Can the Noles Halt the SEC's 7-Year Title Run?
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It's the question of the day amongst collegiate football fanatics.
It seems like casual observers with nothing on the line always want the underdog to prevail, because frankly, it makes for a better headline.
When you know for certain that a dominating program is going to, well, dominate, there really are no uncertain or exciting elements at stake. However, if the underdog, somehow, capitalizes on the alpha dog's mistakes, plays with a sense of urgency, and takes advantage of the opportunity given, the story is so much more appealing, especially if they pull out the surprise victory.
With seven years of continuous dominance, the SEC has toppled anyone who has tried to dethrone them. And with Auburn entering the BCS National Championship as the No 2 seed, they are by far the underdog in this scenario. However, I wouldn't call them an underdog by any means.
You can make a case for both teams, but I feel Florida State has much more to prove. They haven't won a BCS Championship since 1999, and the program -- despite its recent success -- hasn't been relevant since JImbo Fisher took over for the revered Bobby Bowden, reestablishing the toughness and desire the Seminoles once possessed, especially when they dominated everyone in their path in the 1980s-1990s.
The ACC also needs to prove how relevant it is again. This game means more to the ACC than it does to the SEC. The ACC has struggled so mightily for so long since Florida State went on a hiatus and Virginia Tech -- although dominant in their own conference -- couldn't close out the big ones, especially in BCS Bowl games.
Clemson most definitely helped reassert the ACC as a conference to contend with. Their victory in the Orange Bowl over the Ohio State Buckeyes served notice, but Florida State could propel the ACC to a whole 'nother planet with a victory in the BCS Championship game over an SEC power.
The Noles, whose defense is yielding a stingy 93 yards per game rushing, are up against a prolific Auburn rushing attack led by Tre Mason. The trenches, as always, are where the game will be decided. Auburn's running attack is ranked No 1 in the country, averaging over 330 yards per contest and is as tough as it gets. Florida State hasn't faced this type of offense but likes its chances. The 3-4 defensive scheme led by nose guard Timmy Jernigan has been an absolute terror.
Auburn's defense is vulnerable to the big play, of which the Noles' offense is by far one of the most prolific in the nation. Led by Heisman trophy winner Famous Jameis Winston, Florida State can beat you with a multitude of weapons, such as a three-headed running attack led by Devonta Freeman and three outstanding wideouts with a tight end who would catch a greased ham if you threw it at him.
Regardless, it's difficult to distinguish who actually is the underdog in this game. You can say that it's Auburn -- Bovada and other sportsbooks do -- but they have played stiffer competition this year, by far.
You can also factor in the Tigers' lucky charms that we've all seen a countless number of times:
- Charm No 1: The Chris Davis field goal return for a touchdown to seal the victory for Auburn against Alabama.
- Charm No 2: The tipped pass for a touchdown against Georgia to secure the win in the last minute.
Florida State is also up against another streak. Three BCS teams have managed to make it to BCS title game against a one-loss opponent, only to falter big-time. Each time, the undefeated team lost by at least 20 points. And this year, the underdog has won every BCS bowl game.
There might be one minor subcurrent at work, too. Southern teams usually avoid travelling west of the Mississippi like the plague. Tonight sees two of them forced to make the trek. They've surely had time to acclimate, but it remains to be seen if the long distance from home will have any effect.
I really don't know who is under the most pressure here. But there are two other relevant questions that could be answered tomorrow night.
- Is the ACC really ready for prime time?
- How can what are allegedly the two top teams in the country see a point spread of nine points between them?
The answers to those are what next year's pollsters and playoff selection committee will be watching. Hopefully.