The Auburn Tigers will try and make it eight straight for the SEC -- and five straight for the State of Alabama -- Monday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena when they take on the unbeaten and top-ranked Florida State Seminoles. Kickoff is set for a little past 8:30 PM (ET) with the self-anointed Worldwide Leader In Sports providing the broadcast, along with all the diarrhea of the mouth their commentators can spew.
If the college football odds are any indication, the trend of double-digit scoreboard winners just might continue while the SEC's run comes to an end. The Seminoles are favored by 8.5, that spread down a point since it was first released nearly a month ago.
Series history says the odds are wrong; Auburn owns a decided 13-4-1 advantage going back to a 33-0 whitewashing in the first gridiron contest between the schools in 1954, FSU's first campaign as a Div-I squad. But Florida State has the 3-1 edge in recent meetings, if you can call nearly a quarter-century ago recent, so matchup history should probably be thrown right out of the window.
Will The Magic Continue For Auburn?
There's no questioning the job Gus Malzahn and his staff have done getting the Auburn football program turned around pronto. Turning a team coming off a 3-win season into a conference contender is accomplishment enough, much less a national title contender. And there's no questioning how well the Tigers provided for their backers, besting the spread in 11 of 13 games, a perfect 5-0 ATS as underdogs.
But we also can't help notice it took a lot of magic along the way for Auburn to reach this point. The final two regular season games illustrate that best, the tipped pass in the last half-minute to beat Georgia and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown to stun two-time defending national champion Alabama as the clock expired.
Of course, as the late great Branch Rickey said, "Luck is the residue of design." And Malzahn sure has designed schemes and strategies to get the most out of his team.
Start with the top running game in the nation. Nick Marshall and a very talented trio of running backs get all the glory and stats running and throwing behind a very good offensive line. As strong and prevalent as the ground game is, it would be a mistake to call the offense one-dimensional, especially when wide receiver Sammie Coates is on the turf.
How Will Winston, 'Noles React If Game is Close?
You also can't argue with the job Jimbo Fisher and his crew did in Tallahassee this season. Florida State officials obviously liked what they saw after giving Fisher a new 5-year contract worth a reported $21 million following a perfect 13-0 run through the schedule. The Seminoles head into the championship -- their 32nd straight bowl appearance -- with the toughest defense to score on (10.7 ppg), the second-most prolific offense (53.0 ppg) and a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback.
But while we don't have any questions about how FSU got here, one question we do have is what happens if the Seminoles actually find themselves in a close ballgame? Florida State's narrowest victory in 2013 was a 48-34 win at Boston College near the end of September, a game in which the 'Noles rallied from an early 14-point hole, and four games against ranked opponents saw FSU cruise by a combined 200-35 margin!
Florida State definitely has the defense to at least slow, if not stuff, Auburn's ground game and Jameis Winston has the arm and receivers that can exploit a rather pedestrian Auburn pass defense. The Tigers secondary might also be without senior safety Ryan White who remains questionable due to a concussion, and that could prove to be a double-whammy on the Tigers since White is also the holder for placekicker Cody Parkey.
Malzahn, Marshall and the Tigers might still have one bit of magic left in their bag, but I'll go with Winston and the FSU defense for my free college football pick. While you're hanging around at SBRforum.com, make sure to check out my take on the right side of the total to wager in the BCS Championship.
My pick: Florida State -8.5