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Driving the Lane: On Auburn

Well, that all worked out very neatly. When Michigan State University knocked off unbeaten Ohio State University in the Big 10 title game, the BCS National Championship game was set. Everyone in the country, except for Lou Holtz, who for some ridiculous reason would still have the No. 3 University of Alabama ranked second, would agree that Southeastern Conference champion No. 2 Auburn University should play undefeated No. 1 Florida State University in the one game to decide it all.

This promises to be quite the incredible football game. I can honestly say that, purely from a football perspective, I’ve never been more excited for a title game. First off, it’s a classic offense-versus-defense matchup. Florida State has the top-ranked scoring defense in the country, although their competition hasn’t exactly been the ’07 New England Patriots. The Seminoles will get the chance to prove themselves against the seemingly unstoppable rushing attack from Auburn. I predict Auburn’s offense will keep on rolling and we are in for a crazy, high-scoring affair.

But the even more intriguing storyline is the contrasting styles of these two offenses. Florida State has your standard high-powered offense operated through the passing game. They are led by the best quarterback in the country, soon-to-be Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.

In today’s game of football, we are programmed to believe that a better quarterback means a better offense. Florida State clearly has that advantage. You have to be able to throw the football to score, right? However, Auburn is changing the game, proving that logic to be completely false.

The Tigers run the football. I mean they almost exclusively run the football. And they don’t just do it in a control-the-clock fashion. They create big, explosive plays out of their running game. And they’ve done it against the top competition. Their rushing totals in the past four games have been staggering, with 444 yards against the University of Tennessee, 323 yards against then-No. 25 University of Georgia, 296 yards against then-No. 1 University of Alabama and an unfathomable 545 rushing yards against then-No. 5 University of Missouri in the SEC title game. And along with those crazy rushing totals, they never rely on throwing the football. Starting quarterback Nick Marshall had fewer than 20 passing attempts in three of the four games.

I’ve never seen anything like this offense in my lifetime. It simply goes against everything I’ve ever learned from watching football. You shouldn’t be able to win without throwing the football. It defies all conventional logic. But that’s exactly what they do. It doesn’t matter if you know the run is coming, they’ll run the ball all day long, and you won’t be able to stop it. Although, it will be interesting to see if Florida State, with all this time off, can come up with a game plan to at least slow down Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn’s offense.

We are in an age where you have to have a good quarterback to run a traditional offense. But with good quarterbacks such a rare commodity, you have to expect that more teams will try to implement the offense that Auburn has perfected. Not only does it lead to amazing results without having to throw the football, it’s incredibly simple. During the broadcast of the SEC Championship Game, the announcers commented on how rarely Auburn fumbles the ball on their handoffs. They speculated that it’s because Marshall isn’t deciding whether to hand the ball off or keep it himself because everything’s predetermined in the huddle, so their offense doesn’t even have the complexities of the read option. They’re simply running the football. Everything is so easy and yet so effective. Sign me up.

Now maybe it won’t really catch on. Maybe it’ll be just another gimmick that isn’t sustainable. Remember when the “Wildcat” offense was the next big thing in the NFL? Remember last year when everyone was talking about how the read option was revolutionizing the game? Neither of those offenses proved to be able to carry a team. You still have to be able to throw the football first and foremost.

This is where Auburn separates themselves from gimmick offenses. This is why I believe that Auburn’s offense is the real deal. They never have to rely on throwing the football. They can run the ball on third and long and realistically expect to pick it up. And they’ve proved it against the best defenses in the country. Now it probably requires an incredible offensive line and receivers that are going to buy in to the fact that they aren’t going to catch a lot of balls. But I strongly feel that if Auburn runs the ball down Florida State’s throat all day long, then a lot more teams are going to try to implement this revolutionary approach to offense. Call me a believer. This has the potential to revolutionize the sport of college football.

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