BCS National Championship Game Notre Dame vs. Alabama
Game time: 8:30pm ET
SB Nation Coverage: Florida State - Tomahawk Nation | Auburn - College and Magnolia
Tickets: Find available seats here.
TV Channel: ESPN Family of Networks
TV Announcers: Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit
Radio: ESPN Radio (Station Locator)
Odds: Florida State by 10 | O/U: 67-1/2
HOW THEY GOT HERE
2014 National Championship Coverage
SB Nation Preview: Auburn vs. Florida State
•SBNation.comCollege football always plays out just like we expect, doesn't it?
2014 National Championship Coverage
AUBURN'S SEASON TO DATE
Now, Iowa and Georgia Tech each had decent regular seasons. The Hawkeyes bounced back from an awful 2012 season to finish 8-4, a solid 28th in the F/+ rankings. Georgia Tech came in at 7-5 and 31st, with two tough, tight losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia preventing something even better.
The way Auburn's season started out, it seemed an Iowa- or Tech-esque year was in the works.
The Tigers held off Washington State, 31-24, in the opener and needed a late, clutch touchdown to beat Mississippi State at home. They fell to LSU on September 21, and even though they showed spunk in battling back to only lose by two touchdowns, they still lost by two touchdowns. A 30-22 home win over Ole Miss was seen a sign that 8-4 or 9-3 was within reach, nothing greater.
But the Tigers just kept winning. They upset Texas A&M, 45-41, in College Station. They fended off potential letdown games, beating Arkansas and Tennessee by a combined 50 points.
And then a season of massive improvement began to take on a team-of-destiny feel. Auburn beat Georgia with a miracle catch of a batted pass, then beat Alabama with a miracle return of a missed field goal. The Tigers destroyed Missouri's defense for 59 points in the SEC Championship. And then they watched as Ohio State fell to Michigan State, opening the door for the Tigers to return to the national championship for the second time in four seasons.
FLORIDA STATE'S SEASON TO DATE
To say the least, we caught on to Florida State a lot earlier. At least, the stats did.
What the Seminoles were doing to early opponents wasn't the normal beating-up of bad opponents. The Noles started slowly at times, but otherwise overwhelmed a bunch of decent teams. Maryland and Pitt aren't amazing, but FSU beat them by a combined 104-13. They spotted Boston College an early 17-3 lead, then cruised, 45-17, the rest of the way.
When the Seminoles traveled to Clemson and took out the third-ranked Tigers, 51-14, the world started to figure out what the numbers were trying to tell them: this team was pretty ridiculous. And while we waited for FSU to randomly struggle on the road, as the Noles have been known to do in previous years, it just never happened. They beat an undefeated Miami team by 27. They beat Wake Forest and Syracuse by a combined 118-6. They beat Florida by 30 in the Swamp. They started slowly against Duke in the ACC title game and still won by 38.
Even though we weren't all willing to see it early on, Florida State has looked like a championship team from basically the first quarter of the first game of the year. Jameis Winston provided an instant upgrade over E.J. Manuel (a first-round Draft pick, by the way), the offensive line got older and meaner, and -- thanks to absurdly good recruiting and development -- the defense absorbed losses up front and on the coaching staff with ease. Former Nick Saban assistant Jeremy Pruitt installed a Saban-esque boa constrictor defense, and FSU has more than taken advantage of its talent.
The Seminoles produced the No. 1 offense and the No. 2 defense in the country, according to the F/+ ratings. Auburn might be a team of destiny -- we'll find out soon enough -- but the most difficult test still remains.