ACC: Montravius Adams

Editor’s note: Each day this week, Florida State reporter David M. Hale and Auburn reporter Greg Ostendorf will preview a position battle in next Monday’s VIZIO BCS National Championship. The first matchup is between Florida State’s offensive line and Auburn’s defensive line.

Florida State’s offensive line: The five starters on the line for Florida State are all NFL prospects. The group is led by senior center Bryan Stork, a first-team AP All-America selection. Tackle Cameron Erving and guard Tre' Jackson were first-team All-ACC selections.

The group excels at run-blocking, and Florida State topped 2,600 yards and 40 touchdowns on the ground for a second consecutive season. Factoring out yards lost to sacks, FSU is rushing for more yards per carry against FBS teams this season than Auburn.

The question — if there is one — for Floirida State is in its pass protection. The Seminoles have allowed a sack on 6.7 percent of passing attempts, which ranks 83rd nationally, and 13 of the 29 sacks allowed have came in the last five games.

While those numbers might be a cause for concern against an stout Auburn defensive front (28 sacks, tied for third in SEC), two factors mitigate any perceived struggles.

For one, teams have blitzed Florida State often in hopes of rattling quarterback Jameis Winston, as 36 percent of his throws come against the blitz. Occasionally they’ve gotten to him, with 12 sacks when rushing five or more defenders, according to ESPN Stats & Info. More often, however, he burns them. Winston is completing 71 percent of his passes against the blitz, with 20 TDs and three interceptions.

The second issue is Winston’s desire to complete the deep ball. The redshirt freshman won the Heisman Trophy by being aggressive, but he admits there are times he needs to check down and get rid of the ball quicker rather than asking his line to hold blocks for a few extra seconds. The payoff to the approach, however, has been an array of big plays. Winston leads the nation in yards per attempt (10.9) and only LSU’s Zach Mettenberger has a higher percentage of completions gain 15 yards or more than Winston (43 percent). Winston is tough against pressure, completing 62 percent of his throws when hit or hurried — nearly double the average for a quarterback from a BCS automatic-qualifying conference. Even getting him into third-and-long situations doesn’t help much; he’s an absurd 16-of-21 with 15 first downs on third-and-10 or longer.

Auburn’s defensive line: When Auburn last won the national championship in 2010, it had an above-average defense, but it was a defense that featured a dominant front line with All-American defensive tackle Nick Fairley and veterans Antoine Carter, Zach Clayton and Mike Blanc. The 2010 Tigers also had highly-touted freshman defensive end Corey Lemonier, who is now a rookie with the San Francisco 49ers.

[+] EnlargeCarl Lawson
AP Photo/Todd J. Van EmstAuburn freshman Carl Lawson had four sacks this season.
This year’s Auburn team is similar. The defense has struggled at times this season, but its strength is up front on the defensive line.

The star is defensive end Dee Ford, who leads the team with 8.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and 17 quarterback hurries. A senior, Ford missed the first two games with an injury but has since recorded a sack in seven of Auburn’s last 11 games. He’s a different type of animal than Fairley, but an animal nonetheless.

The rest of the line also has its share of veterans with senior Nosa Eguae and juniors Gabe Wright, LaDarius Owens and Ben Bradley. Eguae, who moved inside to tackle midway through the season, started in the 2010 BCS title game.

And then there are the freshmen. The trio of Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel is as good a collection of young defensive linemen as there is in college football. Lawson, the nation’s No. 2 player coming out of high school in the 2013 recruiting class, leads the group with four sacks.

Fairley was dominant in the 2010 game as Auburn’s defensive line controlled the line against a smaller, quicker Oregon team. That likely won’t be the case this time around against a Florida State offensive line that’s much stronger and much more impressive, but the key to stopping the Seminoles will still begin and end with the front four. Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will rely on his line to get pressure on Winston, knowing how good the Heisman Trophy winner has been against the blitz this season.

Hale: Edge to Florida State

Ostendorf: Toss-up

ACC recruiting primer

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
7:00
AM ET
ESPN RecruitingNation has signing day covered. Follow ESPNU’s coverage, chat with analysts and get breaking news on our Signing Day Live page beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET through 7 p.m. ET. For more on what to expect on signing day, check out the ACC conference breakdown Insider.

Bold prediction: Virginia Tech will climb back toward the top of the conference after signing a strong 2013 class.

Boston College
Biggest need: Playmakers at running back.
Biggest recruit: Three-star athlete Myles Willis will make the transition from high school option quarterback to running back for Steve Addazio’s spread offense.

Clemson
Biggest need: Playmakers on defense.
Biggest recruit: While the Tigers’ chances at four-star prospect Montravius Adams are slipping, there are some quality recruits on board, including ESPN 150 defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko.

Duke
Biggest need: Defensive backs for the 4-2-5 package.
Biggest recruit: Three-star cornerback Evrett Edwards should be able to come in and play early.

Florida State
Biggest need: Offensive linemen and front-seven depth.
Biggest recruit: Florida State lost ESPN 150 offensive lineman Austin Golson a week ago and has been frantically trying to get him to recommit.

Georgia Tech
Biggest need: Team speed.
Biggest recruit: Several options here, but three-star wide receiver Ricky Jeune should find a spot on the field quickly.

Maryland
Biggest need: Playmakers and depth.
Biggest recruit: Junior college wide receiver Deon Long should be able to line up across from Stefon Diggs and give the Terps another major vertical threat.

Miami
Biggest need: Run-stopping defenders.
Biggest recruit: Five-star prospect Matthew Thomas is the most coveted prospect in the eyes of Hurricanes fans, but four-star defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick fits an even bigger need.

North Carolina
Biggest need: Playmakers on defense.
Biggest recruit: At the top of the class are two ESPN 150 prospects in cornerback Brian Walker and defensive tackle Greg Webb. Both will get early looks.

North Carolina State
Biggest need: Athletes for spread offense.
Biggest recruit: Three-star wide receiver Johnathan Alston leads a very good class of skill players.

Pittsburgh
Biggest need: Speed on offense.
Biggest recruit: Four-star offensive lineman Dorian Johnson is one of the best in the nation.

Syracuse
Biggest need: Quality depth on defense.
Biggest recruit: Junior college linebacker Luke Arciniega has the potential to be a big-time contributor in the fall.

Virginia
Biggest need: Defensive backs.
Biggest recruit: ESPN 150 running back Taquan Mizzell and four-star defensive back Tim Harris are two players to watch early.

Virginia Tech
Biggest need: Team speed on defense.
Biggest recruit: ESPN 150 prospect Kendall Fuller leads one of Frank Beamer’s best classes.

Wake Forest
Biggest need: Playmakers on defense.
Biggest recruit: Four-star linebacker Lance Virgile is the sort of physical presence Wake Forest’s defense will need in the future.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ACC SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12