BCS National Championship Preview

The stage has been set for a while now for the BCS Championship game on January 6th, 2014. This years game features two teams that I doubt anyone thought would make it this far when the season started. They’ve both got to the championship game in unique fashion. Florida State has been dominant much of the season and caught the nations eye in prime time in a blow out over Clemson on October 19th winning the game 51-14. It was never in doubt for the Seminoles at any point through the game. Auburn on the other hand as needed a few “what some would call miracles” to get to the big game. They caught a last second touchdown against Georgia on November 16th and then we all know about the FG return for a touchdown against Alabama on November 30th. Let’s take a look at what makes these teams who they are and what they need to do to win the big game.

Auburn is the champion of the SEC which many people would argue as the toughest conference in college football. They needed a few plays to go their way this year, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get to the big game. They are led by quarterback Nick Marshall and Heisman finalist Tre Mason. Mason exploded for 304 yards in the Tigers last game against Missouri and will need to have a big game again if they want to bring home the title. Mason is the leading rusher on an Auburn team that ran the ball 72% of the time this year. The Seminoles know this and have one of the best defenses in the country, and will be ready for the Auburn rushing attack. if Auburn wants to win this game the big plays will come from quarterback Nick Marshall. Marshall has done a good job of controlling the football and not making mistakes as he’s only thrown 5 interceptions all year and will need to avoid adding to that total for Auburn to win.

Florida St has a completely different story as they have an average margin of victory of 41.8 points on the year. The defense allowed the fewest points per game of any team in the country and deserve just as much credit as the offense in getting the Noles to the championship. They are led on offense by quarterback Jameis Winston who totaled up 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns this year and will cause problems all day for Auburn. Auburn like Flordia St thought is well coached and has had plenty of time to come up with a game plan to control Winston. The stats for Winston are probably misleading as Florida St actually ran the ball more than they passed it this year. Florida St’s offense was also ranked 1st in the nation in points scored, so it’s not wonder with the best defense and offense they were able to put up that margin of victory.

My prediction is I believe this game will be closer than the 41.8 margin of victory the Seminoles have had this year, but in the end they are probably the better football team. The magic in Auburn runs out as Florida St wins this one 42-31 as they score a late touchdown to put the game away.

How One Coaching Hire is Changing the Culture of a SEC Football Schoool

The Kentucky Wildcats finished the 2012 football season with a record of 2-10 and went 0-8 in the SEC, which led to the firing of head coach Joker Phillips. Kentucky hasn’t traditionally been a football school, but the buzz is high for the 2013 season and beyond. The casual fan is probably laughing and thinking, “How can they be optimistic about next year.” It’s simple, one coaching hire has changed the face of Kentucky football for the future and a game hasn’t even been played. Mark Stoops was hired November 27th, 2012 to lead the Wildcats football program and basically change the culture surrounding it.

Mark StoopsMark Stoops comes to Kentucky after 17 seasons as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator at the collegiate level. He spent the last 3 years rebuilding a Florida State defense that had fallen off its once highly touted level. Stoops drew national media attention when he was hired by saying that he believes the Kentucky football program can win an SEC Title. The Wildcats have embraced Stoops as a leader on and off the field, as an estimated 50,000 fans packed into the Commonwealth Stadium to watch the Kentucky Spring game. Kentucky was lucky to get that many fans to its biggest games at home in previous years. The question many people outside of Kentucky wonder is what’s all the hype about? What is Stoops doing to get fans excited?

The type of recruits Stoops is landing for Kentucky surrounds the hype. Even though the team has yet to take the field for a real game, Stoops is saying all the right things. Stoops brought in the 36th ranked football-recruiting class in America according to ESPN. Many fans in Kentucky are not used to seeing guys like this commit to Kentucky Football. The start came when highly recruited defensive end Jason Hatcher from Louisville, KY de-committed from USC, and decided to come to Kentucky. The Wildcats were able to take a player right out of their own rival’s backyard, the Louisville Cardinals, and take away a recruit from the Trojans; something that many people would have never thought possible. The recruiting hoopla created by Stoops has not stopped with his 2013 class, as the hype is already building for what will probably be Kentucky’s best ever recruiting class in 2014.

Stoops has currently recruited the #2 class in America for 2014, which is insane to think they are only behind Texas A&M in recruiting. It’s early and Kentucky will likely move down, but this is uncharted territory for recruiting at Kentucky. Kentucky coaches have built excitement with the fan base now as they are getting commitments by taking to their twitter accounts and shouting “Yahtzee.” This might seem hokey to fans of schools with recent success, but for Kentucky it’s about building excitement for a program that has been in the gutter of the SEC for quite some time.

Stoops has only been at Kentucky for about 6 months, and already the program has changed for what many expect to be the better. Can Kentucky win an SEC Title? Who knows, we’ve yet to see the Stoops-led Wildcats take the field. The record probably won’t reflect greatness over the course of next season. It’s going to take time to turn around the football program.  The bottom line is what Stoops has done at UK so far is flat-out amazing for a fan base that many thought had given up on football.

Twitter: @MattBell211