Howard Talks BCS Matchup

ESPN's Desmond Howard talks about the BCS Championship Game matchup between Auburn and Florida State.

Much has been made of the long layoff between games for both Auburn and Florida State as they prepare to square off in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 6 in the Rose Bowl. Off for almost exactly a month, the Tigers and Seminoles will now try to find the rhythm that saw both cruise to conference championships in the SEC and ACC respectively.

There is no question that allowing teams extra time to prepare will have a big impact on the game, but for ESPN analyst Desmond Howard there is much more to it. Coaching schemes and playcalling will be big as well, but Howard said as much as anything it could be how Gus Malzahn and Jimbo Fisher approach the game that could spell the difference on Monday night.

"You don't know how a team is going to respond," Howard said. "Initially it may take a series or two for a team to settle down or settle in, but I think once you get that first series out of your system you start to settle in. The interesting thing is how the coaches are going to coach the game. To me that really creates and sets the tempo more than anything that the players do. Are they going to play it close to the vest and be conservative? Are they going to take some chances early? Those types of things, in my opinion, really sets the tempo for a game because it lets the players know where the coach's head is too."

It's not just coaching that can have a big impact on the game. Howard knows all too well how much special teams can impact a game after winning the MVP of the Super Bowl for his kick return efforts with the Green Bay Packers. With Chris Davis, Tre Mason and Corey Grant all capable of making big plays for the Tigers and Kenny Shaw a dangerous return man for the Seminoles, Howard said a big play or two in the kicking game could swing the momentum in a hurry.

"Special teams can be the great equalizer in a big game," Howard said. "Especially when you have two explosive offenses. Florida State has the Heisman Trophy winner with all sorts of artillery at his disposal. The hottest team the last month of the season has been Auburn. Their running game has just been outstanding. With that being said the battle of field position and special teams could be a great equalizer."

Winners of six games by eight points or less, Auburn has been tested as much as any team in the country this season. On the other side of the field Florida State has played just one game decided by less than 27 points, a two touchdown victory over Boston College. That could play a factor if this game goes to the fourth quarter according to Howard because he sees something different from Auburn when the game is on the line.

"I don't think you can put a true value on that because what happens is you can click into another mode," Howard said of the importance of playing close games. "Some teams, if they are down late in the game, they may start to have doubts. You have a team like Auburn, if they're down late in the game their mindset is ‘okay, we've been there before and we know what it takes to win and we know we can do it'. To me that's almost like an extra real level of confidence, not just paying it lip service.

When things get kicked off at 5:38 local time in the historic Rose Bowl it will be the final game of what has been a wild college football season. With weapons on both offenses making this game potentially a shootout, Howard said it's a great way to finish things off with two dynamic offensive teams and two teams that finished the season red hot.

"I think it's an interesting matchup," Howard said. "Obviously you have two different styles of offense. You have Jameis Winston, who has a bunch of weapons at his disposal with three wide receivers, three running backs, and the tight end too. They like to spread you out and they can do a lot of different things.

"Auburn seems a little more one-dimensional with their running game, but there are so many dimensions that that one dimension it makes them very effective. Not to mention, as great as Florida State has been throughout the season, I think Auburn finished the season as the hottest team in college football."

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