This is it. The National Championship Game. The final game of the college football season. It’s disheartening to see it end, but it’s been a fantastic 2013-2014 season. And the BCS Title Game features the Heisman winner in Jamies Winston and the coach of the year Gus Malzahn in what should be a tremendous chess match including a boatload of NFL talent.
Not only are both these teams well-qualified for the BCS Title Game, but they are talented enough to send as many as 15 players to the 2014 NFL Draft alone. In my opinion, the game will hinge on four players: Can Tre Mason take advantage of any gaps in the Florida State secondary? Can Timmy Jernigan play with consistency all game and disrupt the interior? Can Lamarcus Joyner utilize his versatility to force at least one turnover? And can the Auburn defense not over-stretched horizontally to prevent vertical attacks?
I’ll take Florida State, but at least 10, banking on Jernigan, Joyner, and Jamies Winston.
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(JR) Tre Mason, RB, Auburn, #21, 5’10, 205
Mason should have been more strongly considered for the Heisman trophy thanks to his play this year and success in the Auburn running game, but he’ll get a chance to lead his team over Heisman winner Jameis Winston on the field. With an ideal NFL build across his frame for an NFL runner, Mason consistently is able to lean forward and keep his legs moving through tacklers in the box. Controlled laterally in the hole, Mason is explosive once his feet are set, either in space on the edge or after he repositions through the interior running lane. Thanks to his size, power in traffic, and adjustment off initial run lane to the edge, the Florida State linebackers could be in trouble when it comes to stopping Mason.
(JR) Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn, #73, 6’5, 320
Despite coming into the season unheralded as a tackle prospect, Robinson has emerged as one of college football’s best offensive lineman, and has a legitimate chance to be the first one taken in the 2014 class. With ideal size and build throughout his frame, Robinson wins against both power rushers and speed rushers thanks to his ability to get to his spot, set up, and play with plus leverage at the rush point. And in this Auburn rushing attack, Robinson generates ample push thanks to low leverage point and playing wide through the block. Don’t be surprised if Robinson not only declares after the game, but emerges as a legitimate Top 5 pick.
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Dee Ford, DE, Auburn, #30, 6’2, 238
Ford is the Tigers feature defensive playmaker, and production or not, he’ll likely be the biggest impact on the Auburn’s defensive success. Primarily a speed rusher, Ford relies on his activeness with his hands and bend/speed around the edge to provide pressure and disruption for this Auburn front four. He struggles in gap contain and to gain ground in on most running plays, and needs to disengage at a much higher level. If he can attack the perimeter of the Florida State defense and flush Winston to roll backside, it could make a world of difference for the Auburn secondary.
(RSSo) Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State, #1, 6’5, 234
No lock to declare, Benjamin possesses the elite size, speed, and power that NFL teams will gaga over when he enters the draft. Despite still being raw in route definition, jump timing on the ball in the middle of the field routes, and has some drop issues when throw is off his route, Benjamin explodes immediately off the snap, gains speed quickly as he attacks vertically, tracks the ball well, and gathers himself when forced to change directions well.
(JR) Cameron Irving, OT, Florida State, #75, 6’6, 320
Along with Greg Robinson, Irving has a chance to, if he declares, be among the top offensive tackles in this class. Playing with great lower body control and balance, Irving stays low effectively off the snap in both the run and pass game, driving under his blocks with awesome consistency. Setting up very wide yet active in pass protection, Irvin has a good (not elite) kick slide, but recovers well from a necessary backpedal thanks to his hand strength while extended. In the running game, he reach blocks very well, and gains initial hand placement at a high level away from his frame. He’s the key in keeping Winston upright and opening step-up lanes in the pocket.
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(JR) Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State, #8, 6’2, 292
One of the most talented interior linemen in the country, Jernigan’s scouting report is plagued by the dreaded “motor” question market. With ideal size, quickness off the snap, and finishing ability once he gets pressure, Jernigan could have a Nick Fairley-like impact in this National Championship game. With his quick hands, balance, and positioning as he generates pressure, Jernigan is a match-up no one on the Auburn interior can consistently match-up with. If he can play at a high level all game and help disrupt this running game, he’ll be the single biggest factor in the Florida State victory.
Telvin Smith, OLB, Florida State, #22, 6’2, 215
The leader on the interior for the Seminoles, Smith is asked to make an impact in the run and pass game for Florida State each drive. Thanks to his length and fluidity to adjust based off his initial offensive read, Smith quickly anticipates and breaks in the run game to finish tackles on the interior. He’ll be tested by the Auburn offensive line and running game, and he’ll need to utilize his quickness and active hands to disengage if he hopes to slow this offense.
Christian Jones, OLB, Florida State, #7, 6’4, 235
Playing the SAM linebacker position, Jones is primarily the team’s feature edge rusher and versatile linebacker playmaker. While not an every down player, Jones does possess the length, physicality, and pass rushing skills that this Florida State defense will need to both hold the edge of the running attack and attack Nick Marshall and this passing attack.
Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State, #20, 5’8, 190
One of the most fun players to watch in college football, Joyner is a defensive coordinator’s dream player. Thanks to his ability as an edge cornerback, a slot cornerback, a blitzer off the edge, and tackling ability in space, the Florida State defense can align him in multiple spots depending on the situation and team their facing. Despite being undersized for the position, Joyner times his breaks extremely well, is active in pursuit and as a tackler, and flips his hips to change directions fluidly. Reminding of Tyrann Mathieu in multiple ways, he’ll be asked to make an impact at all three levels of this defense for Florida State to leave victorious.
Others to Watch
(JR) Nick Marshall, QB, Auburn, #14, 6’1, 210
Ryan White, S, Auburn, #24, 5’11, 196
(JR) Robenson Therezie, CB/S, Auburn, #27, 5’9, 190
Chris Davis, CB/KR, Auburn, #11, 5’11, 198
(JR) Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State, #80, 6’0, 180
Kenny Shaw, WR, Florida State, #81, 6’0, 180
Nick O’Leary, TE, Florida State, #35, 6’3, 248
Bryan Stork, OC, Florida State, #52, 6’4, 312
Demontre McAllister, DE, Florida State, #97, 6’3, 290
Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State, #, 5’11, 200