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Fearless Rick's 2013-14 College Football BCS Championship Pick

Welcome to the very best in winning NFL and College Football picks.
Rick Gagliano | January 6, 2014

All times Eastern

BCS Championship, Pasadena, CA, Jan. 6, 8:30 pm, ESPN
Auburn vs. Florida State (-8 1/2, 67 1/2) - The climax of the colloge football season is upon us and the stage has long ago been set for the final battle for the national championship and the right to be named #1.

Florida State, a heavy favorite in the game due to the play of their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Jameis Winston, their top-ranked scoring defense (10.7 ppg) and the fact that they are the only remaining undefeated team in the nation (they can thank Auburn and Michigan State for that) took the high road to title contention by flying through the ACC unscathed and defeating Duke in the conference championship game, 45-7.

By virtue of Baylor's 52-42 loss to UCF in the Fiesta Bowl, the Seminoles now lay claim to having the most proficient offense in the nation, at a cool 53.0 points per game.

That makes the average winning margin for the Seminoles an unassailable 42.3 points per game, a magnificent statistic which would ensure them the crown if the system allowed for just voting.

However, the BCS dictates that #1 must play #2, and Auburn is distinctively the #2 team in the country, not the least in part due to their thrilling, 34-28, victory over Alabama, when Chris Davis scored on a 109-yard missed field goal attempt with no time left on the clock.

From a statistical perspective, the Tigers are barely in the same league as the Seminoles, but a 12-1 record, a conference championship earned not only by knocking off then-#1 Alabama, but following up the next week with an inspired, 59-42, victory over Missouri to capture the SEC title, Auburn appears to be a team of destiny, to say nothing of the intense desire and playmaking abilities in pressure situations.

The Tigers' only loss was a 35-21 setback at LSU on September 21. The loss, at that point in the season, would leave the Tigers in a bind in the SEC West, with a loss to one of their chief rivals and the Alabama game still more than two months away.

Fate seeming to side with the Tigers, LSU not only lost to Alabama, but also to Mississippi and Georgia. As Auburn progressed through their conference schedule with wins over Mississippi, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Tennessee, they found themselves close to their goal of playing the Crimson Tide for dominance of the West division. Only Georgia stood in their path.

The November 16 game at Auburn against the Bulldogs was the seminal point of the season. With time running down in the fourth quarter, quarterback Nick Marshall unleashed a bomb in the direction of streaking Ricardo Lewis down the center of the field. Lewis was covered, but the two Georgia defenders collided with each other, sending the ball careening toward a still-upright Lewis, who snatched it with both hands and pranced defiantly into the end zone with 25 seconds left to play.

The two-point conversion failed, but the Tigers prevailed, 43-38, in a game that just moments before seemed to doom their entire season to failure. The spark had been lit and Alabama was eventually burned two weeks later.

Florida State's approach to the championship game was not quite as dramatic. In fact, most of their games were downright boring, with the offense rolling to huge leads and the defense holding opponents without so much as a score or two.

Everybody knew the Seminoles were good, but just how good they needed to prove. After winning easily at Pitt, 41-13, in their season opener, they blasted non-confrence opponents Nevada and Bethune-Cookman, 62-7 and 54-6, respectively. A struggle ensued at Boston College, the 'Noles emerging with a hard-fought 48-34 victory.

Their 63-0 whitewash of Maryland on October 5 put them clearly on the national championship radar and their October 19 win over then-#3 Clemson cemented their reality as easily the best team in the ACC with potential to run the table undefeated.

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One-sided wins over NC State, Miami, Wake Forest and Syracuse (the last two by identical 59-3 scores) won them the ACC Atlantic division. An 80-14 win over Idaho and the 37-7 mashing of Florida closed out the regular season. When Ohio State fell to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship and Auburn topped Missouri in the SEC, the parties were set.

While the Seminoles certainly deserve to be favorites on the basis of their unbeaten string and the overall dominance on the field, they will have to contend with the top rushing offense in the nation.

Tireless Tre Mason rushed for 1621 yards on 283 carries. He is the workhorse in Auburn's zone read offense. QB Nick Marshall carried the pigskin for 1023 yards on 156 carries and was very efficient throwing the ball, hitting 128 of 212 throws (960.4%) for 1758 yards and 12 TDs, with just five picks, but he is a dangerous runner and a wise decision-maker. No defense has been able to slow the Auburn express for an entire game. The Seminoles may be the one defense capable of containing them.

If the ground game isn't working - or even if it is - Auburn may rely on the passing attack. Though they didn't exactly burn up the stat sheets, the Tigers have a couple of solid receivers, especially supremely confident and speedy Sammie Coates, who caught 38 passes for 841 yards, a 22.1 per catch average. Across from him is Ricardo Lewis, who has good hands and runs effective routes. Marshall can mix it up. Auburn has as many as eight potential targets, including Mason, who caught 11 passes during the season.

The 2013 Heisman deserved to be in the hands of Jameis Winston. He threw for 3820 yards, completing 68% of his passes, with 38 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 193 yards and four scores. Running back Davonta Freeman will get the bulk of the carries out of the backfield. Freeman rushed for a team high 943 yards on 162 carries and scored 13 TDs, but his running mate, Karlos Williams has breakaway speed and an 8.2 yards per carry average. He rushed for 705 yards with 11 scores.

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Adding to the powerful backfield is James Wilder Jr., who could be the best of the bunch. Wilder has power and shiftiness, rushing for 542 yards on 78 carries.

With this bunch with him, Winston hardly has a need to throw the ball, but he has a trio of receivers with over 900 yards each. Rashad Green caught 67 balls for 981 yards. Kelvin Benjamin snagged 50 for 957, and Kenny Shaw made 52 catches for 929 yards. Tight end Nick O'Leary was also useful, grabbing 33 passes for 557 yards and seven TDs.

The Seminoles have the appearance of a champion about to be crowned, but they have to respect Auburn and not take statistics or hype seriously. The game will play out on the field, not off it, and Auburn will probably be the best team they've faced all season.

For the Tigers, they're used to the pressure and can look back on wins over Texas A&M, Georgia and especially, Alabama, and Missouri for an expectation of success.

The Auburn defense may not be a dominant unit as is Florida State's, but they have held their own and play well when all the chips are on the table.

History tells us that the SEC has won the last seven national championship games, with Auburn winning it in 2010, with a 22-19 win over Oregon. The last non-SEC team to win it all was Texas, in 2004, with Vince Young guiding Texas to a 41-38 victory over Reggie Bush and USC.

Auburn will need to establish their running game early and not fall behind the Seminoles, who have a way of steamrolling opponents once they have a lead, but that's unlikely to happen as Auburn's defenders will come well-prepared and able to pressure Winston in the pocket. Any errant passes from the Heisman winner may wind up in Tiger paws, disrupting Florida State's scheme. The Seminoles will probably be running the ball more then usual, especially if they find success on the edges, but in the end, the Auburn running game and trick plays out of their option look may prove decisive.

Auburn will win the game, holding off Florida State in the waning moments.

Prediction: Tigers 41 Seminoles 34

All times Eastern

Copyright 2013, 2014, Rick Gagliano, Downtown Magazine. All rights reserved. Downtown Magazine is located in the Uinted States of America and is not affiliated with the National Football League or the NCAA. For more information, contact us here. Use of this site is for entertainment purposes only.


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