The 2013 college football season comes to an exciting conclusion on Monday evening as second-ranked Auburn takes on top-ranked Florida State for the BCS National Championship in Pasadena, California. Both schools will be looking for its third national title. The Tigers claimed their last national championship three years ago with quarterback Cam Newton at the helm while FSU will aim for its first since a perfect season in 1999.
Auburn enters the contest on a 9-game winning streak and with a record of 12-1. The Tigers most recently topped Missouri, 59-42, for the SEC Championship. Auburn’s SEC title run comes after going winless in conference play a season ago. The Tigers have made their way to Pasadena by winning the close ones as six of Auburn’s 12 victories this season have come by a single score.
While Auburn has been stellar when it comes to winning the close games, Florida State at 13-0 has not had a game decided by fewer than 14 points. Florida State has already set a school-record with 13 victories and leads the nation in both scoring and fewest points allowed. The Seminoles claimed a second straight ACC Championship by topping Duke in Charlotte, 45-7, their last time out.
Leading the Florida State charge is redshirt freshman quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston. Winston accounted for 42 total touchdowns this season with 38 coming through the air while passing for 3,820 yards. Winston leads the nation in passer rating and yards-per-attempt while ranking third nationally in touchdown passes.
Around Winston is a loaded arsenal including four players with over 900 yards from scrimmage. Leading rusher Devonta Freeman is 57 rushing yards away from becoming the first Seminole to hit the 1,000-yard mark on the ground since Warrick Dunn in 1996. Three receivers for FSU are within 71 yards of becoming Florida State’s first 1,000-yard receiver since Anquan Boldin in 2002.
Of the three, junior Rashad Greene is the closest leading the team in receiving yards for a third straight season. Greene needs just 19 yards on Monday to eclipse four digits. The player that has come on the most of late is redshirt sophomore Kelvin Bejmain, who has over 300 combined receiving yards and five touchdowns in his last two games. Benjamin led the ACC with 14 touchdown grabs this season. Senior Kenny Shaw is third on the team with 929 yards receiving on the year.
Charged with slowing down the Florida State offensive arsenal will be an Auburn defense that ranks just 87th in the country allowing more than 423 yards-per-game. Auburn however is giving up just 24 points-per-game which ranks in the top 40 nationally. Defensive end Dee Ford leads Auburn with 8.5 sacks while defensive back Robenson Therezie has a team-high four interceptions.
Where Auburn wins its games however, is on the offensive side of the ball with a ground attack that ranks first in the country. Running back Tre Mason, a junior, had 1,621 yards rushing this season and ranks fourth in the nation with 22 rushing touchdowns. Against Missouri in Atlanta, Mason carried the ball 46 times for 304 yards and four scores. Mason enters Monday’s contest having broke the century mark rushing in five straight games.
While Mason is the guy to watch for Auburn, junior quarterback Nick Marshall has proven to be clutch for the Tigers. Marshall has led Auburn from behind in the final minutes to beat Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama. Marshall has passed for only 1,759 yards this season, but has rushed for more than 1,000 yards with 11 touchdowns on the ground — one fewer than he has passing.
The Florida State defense tasked with slowing down the nation’s top rushing attack, is led by All-American cornerback Lamarcus Joyner. Joyner, a finalist for the Thorpe Award, has done it all for FSU this season including leading the team with five sacks. At just 5’8″, Joyner is excellent off the edge and will help in run support in Pasadena. Joyner leads a Florida State secondary that leads the country with 25 total interceptions on the season.
As good as Joyner has been, the front seven is deep and talented for Florida State as well. Senior linebackers Telvin Smith and Christian Jones were All-ACC performers as was junior defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. Jernigan will need to get consistent penetration against Auburn’s spread attack while Smith and Jones will need to swarm to the football. FSU is yielding just 10.7 points-per-game — the fewest in the entire country.
Monday’s match-up will be the first meeting between Auburn and Florida State since 1990. The Tigers won that contest 20-17 at Jordan-Hare Stadium, but the last bowl meeting between the schools went the way of the Seminoles. A late interception by Deion Sanders in the end zone in the 1989 Sugar Bowl sealed a 13-7 Florida State win.
While Florida State will be looking for its third national championship in just over 20 years on Monday, Auburn will be aiming for its second in four seasons. With a win, the Tigers would make it eight straight seasons that a school from the SEC took home the BCS title and it would mark a fifth straight season that a school from Alabama claimed the Sears Trophy. Monday’s BCS National Championship will kick off after 8:30 P.M. eastern time and will be shown nationally on ESPN.