National Championship Game Matchup: Florida State Seminoles vs. Auburn Tigers
Date/Time: January 6th, 8:30 PM ET
National Championship Game Betting Odds from WagerWeb Sportsbook
Spread: Florida State -8.5
Here at Bang the Book, we are always keeping our eyes open for the best games to bet on each and every week. Of all of the games on the docket for the third week of the bowl season, the one we are zeroing in on is the National Championship Game, where the Auburn Tigers take on the Florida State Seminoles at 8:30 p.m. ET on Monday, January 6th.
We can sum up this National Championship Game by reminding all of you what happened last year when the Alabama Crimson Tide took on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. No one really believed that Notre Dame was the best team in the land, but it happened to win all of its games, albeit by some funky margins when push came to shove. Alabama looked at the tape, saw that Notre Dame was garbage, and promptly ripped the Golden Domers apart to win a second straight BCS National Championship.
This year, replace the name “Notre Dame” with the name “Auburn.” The issue that some are having is that they really believe that the SEC is still the superior conference in America and that the winning team from that conference absolutely must be the best team in the land. Sure, we’ve seen it year in and year out with all of the SEC teams, from Alabama to this Auburn side to the Florida Gators and the LSU Tigers all winning titles, and we’ve seen it in the domination that the SEC has had over the rest of the conferences in bowl games. But in one game for all of the marbles, this is the first time we can honestly say that SEC supremacists are just flat out wrong.
The Tigers should have never beaten the Georgia Bulldogs, who turned out to be nothing more than very ordinary this year. They probably shouldn’t have beaten the Texas A&M Aggies, and they certainly shouldn’t have beaten the Crimson Tide. They were pushed by the Washington State Cougars, and they were battled at home by both the Ole Miss Rebels and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. It’s not often that the oddsmakers get it wrong in the long run, and Auburn was a three-point home underdog to Ole Miss, a 12.5-point dog to A&M, and a 10-point pup to Alabama. Even that game against Georgia, Auburn was only favored by the value of home field advantage.
Don’t get us wrong. We’re impressed by what Head Coach Gus Malzahn and the Tigers have done this year. They aren’t much of a passing team, but they don’t have to be. RB Tre Mason had 22 TDs on the season to go with 1,621 yards on the ground, and he was deserving of being a Heisman Trophy finalist. QB Nick Marshall is flat out awesome running this offense, and Malzahn probably did the best coaching job in America.
But here are the bottom line facts aside from there being a little bit of luck involved in some of those Auburn wins. The Tigers run a simplistic offense with only a handful of plays with a ton of options associated to them. One of the most athletic defenses in America is going to figure this out when given a month to prepare, which is much, much different from the five days that most get to study this offense.
The other bottom line is that Auburn’s defense stinks. The team allowed at least 40 points twice this season and at least 20 to nine of its 13 foes. Florida State allowed more than 17 exactly once this season, and if you just took the first team defense and prorated its time on the field by 13 full games, it would have allowed fewer than 10 points per game on average.
The Seminoles have a ton of future NFL players, some of which could legitimately become stars. They play the 3-4, and they play the 4-3, and opponents will tell you that they have one of the most complex schemes they have seen at this level. The Noles allowed just five rushing touchdowns all season long (only two of which came against the first-team defense and none of which came in the first halves of games), and if you take out the game against the Boston College Eagles, they allowed just 91 rushing yards per game. If FSU can force Marshall to throw the ball, this one is going to get ugly.
But in the end, it’s the Florida State offense which is really going to make the difference in this one. We have seen wide receivers rip this Auburn team apart, and we have seen teams run all over this unit as well. Florida State can do it all.
On the ground, QB Jameis Winston is a mobile quarterback, and had he played in a full 13 games this year, he probably would have put up around 300 or so rushing yards with around 10 TDs or so. Then factor in RB Devonta Freeman, RB Karlos Williams, and RB James Wilder Jr., who had a total of nearly 2,200 yards on the ground in their own right. These three men combined for 32 rushing TDs.
Winston of course, is the real deal, too. The reason that Winston won the Heisman Trophy this year, becoming the youngest ever to do so and the third man in FSU history to pull off the feat, isn’t because he threw for 3,820 yards and 38 TDs. It’s because he would have thrown for probably around 5,000 yards and 50 TDs had he actually played full games instead of getting yanked at halftime and in the fourth quarter of so many blowouts. The Seminoles averaged 529.4 yards and 53.0 points per game this year, and we have no doubt they would have averaged over 60 points and over 600 yards had they actually played with their first team offense for even most of the games they played in this year.
On top of that, K Roberto Aguayo missed just one kick all season long, and WR Levonte Whitfield averaged 34.4 yards per kick return this year. Head Coach Jimbo Fisher has been perfect at Florida State in bowl games, and the team has covered nine bowls in a row, going 7-2 SU in those games.
Yes, Auburn has a good history of playing in bowl games as well, and yes, it has a National Championship in recent memory to its credit. However, we saw the Malzahn offense struggle against the Oregon Ducks in the BCS National Championship Game three years ago, and we might see the same script play out again this way.
The Seminoles haven’t played for a National Championship since playing for three in a row from 1998-2000. They have won three of their four opportunities at the big one, and this might be the best team they have ever fielded. This is an opportunity for the garnet and gold to completely reassert themselves as one of the dominant teams in America, and it is an opportunity to end the BCS with the SEC finally falling from its pedestal. The oddsmakers have this one right. Florida State is going to win this game and win it going away. Don’t be shocked to see the final score of this one look a lot like the final score of that title game last year when the Tide rolled to their second straight National Championship.
College Football Pick of the Week: Florida State -8.5
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.