How Auburn can upset FSU

Tigers' biggest strength could expose one of Seminoles' few weaknesses

Updated: January 2, 2014, 11:28 PM ET
By Brad Edwards | ESPN Insider

AuburnNelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsAuburn's stout ground attack could present a major problem for Florida State's defense.

A few days ago, I included the VIZIO BCS National Championship in my piece on unit mismatches in post-Christmas bowls. The numbers, any way you slice them, suggest that the Florida State offense should have its way with the Auburn defense.

Over the past 16 seasons, 144 teams have played in BCS games. Among those teams, 2013 Florida State has gained the most yards per play (7.8), and 2013 Auburn has allowed the most yards per play (5.96). It's one of the more startling notes I've uncovered in my 18 years doing research for ESPN college football.

Some would argue that schedule weakness has contributed to FSU's numbers, but the fact remains that the Seminoles averaged 7.2 yards against an SEC defense (Florida) that is statistically much better than Auburn. And while the Tigers can say their numbers are skewed by giving up 7.3 yards on average against five of the better QBs in the nation (Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and James Franklin), those numbers actually mean quite a bit when they're about to face a quarterback in Jameis Winston who is arguably better than all of those guys.

Numbers this strong are not misleading. Florida State will gain plenty of yards in the BCS title game. That means Auburn needs to do at least one of three things to have a chance to win. The Tigers must either force turnovers, hold FSU to field goals or score enough touchdowns to prevail in a high-scoring affair. The good news for Auburn is that this is something it does well, having already won this season by scores of 45-41 (Texas A&M), 43-38 (Georgia) and 59-42 (SEC championship versus Missouri).


To read more about where Auburn has the edge over Florida State and the Tigers' keys to winning the BCS title, sign up to become an ESPN Insider.

• Analyzes college football and the BCS as part of ESPN's Stats & Information Group
• Analyst for both College GameDay on ESPN Radio and the ESPN College Football app