Why Auburn has to Prepare for Florida State Like They Would Against Peyton Manning

Jeff Gammons

The efficiency and potency of the Florida State offense is no mystery, but stopping it is easier said than done.

I'm sure - at least initially - it seems weird to bring Peyton Manning into a conversation about the BCS National Championship between two teams that have no ties with Manning, but bear with me for a second.

When one thinks of football and efficiency in the same sentence, Peyton Manning should be, and probably is the first name that comes to mind for most of us. And rightfully so. The man has made a career in the NFL doing pretty much whatever he wants to do, making stars out of skill players that may not have shined so brightly with any other quarterback. But I digress.

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I guess the question that many have attempted to answer is, how do you stop such an efficient offense?

In short, you don't.

But that doesn't mean you can't win against a team with an offense like that. When game-planning, your first thought should be how to keep that offense off the field, and less about finding a way to stop them. Because you can't and won't.

Manning Winston
Efficiency TD every 8.18 completions TD every 6.24 completions
Yards per completion 12.17 16.12
Rating 115.1 190.1
Completion percentage 68.3 67.9
Attempts on Season 659 349
Attempts per game 41.2 26.85

Florida State's offense executes in a similar fashion to those led by Peyton Manning. And while I'm not necessarily here to make comparisons between Peyton Manning and Jameis Winston - because that would be moronic and unfair to a sophomore in college - Winston has proven to be as efficient as anyone to take snaps under center.

And my god, the weapons. The Heisman Trophy winner has an arsenal at his disposal in what I consider to be the best receiving corps in the nation with Greene, Benjamin, Shaw and O'Leary. Then add a backfield of craftiness, bruising power and electric speed in Freeman, Wilder and Williams, and what are you supposed to do as an opposing defense? Well, I guess you can proceed to bend over and take if you allow them to spend 30+ minutes on the field.

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The Denver Broncos have three losses on the year, one of which was Peyton's bizarre return trip to Indianapolis and another was to a last second drive from a fellow future first ballot Hall of Famer in Tom Brady. But the third - the one that should be running nonstop in every AFC organization's film room - was the loss against the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers managed to control the ball for 17:38 longer than the Broncos, therefore keeping Peyton Manning and his offense off the field. They controlled the clock, they ran the ball effectively and they still only managed to win by a single touchdown. But they won.

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If Auburn's going to beat Florida State on Monday, they'll have to take a similar approach. And yes, Auburn's strength is easily their ability to run the ball. But no matter how many times someone wants to preach the win against Alabama, the Florida State defense is better. And yeah, I'm also aware that the game against Boston College raised, and for some reason still raises eyebrows about FSU's run defense; but it shouldn't. Pieces were moved for the better with Christian Jones moving up to the edge replacing a then struggling Dan Hicks, which allowed room for Terrance Smith at linebacker. The Boston College game was only the fourth of the season for a defense in a brand new scheme, too. They have since played and won nine football games, and the first team defense has still not allowed a rushing touchdown. While I think Auburn will be the first team to do so, I damn sure don't think they'll run it down FSU's throat all willy-nilly. That's just not going to happen.

Florida State has been the best team in the country all season long. Its Heisman Trophy winning quarterback has thrown for 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns, adding a completion percentage of 67.9. The Noles also have three receivers within 71 yards or less from reaching the 1,000 yard mark. And a running back in Devonta Freeman that needs just 57 yards to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark, too.

You can't just take away one piece of this offense and expect that to make a difference because there are too many weapons. You have to keep the offense off the field. Period. When an offense like Florida State's is backed by the nation's top defense, that's easier said than done.

The Auburn Tigers can be explosive, but Florida State is the most explosive team in the country and they've proven that throughout the season. The Tigers do not want to get involved in a shootout with the Noles because the FSU defense will make more stops, therefore leading to an eventual loss for the Tigers.

We all know the drill by now. They're going to try and pressure Winston; it won't work. They'll try and drop defenders; the FSU run game will prevail. They'll try to win the game by stopping the Florida State offense, but that's not how they'll win this game.

If Auburn wants to celebrate as National Champions on Monday, its offense will have to be consistently slow and methodical against the Florida State defense, chipping away at the clock to keep the Florida State offense off the field. Explosive, quick scores won't do it. But if the Seminoles possess the ball for more than 30 minutes on Monday, the Crystal Ball will be making its way back to Tallahassee.

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