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Power Ranking Big 12 Football Coaches by Recruiting Skills

The Big 12 has undergone radical changes over its recent seasons. Mack Brown is no longer the head coach at Texas. Baylor is one of the best teams in the country. Texas Tech has legit confidence. Plus, Oklahoma State is now respected on the recruiting trail.

Recruiting in the Big 12 has always been competitive, and that continues today. As a head coach in this league, you and your staff must be willing to do your best to lure talented players to your campus.

Some Big 12 head coaches excel at this, while some don't.

 

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BCS National Championship Game: Defense Will Key Florida State to the Title

It seems like there is one phrase that always comes up when we talk about championship games in any sport, but especially in football.

"Defense wins championships."

Tonight when Florida State and Auburn take the field for the 2014 BCS National Championship, most eyes will be on the offenses. For Florida State, that means Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston and an offense that led all of college football by averaging 53 points per game. For Auburn, it means Tre Mason and the No. 1 ground attack in the country that punished teams for an average of 335 yards per game on the ground.

If you look at predictions for the scores, you see these insane numbers. Seventy, 80, maybe even 90 combined points will be scored in tonight's game. Those numbers are possible and even probable in today's world of college football. With uptempo offenses and poor defenses, we have now become accustomed to watching track meets on the field.

Even Alabama, a team that featured such a stifling defense over their last two national championship wins, gave up 45 points to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl just a few days ago.

This new world of college football is all about scoring. The team who has the ball last now generally is the winner.

Tonight will be different though, and it will be because of the defense of Florida State.

While Jameis Winston torches an Auburn secondary all night that has allowed points in bunches to any respectable offense, the Seminole defense will come out and take Auburn out of their game.

The Tigers love to run the football. They are first in the nation in yards gained on the ground per game and rank 107th in the nation in passing offense. This is a recipe that has proved successful all season, but will prove disastrous tonight.

Why?

Auburn will not be able to run the ball effectively against the Seminoles' front seven.

The Tigers will come out on their first few possessions Monday night and attempt to run the ball, and they certainly will have a little success, but not much of it. Meanwhile, while the Tigers struggle to run the ball in the first quarter, the Seminole offense will be throwing passes all over the field against a hapless Auburn secondary.

After falling behind early, Auburn will stick with their game plan of running the football just like they did against Alabama, a game which they of course came back to win. But there will be no rally tonight. The Tigers will continue to struggle on the ground while the relentless Florida State offense continues to rack up points against the Auburn defense.

The Tigers will eventually be forced to start throwing the football, but it will not go much better for them.

There will be no tipped Hail Mary miracle pass tonight, no Chris Davis returning a field goal for a miraculous touchdown, no rolling of palm trees in Pasadena.

This night will belong to the Seminoles for one reason.

Defense wins championships.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

BCS National Championship 2014: Live Game Grades, Analysis for FSU

Florida State (13-0) has a shot at its first national title in 13 years when it faces Auburn (12-1) in the BCS National Championship Game at 8:30 p.m. ET Monday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

The Seminoles last played for a championship in 2001, losing to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Since then the program took a bit of a backspin, but under coach Jimbo Fisher the old tradition of winning big has returned.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, the most prolific freshman quarterback in FBS history, comes into the game with 3,820 passing yards and 38 touchdowns, and he'll face an Auburn team that is ranked No. 104 nationally in passing defense.

The game is being shown live on ESPN, but check back here at halftime for our grading and analysis of Florida State's first-half play. Then, immediately after the game, look for our final grades and commentary on how the Seminoles fared.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

BCS National Championship 2014: Auburn vs. FSU Live Score and Highlights

The undefeated Florida State Seminoles are set to battle the one-loss Auburn Tigers for the crystal football tonight in Pasadena, Calif.

Kickoff for the final BCS National Championship game is 8:30 PM ET on ESPN, and this is a game that is sure to deliver on the hype.

Florida State has been the most dominant team all season, and as the BCS era comes to a close, the ‘Noles will aim to end the SEC’s streak of seven consecutive national titles.

Auburn’s complete turnaround from a year ago will be talked about for many years to come, as nobody expected this type of success from the 2013 Tigers. Sure, they had a few lucky bounces go their way, but make no mistake about it, the Tigers deserve to be here.

Nick Marshall and Tre Mason head up a very talented rushing attack that could make life difficult for the FSU defense.

Will Jameis Winston suffer a Heisman hangover and flop on the biggest stage? Or will the freshman phenom put on a show like he has all year?

Keep it locked here at Bleacher Report as we provide live score updates, highlights from the game and much more!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

BCS National Championship 2014: Live Game Grades, Analysis for Auburn

This is it. It's time for the BCS National Championship game between the Auburn Tigers and Florida State Seminoles.

Auburn is looking to make it eight-straight titles for the SEC, while Florida State is looking to put the ACC back on top for the first time since 1999.

So, who will come out on top?

For full stats, check out NCAA.com.

Be sure to come back here at halftime and after the game as we grade Auburn in its quest for the national title.

 

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

BCS Championship 2014: Last-Minute Preview and Prediction for Auburn vs. FSU

Much to the joy of most college football fans, Monday night marks the official end of the Bowl Championship Series. 

Ironically enough, in the BCS' final hurrah, the denounced system got it right with No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Auburn in Pasadena for the national championship. 

"We all complain about the BCS, but isn't it funny how often they get it right," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said via ESPN.com

Both teams have taken remarkably different paths to the Rose Bowl. 

Looking to end the SEC's reign of seven national titles in a row, the Seminoles have absolutely steamrolled opponents. In 12 wins, they are averaging 53.0 points per contest and giving up just 10.7. In their four games against ranked opponents, they have won by a combined score of 200-35, including a 51-14 drubbing of then No. 3 Clemson. 

Boston College came the closest to FSU, losing by 14 at home back in September. 

Auburn's ride hasn't been quite as succinct. 

Beginning the season unranked and losing in September to LSU, the national championship never even seemed like an option for the Tigers. Then they reeled off nine straight wins, the final three being of the instant-classic material. 

On Nov. 16 against Georgia, Ricardo Louis caught a deflected pass on 4th-and-18 with 25 seconds remaining and went 73 yards for the game-winning score. Two weeks later, Chris Davis returned a missed field goal from his team's own end zone as time expired to beat No. 1 Alabama in the Iron Bowl. The following week, the Tigers beat Missouri, 59-42, in the SEC championship. 

With the way the entire season has gone, the finale is unlikely to disappoint. 

 

Date: Monday, Jan. 6, 2014

Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

TV: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Odds: Florida State (-10.5), via Covers

Over/Under: 68, via Covers

 

Key to the Game Will Be the Battle in the Trenches

Florida State is so balanced on offense, but when Fisher's squad is able to get the run game going, it is nearly impossible to stop. 

That was evident during the season, as the Seminoles, per teamrankings.com, finished ninth in yards per rush (5.5) and 23rd in rushing yards per game (202.5). Heisman winner Jameis Winston's ability to scramble is part of that, but the 'Noles have three running backs in Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr. who are all very talented.

Of course, running behind All-ACC first-teamers, such as tackle Cameron Erving, guard Tre' Jackson and center Bryan Stork, tends to make things a little easier. 

As such, Auburn, which gives up a healthy 4.8 yards per rush and 172.3 rushing yards per game (per teamrankings.com) will have its hands full.

As Stork pointed out, though, the Tigers' defense isn't nearly as swiss-cheese-like as the statistics may suggest, via Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel:

"I think they're a great [defensive] front," 'Noles center Bryan Stork said. "They're well-coached. They do what they're supposed to do. They're where they're supposed to be. ... their front is very talented, and there's many of them."

Of course, not only will the battle in the trenches be important in terms of the running game, it will be crucial for Auburn to get into the backfield.

They must make Winston uncomfortable so that the corners don't have to cover for extended periods of time. That job will certainly fall to defensive end Dee Ford, who Rivals' Justin Hokanson notes must have a big game:

No worry for the senior from Odenville, who recorded 8.5 sacks in 11 games and is confident in his ability to track down Winston, per CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman:

There are so many talented skill players in this game, but arguably the most key matchup (the strength of Florida State's offense vs. Auburn's sometimes inconsistent defense) will be won on the inside. 

 

Prediction

This won't be as lopsided as many think. Auburn has continued to get better as the season has worn on, and with a month of preparation time, Gus Malzahn will have some tricks waiting for the Seminoles' defense. 

Combine that with Heisman finalist Tre Mason and Nick Marshall eating up yards and time on the ground, the Tigers will be certainly be able to keep up. 

There's a great chance this one could come down to who has the ball last, but I'll take the Seminoles, who simply have too many offensive weapons. 

Florida State 35, Auburn 31

 

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Jameis Winston Walks into Rose Bowl with Serious Swag

Florida State's Jameis Winston arrived to the Rose Bowl ready for the BCS National Championship game. As he made his way from the bus to the stadium, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner walked with some serious swag.

Monday, Jan. 6, is also Winston's 20th birthday, so the Seminoles quarterback is feeling pretty good entering the game.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Tennessee Football Recruiting: 7 Early Enrollees Who Will Contribute Immediately

The Tennessee Volunteers are looking for immediate-impact players, and the early enrollees who are trickling onto campus this week have a golden opportunity to capitalize on earning major playing time.

Head coach Butch Jones will welcome at least 13 mid-term signees into school for the spring semester, and UT can enroll up to 14. The Vols will reach that number if just one of a couple more potential candidates meet academic requirements.

Those new Vols hold a significant advantage over their classmates because they will have eight months with UT strength coach Dave Lawson, an opportunity to participate in individual workouts and—most importantly—a spring practice under their belts.

The major benefit for UT is some of its most talented commitments in a loaded 2014 recruiting class are coming in early. With those guys at the very least providing depth right away, the stars of the future will quickly become the names of the present.

If they come in and get to work early, they'll be instrumental in helping the Vols get to a bowl game next season. Let's take a look at the early arrivals who will work their way into the playing time rotation in 2014.

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Breion Allen: Pictures of Florida State QB Jameis Winston's Girlfriend

Jameis Winston is preparing to cap off a stirring season on the field in Pasadena while his girlfriend, Breion Allen, is left to merely hold her breath and try to enjoy the ride. 

As Bleacher Report's Matt Fitzgerald spotted recently, Allen was all nerves over the weekend.

I can't watch ESPN til Monday, they are getting me to anxious for this game right now.

— Breion A. (@_LifeIsBreezi_) January 4, 2014

 

We hate to imagine how she is doing at the moment, so close to kickoff of the 2014 BCS Championship Game. We also don't know with any certainty whether Allen will be in the stands rooting on her man at the Rose Bowl. 

If you recall, Allen, a basketball player at Rice, is quick to run the smack talk, leaving Winston to do his job on the field. 

Fox Sports reported on a subsequently deleted tweet from Allen she posted in the wake of Winston's mammoth outing against Pittsburgh to start the season. She stated simply, "Y'all didn't believe me huh?"

Well, if you didn't believe her then, perhaps you believe her now. 

The freshman quarterback went on to garner 3,820 passing yards along with 38 touchdowns, also winning the Heisman this past December. 

Fox Sports' Andre Vergara reported at the time that Allen was in tow to watch Winston claim the award. TMZ went a step further and reported the two shared a Coke and a water at New York City's Saloon after the ceremony. 

How quaint. 

Thankfully, Allen chronicled the win on Instagram

And here is another of the two enjoying time with one another. 

Perhaps Winston's girlfriend has the opportunity to snap off another image of a far greater prize, a national championship for the Florida State Seminoles. 

For Allen, she could very well land on live TV during the festivities, something that we think might help her gain just a few Twitter followers.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Arizona Football: Wildcats' Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason

With its dominant 42-19 win over Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl still fresh on the memory, the Arizona Wildcats head into the offseason full of confidence and belief that the program will continue on the upswing.

But there's no rest for the weary, not in today's ever-changing college football landscape. There are holes to fill, deficiencies to address and many other concerns that will keep head coach Rich Rodriguez and his staff from enjoying too much of a break before getting right back at it to prepare for 2014.

Here's our look at the things Arizona should be most concerned with this offseason.

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Arizona Football: Wildcats' Biggest Concerns Heading into the Offseason

With its dominant 42-19 win over Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl still fresh on the memory, the Arizona Wildcats head into the offseason full of confidence and belief that the program will continue on the upswing...

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Auburn Campus Tagged with FSU Graffiti Leading Up to BCS Championship Game

The BCS National Championship game between the Auburn Tigers and the Florida State Seminoles is Monday night. Before the day of the game even arrived, fans were already taking shots at their opponent.

Auburn's campus was vandalized on Sunday, which should get the Tigers riled up. Judging by the pictures, it's not tough to guess who the vandals are rooting for.

Take a look at some of the graffiti:

Shots fired.

If the Tigers are able to win the title, Tallahassee should probably keep an eye on its trees. After what these vandals did to Auburn's campus, it's a pretty good guess that Tigers fans would want to seek revenge while celebrating.

Hat tip to The War Eaglevia LostLettermen.com, for the find.

 

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Auburn vs. FSU: Most Exciting NFL Draft Prospects to Watch for

The BCS National Championship Game between the Florida State Seminoles and Auburn Tigers is bound to be an exciting one, and with two top-tier teams going head-to-head, there are a number of NFL prospects to keep an eye out for.

The Tigers come into the game with the top rushing attack in the country, averaging an incredible 335.7 yards per game on the ground.  But the Seminoles have Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston on their side, along with a team that led the country in both points for and against with an averaging margin of victory of 42.3 points.

With the two top teams in the country playing, NFL scouts will be keeping a close eye on a few key names, so let's take a look at a couple of players from each team to watch for in the national championship.

 

Auburn

Greg Robinson, OT

This will be the second consecutive draft filled with a ton of talent at the offensive tackle position.  While many have been projected to be first-round selections for most of the season, Auburn's Greg Robinson has been quickly shooting up draft boards with his play in 2013.

The hype on him has been real as of late.  According to Bob McGinn from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, one NFL scout had this to say about Robinson:

He's a stud left tackle. You're talking about a ton of athleticism, size, strength. He's not getting a lot of attention because people don't realize he's a redshirt. Not quite sure why (Gene) Chizik redshirted him. I think that was a big mistake. He's in the top 10, 15 easy if he comes out.

When watching Robinson play, it's hard to argue with the scout.  At 6'5'' and 305 pounds, he's a monster on the offensive line.  He's been a valuable asset in the running game, but his quick feet and aggressiveness have also helped him out quite well in pass protection.

With all of the hype on him right now, it's hard not to see Robinson taken in the first round in May.

 

Tre Mason, RB

When you're the starting running back for the nation's top rushing team, NFL scouts are going to start to take notice.

As a Heisman finalist, Mason finished the year with 1,621 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on 283 carries, averaging an impressive 5.7 yards per attempt.  While the offensive game plan the Tigers use gives Mason plenty of opportunities to make big plays, he's still been a very solid player to watch.

While he's not the tallest running back at 5'10'', Mason has a strong lower body that helps him push forward for extra yards.  He's a smart runner that explodes through open holes when he sees them. While Mason isn't the fastest running back in the country, he's a strong one-cut runner that could be drafted somewhere in the third or fourth round.

 

Florida State

Christian Jones, ILB

It seemed like all of the defensive talent at Florida State already went to the NFL last year after players like Bjoern Werner, Tank Carradine and Xavier Rhodes decided to go pro.  But there are still a few intriguing prospects on that side of the ball for the Seminoles, including inside linebacker Christian Jones.

Jones finished with 49 total tackles, including 7.5 for loss and two sacks on the year.  The numbers may not seem that impressive, but his impact on the top defense in the league went beyond the box score.

When watching Jones, you quickly notice how athletic of a linebacker he is.  He does a surprisingly good job in pass coverage while possessing the speed to chase down ball-carriers.  

Jones has good length and can take the proper angle on tackles, and while sometimes he plays too high, it appears that the senior linebacker is ready to play at the next level, and a team should pick him up somewhere in the second or third round.

 

Kelvin Benjamin, WR

There are a ton of talented wide receivers entering the NFL draft this year, but one that has a chance to help his draft stock in a big way is Kelvin Benjamin.

With 50 receptions for 957 yards and 14 touchdowns, Benjamin has been one of Winston's favorite targets this year, especially near the goal line.  He's completely exploded recently, putting up 392 yards and seven touchdowns over the past three games while scoring in each of the last five.

At 6'5'' and 234 pounds, Benjamin is a tough and physical receiver, using his size to position himself to make catches in traffic.  With some long arms, he's capable of reaching up to snatch jump balls out of the air.  He'll have to work on being a more consistent pass-catcher, but Benjamin's size and athleticism will make him an appealing target for teams looking for a red-zone threat on the second day of the draft.

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Now Is Not the Time for Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops to Make Jump to NFL

If he doesn’t play his cards right, Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops will walk away from a BCS game as a loser yet again.

However, this time around, it’ll be for his performance off the field, not on it.

Following their surprising upset of the two-time, defending BCS national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, 45-31, in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, Stoops and his Sooners captured the attention of the college football world. Even the NFL took notice.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, both the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions are taking a long, hard look at Stoops to fill their head coaching vacancies:

To make matters worse, Stoops didn’t do much to derail the speculation. When approached about the rumors, he stated, “You never know,” via Yahoo! Sports’ Aaron Wilson.

And although his name has recently been taken out of the hat for the Browns’ position, per The Associated Press, nobody but Stoops knows where his heart truly lies.

But if it’s with chasing a career as an NFL head coach, then he is jumping the gun. 

That’s because the 53-year-old is coming off arguably his best coaching job since leading Oklahoma to the 2001 BCS title.

Entering the 2013 season, a cloud of doubt hung over the team.

It didn’t take long for disappointment to strike, as the Sooners dropped the annual Red River Rivalry game to the Texas Longhorns, 36-20, as two-touchdown favorites. A month later, the team received a thrashing from the longtime Big 12 cellar-dwelling Baylor Bears, 41-12.

Paired with inconsistencies at the quarterback position—a situation that was left unfixed until Trevor Knight’s recent performance in the Sugar Bowl—Oklahoma seemed headed toward one of its worst finishes in recent years.

But like a magician who pulls a rabbit out of his hat, Stoops reached deep into the pockets of his trademark khakis and delivered yet another 10-win season and appearance in a BCS bowl. 

However, with the Sooners as low as 16-point underdogs, their magical ride was expected to come to a screeching halt against the mighty Tide.

Except it didn’t.

Instead, the team everyone loved to poke fun at was now being considered a dark-horse contender for the 2014 national title. Suddenly, after nearly a decade on hiatus, “Big Game Bob” was back in the saddle.

Those BCS woes of seasons past? Forget about ‘em.

All that mattered now was that Oklahoma had just toppled college football’s iron-fisted ruler handily on the national stage. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it.

The Sooners lined up opposite of Alabama and outplayed the Tide for 60 minutes.

So why should Stoops leave now of all times?

Sure, some may see it as riding off into the sunset. However, I see 2013 as just the tip of the iceberg.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no head coach in college football that is more deserving of a shot at the NFL than Stoops.

For 15 years, he has been the definition of consistency. He has racked up more wins (160) than any other head coach in Oklahoma history, recorded 12 10-win seasons, captured eight Big 12 titles and made an appearance in nine BCS bowl games, including four for the BCS title.

But at a football program that measures success by championships won, Stoops still has some unfinished business. He’s just 1-3 in those four BCS title games.

For someone with as much pride as Stoops, returning next season has to be the answer. 

Maybe the Sooners will win the national title in 2014. Or maybe they won’t. 

Either way, one thing is clear: Oklahoma is a much better football team with Stoops at the helm.

And if the feeling is mutual, that elusive championship No. 8 will be making its way to Norman a lot sooner than we think.

 

All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.

For complete coverage and everything college football, you can reach Sebastian on Facebook, on Twitter and via email at Sebastian.LenaBR@gmail.com.

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BCS National Championship 2014: Key Storylines to Watch in Auburn vs. FSU

The final act of the BCS is set, as the No. 2 Auburn Tigers (12-1, 7-1 SEC) and the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles (13-0, 8-0 ACC) will do battle at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., on Monday, Jan. 6, at 8:30 p.m. ET to determine college football's top team.

Like any good battle for a title, this matchup between powerhouses will be decided by which side can answer the key questions about the matchup.

Both teams tout impressive defenses, but arguably neither have faced opposition quite like each other—yet.

As this epic battle unfolds, here are a few storylines to watch. How they play out will ultimately decide the game.

 

How Will Auburn Match Up With Florida State WRs?

Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston gets a ton of credit after his Heisman-winning season, but his weapons will also be thrust into the spotlight against the Tigers.

Winston is fortunate enough to play with three special talents at wide receiver. All three tallied more than 900 receiving yards in 2013:

While Rashad Greene is the best of the bunch statistically, the star of the show is sophomore Kelvin Benjamin, who stands at 6'5" and 234 pounds. Benjamin looks, plays and even acts like a clone of Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, as ESPN's Joe Schad illustrates:

An ability to put pressure on Winston or shut down the run is one thing, but it is another beast entirely to ask the Auburn defense to properly match up with all three star receivers.

Few cornerbacks on the Auburn depth chart are taller than 6'0", so the Tigers defense must get creative in coverages and assignments to keep the receivers in check. If not, this one will get ugly.

 

Can Florida State Slow Auburn's Roll?

Auburn can counter the explosive Florida State offense with a potent attack of its own, although the Tigers prefer to mostly keep things on the ground.

The Tigers rank No. 1 in the nation with an average of 335.7 rushing yards per game. But do not think for a moment the Seminoles are not equipped to compete with that—the Seminoles rank No. 1 with just 10.7 points surrendered per game.

Yes, this game is about to be that good.

The Tigers are led by junior running back Tre Mason. He gashed any and all competition in 2013 with 283 carries for 1,621 yards and 22 scores. He is flanked by fellow junior and dual-threat quarterback Nick Marshall, who threw for 1,759 yards and 12 touchdowns to five interceptions and was team's second-leading rusher with 156 carries for 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Above all, expect Mason to be at his best against the Seminoles. As ESPN3 illustrates, he does his most damage against the best competition:

If the versatile attack Mason and Marshall bring to the table can find success once more, Auburn may be able to keep Winston off the field.

 

Is There Any Stopping Jameis Winston?

Speaking of the Heisman winner, what does the Auburn defense have to do to slow Winston—and can it?

Doubtful, but there is a trend to zero in on—don't blitz him. Before shouting in protest, check out this nugget from ESPN's Sharon Katz:

When opponents send five or more pass rushers, Winston leads all players from automatic-qualifier (AQ) conferences in completion percentage (70.1 percent), touchdowns (20) and yards per attempt (12.4). Against standard pressure, Winston is completing 66 percent of his passes and has thrown seven of his 10 interceptions.

Translation—drop more bodies into coverage and generate a rush with down linemen.

Easier said than done. Winston threw for 3,820 yards with 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, leads the nation's No. 1 offense that averages 53 points per game and allows his unit to gain a minimum of at least 20 yards every 8.6 snaps, per Katz's numbers.

Tony Barnhart of CBS Sports put it best concerning an Auburn defense that allows an average of 24 points per game:

If Auburn can somehow pull it together defensively and apply pressure without additional help, the Tigers might just be able to pull off another upset for the ages.

 

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FSU vs. Auburn: Last-Minute Predictions and Fan Guide for 2014 BCS Championship

Coverage of championship events has turned from mere broadcast of the game to an all-you-can-eat buffet that one could drown in. The 2014 BCS Championship game is no exception, and ESPN has pulled out all the stops for their coverage of the clash between Florida State and Auburn. Here are some of the more notable highlights from ESPN's "BCS Megacast."

  • ESPN2 will have a segment during the game called "BCS Title Talk," where fans can eavesdrop on the conversations of the network's college football analysts and its guests. On-screen graphics will display game statistics. In addition, a "social stripe" will provide live social media reaction.
  • ESPNEWS will host college football experts in a segment called "BCS Film Room." Coaches and analysts will provide an X's-and-O's breakdown of the game as it happens, utilizing touchscreens and multiple camera angles.
  • ESPN Goal Line will broadcast "BCS Command Center," which will provide a split screen with both a live broadcast and replays of the previous play.
  • "Sounds of the BCS" will be aired on ESPN Classic. The segment will air only the sounds of the game, with no broadcast or commentary. 

As for the game itself, here are a few last-minute predictions for what will happen in the final college football game of the season.

 

Jameis Winston Will Set a Season-High in Rushing Yardage

Heisman winner Jameis Winston is certainly a mobile quarterback, but he uses that athleticism more to escape pressure than to create plays with his legs. Indeed, Winston has rushed for over 50 yards just twice this season, which are also the only two games in which he carried the ball more than 10 times.

However, given Auburn's propensity to concede the big play defensively, the Tigers are likely to sit back in a soft zone to prevent Florida State's explosive receivers from getting past the secondary. Consequently, while Winston's reads might be covered, there should be plenty of open green pastures to scramble. As Bud Elliott of SB Nation notes, Auburn's preferred zones will leave them vulnerable to Winston's legs early:

FSU has certain looks against which we believe it has an auto-check to a quarterback sweep play, and I would not be surprised to see some quarterback draw or quarterback power.

Scramble opportunities will also be there. This is particularly true against Cover-2 man, in which two defenders are in deep zones, and five defenders match up in man coverage. With four pass rushers, that leaves nobody on the quarterback. When Winston gets this look, he needs to scramble and take the free yards, then get down without getting hit.

Auburn will not concede big plays to the Seminoles offense easily, so it's up to Winston and the ground game to stretch the Tigers defense until it snaps. Florida State's prolific offense might be a bit more methodical at first, but expect that to pay dividends by game's end.

 

Nick Marshall Will Pass For Two TDs and Over 200 Yards

Like Winston, Marshall will need to play a bit out of his comfort zone for the Tigers to overcome a stingy Florida State defense. The converted cornerback has accomplished the aforementioned combination just once this year, a mid-September romp over Mississippi State.

But while Auburn will surely get their yards on the ground tonight, Marshall's arm will need to come through in critical situations. The Seminoles are too fast and athletic to get gashed on an every-down basis by the read-option, meaning Marshall will have to convert a few third downs to keep drives alive, as he did against Alabama. 

The Tigers quarterback will also likely need a big chunk play or two to loosen up the box. If the Auburn offense is in need of a jumpstart at some point, look for Gus Malzahn to dial up a deep play-action pass to take advantage of Marshall's tremendous arm strength. As Brandon Marcello of AllAlabama.com notes, that attribute in particular has caught the attention of 'Noles' defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt:

"The thing that I think is overlooked is his arm talent," Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt said. "Nick Marshall has as good of arm talent as anybody in the country."

"I mean, that goes back to being a point guard," Pruitt said. "He's kinda attacked the line of scrimmage, sees a guy open and, bam, throws him the ball. That's something that we've had to stress with our defenders every day."

Marshall and the Auburn offense might be in trouble if he has to throw more than 15 passes, as this is still a game the Tigers must win with the legs of Tre Mason Jr. and Marshall. Nevertheless, expect Marshall to get his money's worth when he does drop back.

 

Final Score

In their run of seven consecutive BCS national championships, the SEC has almost always fielded the more talented team. With a combination of a stifling defense, superb coaching and a key offensive star or two, most opposing teams have not been able to match the sheer talent from the Southeastern Conference.

But Florida State has flipped those circumstances, and the Seminoles are at a clear advantage on a man-to-man basis. That's not to say that Auburn cannot win tonight for the Tigers' ground game and excellent situational defense are winning ingredients. If the Seminoles do not bring their A-game, or falter in a few critical situations, the game is Auburn's for the taking.

However, Florida State has crushed every test they have faced this season. Sure, an ACC schedule is nothing in comparison to what Auburn has faced. But the Seminoles have been men among boys this season. The Tigers will give them they're toughest test of the season, but expect Winston and company to finish the storybook season.

Prediction: Florida State 41, Auburn 35

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Auburn vs. FSU 2014: Last-Minute Predictions for BCS National Championship

If you're looking for any defense during Monday night's game between Florida State and Auburn, good luck finding it. The BCS National Championship promises to be a shootout.

That's just one of the many predictions you can make heading into the finale for the 2013-14 college football season. Both the Tigers and Seminoles have Heisman finalists on offense and boast no shortage of stars capable of turning the game on its head with one play.

Beyond that not-so-bold forecast, it's difficult to make any major guesses for how the night will shake out. Auburn's entire season has been one big fairy tale, and with the results of the previous four BCS games, who knows whether Florida State—the favorite—will come good.

As Rowdy Roddy Piper famously said, "Just when they think they got the answers, I change the questions."

Against my better judgment, here are three predictions heading into the game.

 

Florida State's Running Backs Will Steal the Show

Everybody's focusing on Jameis Winston, Nick Marshall and Tre Mason. Flying under the radar is Florida State's three-headed monster at running back—Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and James Wilder Jr. The trio combined for 2,190 yards and 32 touchdowns on the ground. None of them averaged fewer than 5.8 yards per carry.

Gus Malzahn and Ellis Johnson have had a month to devise a plan to stop Winston. While it likely won't be entirely successful, it could thwart the Heisman winner just enough to make the Seminoles look elsewhere for yards.

That's where Freeman, Williams and Wilder come in.

Of the three, Freeman is most likely to take some of the spotlight away from Winston. The junior running back has been very good all season, and like many of Florida State's offensive stars, his numbers (943 yards, 13 TDs) were hindered by the fact that many of the team's games were over at halftime.

Although Freeman's on the precipice of eclipsing 1,000 yards, which would make him the first Seminoles back to do so since Warrick Dunn in 1996, he is more focused on winning, per Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel:

"I think we could, but 1,000 yards for me is just an individual goal, and a championship for us is a team goal. I put that aside for the team goal,” Freeman said. “I just want to win. It's something that hasn't been done in a long time."

Maybe Freeman can have his cake and eat it too.

 

Nick Marshall and Tre Mason Will Have Big Games on the Ground

No matter what Jimbo Fisher and Jeremy Pruitt have drawn up between Dec. 7 and now, there's almost no chance they'll prevent Marshall and Mason from getting a combined 250-300 yards rushing.

Auburn have become scarily good at running the football. The way the Tigers decimated Missouri in the SEC Championship served as a stern warning to Florida State. The SEC runner-up had a strong run defense coming into the game, and still surrendered 545 yards.

Malzahn's offense isn't intricate in that you see tons of different plays every game. But he knows what his team does well and plays to those strengths.

There should be little doubt as to the success of the Tigers' running game on Monday. It's the passing game they have to worry about. Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee wondered how much having a month-long layoff would help Marshall's passing skills:

Head coach Jimbo Fisher's crew has a solid secondary led by cornerback Lamarcus Joyner and safety Terrence Brooks, and those guys are going to be counted on in run support at times. If Marshall can develop as a passer during the layoff just enough to keep that secondary honest, it could spark even more life into that punishing Auburn offense.

Florida State needs this time to prepare for Auburn, but Marshall needs this time to improve.

An improved Marshall could be the difference between the crystal football taking up real estate in Auburn or Tallahassee.

Selling out against the run could open up some space in the secondary, but Florida State is first in both interceptions (25) and passing efficiency defense. The Seminoles should have enough defensive strength to defend the pass and limit the running game, just enough to secure the victory.

 

Auburn's Magic Will Run Out

Auburn has lived a charmed life this season, with the "Prayer at Jordan Hare" and the "Kick Six." Of course, it's helped that the Tigers have such a good running game and tough pass rush, but there's no doubt that a lot of luck has played into their success.

The problem with riding your luck so much is that sooner or later, it's going to run out.

On Monday night, pure talent and personnel advantages will be the difference.

The Seminoles are the favorites for a reason. They have one of the best defenses in the country and their offenses offers impressive balance. It's a testament to the quality of this team that it hasn't truly been challenged this season.

The ACC may not be the SEC, but it isn't that easy. Those lopsided wins over Clemson and Duke are looking better following the Tigers' and Blue Devils' respective performances in bowl season.

FSU should be able to exploit Auburn's defensive deficiencies and hold out enough defensively to see itself through on Monday.

Final Prediction: Florida State 37, Auburn 28

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College Football Teams Happy to See the BCS Era End

The 2014 BCS National Championship Game between the Florida State Seminoles and Auburn Tigers will mark the final chapter of the BCS era.

Since 1998, the BCS has provided college football with drama, controversy and at times, complete and utter chaos. But throughout that span there have been several teams that just never quite seemed to get it right in the BCS bowls.

These teams are most likely happier than most that the BCS will be no more following the conclusion of Monday night’s game.

Join B/R as we take a closer look at five of these teams.

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Auburn vs. FSU: Lesser-Known Stars Who Will Break Out in Title Game

The focus in Monday night's BCS National Championship Game will fall primarily on Heisman Trophy-winner Jameis Winston, as well as Auburn's dynamic rushing duo of quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason.

But those aren't the only players who will make an impact in the game. Let's look at a couple of players from each team who could make a contribution, despite flying under the radar a bit during the season.

 

LaDarius Owens, DE, Auburn

With Auburn's offensive dominance (40.2 points per game, ninth in the FBS) and their defensive struggles (38th in points against), not too many of its defensive players get recognized for their performances this year.

But Owens has played exceptionally well, with 11 quarterback hurries, 4.5 tackles for a loss and a pair of sacks.

After redshirting and then serving as a backup, Owens finally settled in at defensive end this year. He'll also be facing Winston for the third time in his life. According to Alabama Crimson Tide Sports, Owens and Winston faced each other twice during their times in high school, and their teams split the matchups.

"It's for old-times sake," Owens said of Monday's BCS Championship Game, via al.com. "He texted me and said y'all got some ugly buses. I told him y'all can have the cute buses, our hands will be looking better than yours on Monday."

If Owens can back up his talk and put some pressure on Winston on Monday, Auburn could be in line for the championship.

 

Corey Grant, RB, Auburn

Mason and Marshall should rack up the majority of Auburn's yards on the ground on Monday, but don't forget about Grant.

The junior running back accounted for 650 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 2013, including 65 yards and a touchdown in the SEC title game against Missouri. In total, Grant has a pair of touchdowns in his last three games while averaging 9.73 yards per carry during that span.

That's actually a step below what he's accomplished this year, however, as he's averaging an even 10.0 YPC this season. His ability to consistently rack up big gains, combined with his breakaway potential (75-yard TD run in Week 1) means Grant could have more of an impact than one might expect on Monday night.

 

James Wilder Jr., RB, Florida State

Like Grant, Wilder Jr. plays a backup role on his team. In fact, he's third on the Seminoles in carries. But Wilder also has potential to contribute in Monday's matchup.

For one, he's excellent at finding the end zone when given the opportunity. During the four-game span from FSU's Nov. 2 game against Miami to their matchup against Idaho on Nov. 23, Wilder Jr. averaged an incredible 10.36 YPC while scoring six touchdowns.

Look for Wilder Jr. to find the end zone again on Monday.

 

Florida State's Offensive Line

Florida State's offensive line doesn't get enough credit for how much of a role it played in Jameis Winston's success (and FSU's success as a whole) this year. For one, Winston was sacked only 23 times, just the 40th-highest total in the FBS.

Also, as the San Diego Union-Tribune notes, Florida State's offensive line is giant. In fact, they average 317 pounds per lineman, while Auburn's defensive front stands at only 263 pounds per player.

Assuming Auburn focuses much of their defensive attention on stopping Winston's passing attack, the success of FSU's running backs (Devonta Freeman, Karlos Williams and Wilder Jr.) will be key. If FSU can beat Auburn at the line of scrimmage, it will be a long day for the Tigers.

 

All statistics courtesy of ESPN.

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Lache Seastrunk Officially Announces He Will Enter 2014 NFL Draft

Baylor Bears star Lache Seastrunk said goodbye to Waco on Jan. 6, when he officially announced he's entering the 2014 NFL draft. 

The junior running back released a statement, per Yahoo! Sports' Rand Getlin:

Playing in the NFL has been a lifelong dream of mine, and I'm fully prepared to take the next step toward realizing that goal. I'm excited for the opportunity to compete in the NFL draft process. I look forward to giving teams every ounce of energy I've got and proving to them that I'm a good person, a relentless competitor, and a great player, too.

Despite Bryce Petty and Antwan Goodley getting much of the attention this past year, Seastrunk played a huge role in the Bears' success. He led the team in rushing with 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns on 158 carries. In Baylor's 52-42 loss to the UCF Knights in the Fiesta Bowl, the junior had 117 yards rushing on 17 carries.

Seastrunk is listed at 5'10" and 210 pounds on Baylor's site. Despite being a bit undersized, he should have no problem succeeding in the NFL.

Before the season began, CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman placed Seastrunk on his list of "The 20 craziest athletes in college football." Feldman wrote:

Seastrunk's vertical, which was an impressive 42.5 inches last winter, is now 44.2 inches. He also broad jumped 11-4 — five inches more than in 2012. His 40 time: 4.36.

It's quite an improve from Seastrunk's days at Oregon when he ran a 4.63 electronic 40 and had a 34.5” vertical two winters ago.

In what is presumed to be a weak overall running back class, Seastrunk should get selected in the first few rounds. In his most recent mock draft, Bleacher Report's draft guru Matt Miller had the Baylor star going with the seventh pick of the third round to the Cleveland Browns.

Seastrunk has the upcoming NFL combine and Baylor's pro day to wow scouts and coaches with his supreme physical gifts. Between that and his improvement with the Bears, he could easily sneak into the second round.

No matter where he is selected in the draft, Seastrunk could be one of the most electrifying offensive players to come out of this year's class.

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