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Sunday, January 5, 2014
Top stats to know: BCS Championship

By ESPN Stats & Information

What are the top stats to know heading into Monday’s BCS National Championship Game?

Auburn looking to continue a streak
Auburn can secure the SEC’s eighth consecutive national title and give the conference 10 of the 16 BCS championships. It can also win the fifth straight national title for the state of Alabama.


Having beaten No. 1 Alabama and No. 5 Missouri in its previous two games, Auburn has a chance to become the first team in college football history to win three consecutive games against top-5 teams.

The past two teams to play three games in a row against top-5 opponents, Oklahoma in 1984 and Colorado in 2001, both won two straight to end the regular season and then lost a January bowl game.

Auburn can also become the first team since BYU in 1984 to win the AP national title after being unranked in the preseason poll. The Tigers appeared on no preseason ballots in either the AP or the coaches' poll.

Auburn is the first BCS title game participant to have had a losing record the previous season.

The Tigers were 3-9 a year ago, and if they win this game, they will complete the greatest improvement from one season to the next in NCAA major-college history. Hawaii holds the record at 8.5 games, improving from 0-12 in 1998 to 9-4 in 1999 (the calculation is the same as determining games back in the standings for MLB or NBA). Auburn’s improvement from last season is currently 8.5 games (3-9 to 12-1).

Auburn has won this season with a dominant ground game, as the image below shows.

Illustration by Trevor Ebaugh

Running the table in dominant fashion
Florida State can become only the third team since 1950 to win all of its games by at least 14 points. The last to do it was Utah in 2004. The other was national champion Nebraska in 1995.

Not only has Florida State not had an opponent get within single digits in the final 20 minutes of a game all season, but the Seminoles also haven’t trailed at any point in a game since September. The last FSU deficit came more than three months ago: Sept. 28 at Boston College.

The Seminoles trailed that game up until 1:49 left in the second quarter, when Chad Abram caught a 10-yard TD pass to tie the game. Since then, Florida State has played 571:49 of football and has been tied or had a lead the entire time.

Illustration by Trevor Ebaugh

Winston and the historic combo
Florida State’s Jameis Winston can become just the third quarterback since 1950 to go undefeated with a national championship and a Heisman Trophy all in the same season.

The two to do it were USC’s Matt Leinart in 2004 and Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010.

Only one sophomore or freshman starting quarterback has ever won the BCS National Championship Game, and that was AJ McCarron as a sophomore for Alabama in the 2011 season.

Winston can become the first freshman to win it.

Auburn likes to keep it close
If the game is close in the fourth quarter, that would not only be uncharted territory for Florida State this season, but it also would be right in Auburn’s comfort zone. The Tigers are 6-0 this season in one-possession games (decided by 8 or fewer points) and are 17-3 in those games over the past four seasons. Both of those marks are best in the FBS.

Auburn’s weakness
By yards allowed per play, the Tigers (5.96) have the worst defense of the 144 teams that have ever participated in a BCS game (next worst was the 1999 Stanford team that entered the Rose Bowl allowing 5.81 yards per play).

FSU’s question
If there’s one question about Florida State, it’s whether the Seminoles’ lofty numbers are the product of a weak schedule. FSU’s regular-season schedule strength ranking is the worst for any team in the BCS title game in the past 10 seasons.

Defense key in SEC wins
Defense has been the one constant throughout the SEC’s success in national championship games, especially defense in the first half. The 10 SEC teams that have played in the BCS National Championship Game have allowed a total of seven first-half touchdowns (one came on a kickoff return, and another on a 2-yard drive after a blocked punt) and given up an average of 7.3 points over the first two quarters.

The coaches
This is only the third BCS National Championship Game with both coaches seeking their first national title. It also happened to end the 2001 season with Larry Coker (Miami) against Frank Solich (Nebraska) and to end the 2010 season with Gene Chizik (Auburn) against Chip Kelly (Oregon).

The winner of this game will join LSU as the only other program to win a national championship with two different head coaches during the BCS era.

If Auburn wins, it will be just the second team in the poll era (since 1936) to win national titles in a four-year span with different head coaches. Miami did it in 1987 (Jimmy Johnson) and ’89 (Dennis Erickson).

Tigers coach Gus Malzahn could become just the fourth coach in the poll era (since 1936) to win a national championship in his first season at a school. The last was Coker in 2001.

More reading
For our coverage of Auburn's unstoppable running game, click here.

For our breakdown of Florida State's dominant season, check out last week's article here.

Did You Know: No. 2 often turns out to be No. 1
The No. 2 team in the final BCS standings has won eight of the past 11 national championship games.