Jan. 2, 2014
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Auburn’s football team is on its third day in California, and it has practiced one time so far since arriving. Ah, BCS Championship Game week.
There was a welcome press conference and outing Tuesday night, practice Wednesday morning and a trip to see the Los Angeles Clippers play Wednesday night. Today starts a run of press conferences involving coaches and players that will continue through the rest of the week.
It’s all stuff that, I promise you, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher would be much happier to do without. It’s a sometimes uncomfortable mix of a bowl game atmosphere, a media extravaganza and the biggest college football game of the season.
Auburn carries the banner for the Southeastern Conference and the state of Alabama, which have put together streaks that will likely never be equaled. The SEC has won seven consecutive BCS national championships. This is the fifth consecutive championship game that has included a team from the state of Alabama.
Both streaks will end, but nobody wants to be the team that brings them to an end.
Florida State, like every other program outside of the SEC, is tired of hearing about the SEC’s dominance. So was Notre Dame and Oregon and Texas and Ohio State and on and on. National types took to Twitter to praise the Big Ten for winning two out of four games on Wednesday, even as they SEC ran its bowl record to 5-1. Alabama is likely to make it 6-1 tonight against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
That’s all good for discussion or even arguing, but it won’t have any impact on what happens Monday night.
Auburn and Florida State will, in some ways, play in the game that will mark the end of an era. The four-team playoff starts next year, and it will no longer be called the BCS. Chances are, if the playoff had been in effect this season, No. 1 Florida State would have played No. 4 Michigan State and No. 2 Auburn would have faced a rematch with No. 3 Alabama.
But all that can wait.
If Auburn is to give the SEC its eighth consecutive national championship, it will have to find a way to get enough pressure on Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston to make him uncomfortable. Even if that happens, the Tigers are going to need a big night on offense, which means a big night from quarterback Nick Marshall and running back Tre Mason.
If Florida State is to break the SEC’s streak, it must contain Auburn’s running game and avoid giving up big plays in the effort.
Chances are, it will come down to what most big games come down to. Who can run the ball? Who can stop the run? Who can avoid or limit turnovers?
But the day of reckoning is still five days away. First, players and coaches will answer dozens of questions, most of which won’t mean much and some of which will make no sense at all. They’ll work hard to prepare for the biggest game of which most of them will ever be a part.
And they’ll have stories to tell their children and grandchildren about the year Auburn and Florida State, 200 miles apart in the eastern United States, went all the way to Pasadena, Calif., to decide who was the best team in college football.
And don’t be deceived by propaganda. The team that wins Monday night will be the best team in college football. Most talented? Look prettiest in their uniforms? Most All-Americans? Most popular coach? Most draft choices? Not necessarily.
Just the best.
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: