahawk Nation also took a statistical approach to the game, predicting a Florida State victory by a margin of at least three touchdowns.
The two blogs have been doing a Q&A, and College and Magnolia asked Tomahawk Nation about the Seminoles' lack of experience in contested games.
I think it has to be somewhat of a concern because it is such an unknown. When this point is raised, many FSU fans tout Jameis's stats when trailing, but I don't think those are really meaningful because the sample is so small. We don't know how this team will react if playing in a close national title game late. It's certainly possible that FSU might not handle such a situation very well, but I'm not particularly worried about it.
Tomahawk Nation asked about the long layoff between the last game these two teams played and this one, and College and Magnolia said that might swing the game in their favor thanks to head coach Gus Malzahn.
Normally, I would say it favors the defenses more, but I think if one particular unit is going to have an advantage, I think it could be Auburn's offense, and that's because Gus is drawing up the plays. He's an innovator, and Florida State is going to see a lot of looks and some plays that aren't on any game film. And if the Tigers need a trick play to get something going, they're in good shape since they didn't really break any out during the regular season.
C&M also analyzed Florida State's fearsome receiving corps, which boasts three 900-yard receivers, with the help of some cool charts.
Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw, and Nick O'Leary are Florida State's four leading receivers. But these charts help show their differences. Shaw had nine targets behind the line of scrimmage, more than the other three receivers had combined. Likewise, Benjamin had 11 targets that were 20 yards or more beyond the line of scrimmage, more than the other three receivers combined.
Because of his ability to get open so quickly, Rashad Greene leads the team in receptions. It's possibly also a reason that he gets relatively more targets when his team faces a blitz. And finally, O'Leary gains as many yards after the catch as he does by simply making the catch, even without a 77-yard run after a 17-yard pass.
College and Magnolia also wrote an open letter to the 2012 Auburn team, which went 3-9 and was winless in SEC play before this year's magical run.
When your next head coach walks through that door, he is going to change everything you know about Auburn football. Except that he isn't really going to change anything. He's going to remind you what it means to be Auburn Men. He's going to remind you what it feels like to put in work, hard work. He's going to remind you what it feels like to be champions. What he's going to do is right the ship.
C&M used even more cool charts to see how much Auburn actually did improve from its slow start to the 2013 season.
Not so much defensively, as the actual DFEI fell by the slightest of margins. But offensively, Auburn went from the 14th-best offense to reach a BCS bowl game (just ahead of Wisconsin2010) to the fourth-best (just behind Florida State2013). The OFEI difference is about 0.328. This post-LSU Auburn team is better than the whole-season Auburn team by about as much as Auburn's 2010 offense was better than Arkansas's 2010 offense.
On the outside looking in is Texas A&M site Good Bull Hunting, whose infographics are always a must-see. Their newest, for the national title, is no exception. A preview: