BCS Championship Game: What To Watch

Auburn will square off against Florida State in the 2014 BCS National Championship Game in the Rose Bowl on Monday night.

Red Zone Success

This season Auburn has scored 89 percent of the time in the red zone (51-57) with 42 of those for touchdowns. It's going to be imperative for the Tigers to finish drives with touchdowns instead of field goals when facing a team like Florida State.

On the flip side Auburn's defense must continue to stand tall inside its own 20-yard line. Allowing points on 71 percent of red zone opportunities (34-48) and just 23 touchdowns (48 percent), Coach Ellis Johnson's defense has been tough when backed up to its own goal line. They'll get a stern test from a Florida State offense that has scored an incredible 97.1 percent of the time (67-69) this season with 55 of those going for six points. Auburn has to hold the Seminoles to three points on at least at least a few drives Monday night. If FSU strikes for touchdowns it's going to put a lot of pressure on Nick Marshall and the Auburn offense to answer score for score.

No Blitz Zone

Ask any defensive coordinator and they'll tell you that getting pressure with just four players is one of the keys to stopping any passing game. When you look at Jameis Winston and the Florida State offense, Auburn's ability to knock him around without having to blitz may be the difference between winning and losing. That's because Winston makes teams pay that send more than four against him this season, completing 70.6 percent of his passes for 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

While 12 of their 29 allowed sacks this season came against the blitz, Florida State has made teams pay time and time again that couldn't get pressure with four. If Dee Ford, Carl Lawson, Gabe Wright and company can't get the job done it could mean a long night for the defense.

Running On Empty

To be able to get to Winston, Auburn has to force the Seminoles into predictable passing situations. That means slowing Devonta Freeman and the FSU running attack. Averaging 207.4 yards per game this season with 41 touchdowns, Florida State's ability to run the football isn't in question in 2013.

The good news is that at times Jimbo Fisher will abandon the running game in favor of throwing it all around the yard. If Auburn can have some success shutting down the Seminoles early it may force Fisher's hand and open up Winston to more hits from the Auburn defensive line in a best-case scenario for the Tigers.

Taking It Deep

While the Tigers would love to slow Florida State's running game, the Seminoles must try to limit Auburn's damage on the ground. For an offense averaging 335.7 yards per game and with 46 rushing touchdowns that is easier said than done. Because of that expect FSU defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to stack the box early and try to put the ball in Marshall's hands. That means single coverage outside for Sammie Coates, Ricardo Louis, Quan Bray and the Auburn receivers.

When that happens the Tigers must connect on some shots down the field to make Florida State pay. If Auburn can hit a few big plays in the passing game it would force the Seminoles to play more straight-up and give the Tigers a chance to grind them with the running game.

Turning It Around

There is no question that Auburn must avoid turning the ball over to a Florida State squad that has dominated in that area this season. Creating 34 turnovers (25 interceptions and nine fumbles) this season and turning the ball over only 17 times (13 interceptions and four fumbles), the Seminoles have taken advantage of those extra offensive possessions to put the hammer down on the opposition. Even on turnovers this year with 18 caused and 18 given away, the Tigers have been able to overcome some key giveaways to win games. That may not be the case against Florida State, however. Auburn doesn't need to play a perfect game, losing the turnover battle would make it a much more difficult chore.


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