Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good; The Auburn Tigers are both. This is precisely why they will leave Pasadena with the crystal football on monday.
ESPN’s power index says Florida State is a 13 point favorite over the Tigers on a neutral field. Florida State boasts the Heisman winner and an average margin of victory of just under 43 points. Florida State’s schedule may have been easier than Auburn’s overall, however, in their biggest games against Duke, Clemson and Miami (although the Canes have fallen off the face of the Earth since losing in Tallahassee), they’ve shined the brightest winning by 38, 37 and 27 respectively. Jameis Winston has the offense scoring for fun to the tune of 53 points per game. Although Clemson is the only truly potent offensive attack the Seminoles have faced, the defense has been lights out allowing only 10.7 points per game. Against that Clemson offense that averages over 40 points each game, the Seminoles held them to 14 (they held Duke to 7 points and Miami to 14). The Seminoles least impressive performance and closest game of the season is the precise reason I expect Auburn to emerge victorious on Monday night.
The Seminoles struggled to put away Boston College 48-34 earlier in the season. The 34 points they gave up is twice as many as the next highest total (17 against NC State). The Seminoles managed to snag a 24-17 lead on a Hail Mary as time expired in the first half. They controlled the second half but didn’t manage to put away the Eagles until an interception late in the fourth quarter finally killed the game off. It’s no coincidence that this is the one legit rushing attack the Seminoles have faced and that this is the game the Seminoles have struggled the most. Heisman Trophy finalist Andre Williams rushed 29 times for 149 yards (BC as a team went for 200 on the ground), 90 of his yards in first half when BC was in the driver’s seat. Success can be had against this FSU team on the ground. A mediocre Boston College team that finished the season 7-6 proved that by jumping out to an early 17-3 lead in the first half by running successfully.
Boston College averaged 212.5 yards per game on the ground this season (20th in the nation), Auburn averages 335.7. In their last 8 games (Since October 12th), Auburn has averaged 394 yards per game on the ground. They’ve gotten better as the season has gone along. They are a far better team than the one that lost to LSU in Death Valley. Their star back Tre Mason has averaged 150 yards per game on 25 attempts and 2 TDs over that 8 game stretch (304 in the SEC Title Game). Boston College may be good on the ground but they aren’t great. This Auburn ground game is GREAT. It’s truly special. Gus Malzahn has turned a laughingstock into a legitimate contender that can go head to head with any team. If Boston College caused FSU problems, I expect Malzahn to drive Jeremy Pruitt and Jimbo Fisher to the brink of insanity.
Not only will Auburn truly provide a test for the Florida State defense, Auburn is the luckiest team I have ever seen. Chris Davis’ miracle return was a gift from above. I’ve never seen Nick Saban make a worse call. I’m convinced you could run that same dumb play call 1000 times and it would never happen like that again. AND THAT WASN’T EVEN AUBURN’S LUCKIEST PLAY! The Miracle at Jordan-Hare was even more ridiculous (Shades of LSU-Kentucky 2002, anyone?). All Georgia had to do was tip a horribly thrown ball down but the ball deflected into the hands of Ricardo Louis who raced into the end zone for the go ahead score. I have a better chance of running into Jennifer Lawrence and convincing her to go out with me than Auburn did of executing either of those plays… but they executed them.
Florida State is a fantastic team. They deserve to be in Pasadena. However, I fear they will be exposed on the ground. This Auburn team is very good, and what the lack in skill is more than made up for by their luck. It doesn’t ever seem to run out. They just might be “The Team of Destiny.”