StatTiger: Previewing Auburn vs. FSU

Stuart Carter (StatTiger) is a perfect 13-0 on his Auburn picks this season as he previews the BCS National Championship Game as the Tigers take on Florida State.

No. 2 Auburn 12-1 vs. No.1 Florida State 13-0

Series Record: 13-4-1 (Auburn)

Last Meeting: 1990 (Auburn, 20-17)

About the teams:

Florida State makes its fourth appearance in the BCS National Championship Game and Auburn makes its second. The Seminoles are 1-2 in those games and Auburn is 1-0.

Coach Jimbo Fisher is in his fourth season at Florida State, compiling a record of 44-10. FSU is 3-0 in bowl games under Fisher.

Gus Malzahn is 21-4 overall and 12-1 at Auburn. This will be his first bowl game as a head coach because he left for AU last season before his Arkansas State team won its bowl game.

Gus Malzahn is in his first season as head coach of the Tigers.

Auburn is No. 11 in total offense and No. 88 in total defense. FSU is No. 6 in total offense and No. 3 in total defense.

Auburn is No. 1 nationally in running offense and will face a FSU defense ranked No. 14 against the run.

FSU is No. 2 in scoring offense vs. Auburn, which is ranked No. 38 in scoring defense. Auburn is No. 12 in scoring offense vs. FSU, which is ranked No. 1 in scoring defense.

According to the NCAA, Auburn has faced the No. 12 most difficult schedule this season and Florida State checks in at No. 75.

Jameis Winston leads FSU's pass offense with 3,820 yards and a QB rating of 190.1. He currently is the No. 1 rated passer in the country.

Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston won the Heisman Trophy after putting up impressive numbers for the ACC champions.

Nick Marshall has a passer rating of 144.0 for the Tigers along with 1,023 yards rushing at 6.6 yards per carry.

Devonta Freeman leads the Seminoles with 943 yards rushing at 5.8 yards per carry. Karlos Williams has 705 yards rushing at 8.2 yards per rush.

Auburn's Tre Mason has 1,621 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns. Corey Grant is Auburn's third leading rusher with 650 yards at 10.0 yards per carry.

Tre Mason, the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, was named MVP of the SEC Championship Game.

The Seminoles have three receivers with 50 receptions or more and all three have more than 900 yards this season. Rashad Greene leads FSU with 67 receptions and Kelvin Benjamin has 14 touchdown receptions.

Auburn's Sammie Coates has 38 receptions for 841 yards and seven TDs. Ricardo Louis has 26 receptions on the season and 204 yards rushing.

Linebacker Telvin Smith leads FSU with 75 tackles and is second on the team with 9 1/2 tackles for loss. Timmy Jernigan leads the Seminoles in tackles for lost yardage with 10 1/2, including 4 1/2 sacks.

Auburn has seven defenders with at least 50 tackles for the season led by Chris Davis with 69 stops. Cassanova McKinzy is close behind with 66 tackles. Dee Ford leads Auburn in tackles for lost yardage with 12 1/2 and sacks with 8 1/2. Gabe Wright is second in tackles for loss with 8 1/2.

Inside the Numbers...

*For the season Auburn is averaging 91.3 percent more rushing yards than its opponent allows. Over the last nine games the number is 112.8 percent and it jumps to 161.5 percent during the last four games.

*Of the 18 major statistical categories Florida State holds an edge in 13 with an average national ranking of 21.6 to Auburn's average ranking of 35.2.

*Auburn holds a significant edge in net punting and when AU returns punts against the Seminoles. Auburn is No. 23 in yards per return and FSU is No. 120 in yards allowed on punt returns.

*Auburn's primary concerns will be FSU's No. 1 ranked pass offense vs. AU's No. 63 rated pass efficiency defense. The Seminoles are No. 3 in turnover margin and Auburn is No. 61.

*Auburn is No. 16 nationally in allowing tackles for loss while Florida State is No. 74. The Seminoles are No. 21 in forcing tackles for loss while Auburn is No. 38.

*The Tigers are No. 11 in red zone TD percentage facing a FSU defense ranked No. 27. The Seminoles are No. 3 offensively in red zone TD percentage and will face an Auburn defense ranked No. 7.

*Auburn is No. 25 nationally in yards-to-point ratio on offense and will face a defense ranked No. 1. The Seminole offense is No. 1 vs. an Auburn defense ranked No. 16.

*FSU is No. 1 offensively in generating explosive plays vs. an Auburn defense ranked No. 82 in stopping them. Auburn is No. 7 offensively and will face a defense ranked No. 3.

*Florida State is No. 3 nationally in third down offense vs. a defense ranked No. 22. Auburn is No. 29 on offense vs. a defense ranked No. 4.

*Malzahn is 5-1 in bowl games with his offense averaging 493 yards and 38 points in those contests. This includes an average of 271 yards rushing.

*Since 1987 Auburn is 74-2-0 in games with a 100-yard rusher at running back and a quarterback with an efficiency rating of at least 120.0.

*The 2013 Auburn defense has a "stop" percentage of 61.5 percent this season. This is a higher stop percentage than the previous four Auburn defenses. Should this carry over against FSU the Seminoles max-scoring could be 35 points in a 12-possession game.

What to watch...

*Florida State is No. 83 in the ratio of sacks allowed on the season. If Auburn can pressure the Seminole quarterback, it could slow the offense.

*The Seminoles are allowing a third down conversion rate of 57.6 percent on run plays with six yards or less needed to convert. This could play heavily into the favor of the Tigers. Auburn has converted 69.1 percent of its third down situations of six yards or less running the football.

*Subtracting sack yardage, FSU allowed an average of 190 yards at 4.4 yards per rush to Bethune-Cookman, Boston College, N.C. State, Syracuse and Clemson.

*Auburn has taken 271 snaps on offense when trailing on the scoreboard and FSU has taken only 38. This could favor the Tigers in a close ball game with Auburn being the more battle-tested team.

*Auburn is No. 12 nationally in terms of tackles for the ratio of tackles for loss gained and allowed. Florida State is No. 38, which could favor the Tigers at the line of scrimmage.

*Can Auburn win the battle on first-down? The Tigers are No. 11 nationally in yards per play on first downs with 7.14 yards per play. Florida State is No. 1 defensively, allowing only 3.79 yards per play on first downs.

Junior center Reese Dismukes leads a strong Auburn offensive line.

*Since going to a heavy dose of read-option during the last nine games Auburn has averaged 144 more yards than its opponent allowed to their remaining opponents. During Auburn's last three games it increased to 207 yards, which projects Auburn to have 411-475-yards against Florida State.

*During the first four games of the season Auburn averaged 10.6 percent more yardage than its opponent allowed on an average for the season. During the last four games Auburn averaged 42.7 percent more despite three of the four opponents being ranked.

Keys to victory...

*Auburn must be able to run the football very well against this athletic Seminole defense. The Tigers ground game is peaking at the right time and will likely need another 300-yard game to be competitive.

*Ball security will be a major key for the Tigers. They are No. 116 nationally, fumbling the football every 33.3 snaps. The national average is one every 49.7 snaps and Auburn has fumbled the football at least once in 31 of its last 32 games.

*Malzahn's offenses are 44-4 when running the ball more than 63 percent of the plays during a game and 15-12 when their run percentage drops under 55 percent.

*Auburn's defense must limit FSU's big-play potential and needs to apply pressure on Jameis Winston.

*During his last eight starts Marshall has compiled a passer rating of 157.9, which is Top 20 material. He has added an additional 109 yards rushing per game at 7.5 yards per rush. Auburn needs Marshall to play well against the Seminoles.

*Auburn is No. 3 nationally averaging 6.89 yards per rush on first down. Florida State is No. 7 defensively, allowing 3.24 yards per rush on first down. Malzahn at Auburn is 23-2 when the Tigers average better than 5.0 yards per rush on first down with more than 20 attempts.

Final Word...

After winning the BCS National Championship in 2010 Auburn had the worst two follow-up seasons by any previous national championship team since 1970. The Tigers compiled a two-year record of 11-14 following their 14-0 season during 2010.

The skid resulted in a coaching change, opening the doors for the return of Malzahn. During his initial press conference as Auburn's new head coach he promised to return the Tigers to a championship level.

He proceeded to hire a quality staff and convinced the players they could win now. One year after his hiring, Auburn finds itself in California to square off with Florida State for the final national championship of the BCS Era. What an amazing ride it has been for The Auburn Family.

There are those that believe Auburn is fortunate to be in the national championship game, citing the Tigers' last-minute victories over Georgia and Alabama to close the regular season. Though there is some truth to this statement, it should be noted the Tigers made their own fortunes this season. They had to play well enough against Georgia and Alabama to be in position to win both games on big plays at the end.

Regardless of how Auburn made it to the BCS National Championship Game, the Tigers are one more victory away from completing the most dramatic one-year turnaround in college football history. Win or lose, the 2013 Auburn Tigers are already champions.

Auburn comes into the game with one of the best run offenses during the modern era of college football. The Tigers possess great special teams and a defense that has consistently made plays during critical moments of games.

Two primary factors stand out going into this matchup. Auburn has faced the No. 12 most difficult schedule to arrive in Pasadena and Florida State has faced the No. 75 strength of schedule. Auburn has been involved in five games decided by seven points or less and the Seminoles none. Auburn has taken 271 snaps trailing on the scoreboard and Florida State 38.

The Tigers are conditioned to play four quarters of football under pressure while the Seminoles have not been placed in that position this season. Auburn is the more "battle tested" team, which means the Tigers have the Seminoles right where they want them. Auburn 38, Florida State 34

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