With a month between games, the BCS National Championship Game is an opportunity for coaches to show just how dialed in they are to both the opponent and their own team.
When the Seminoles take the field against the Auburn Tigers, Jimbo Fisher, and the tremendous staff he's assembled, will get a chance to show why they are the most underrated commodity in the BCS Championship.
On the Auburn side of things, Gus Malzahn is widely considered a genius, and rightfully so. He's put together a phenomenal system that utilizes his pieces well and elevated a team with three wins in 2012 to a 12-1, SEC Champion and BCS Championship team in 2013. He's found a way to turn a hapless offense into a potent rushing attack, led by a quarterback who did not get to campus until the end of June.
Malzahn deserves praise, but Jimbo Fisher should also get some love. First of all, it must be acknowledged that Fisher did not just continue Bobby Bowden's success. The program Fisher built at Florida State only resembles Bowden's group thanks to the uniforms. This is, unequivocally, the team he put together.
In fact, if one is looking for a comparison, it is not the past Florida State teams, but rather, the modern Alabama squads that Fisher's team favors. Which is why the Sunday to Friday prep has been phenomenal for the Seminoles and that pregame success will continue during the bowl layoff.
That prep success stems from Fisher's mentor, Nick Saban, who is arguably the best coach in college football. Self-scouting and working to break tendencies, while presenting a game plan that taxes the opponent, is a Saban staple. Now Fisher, with a staff loaded with other Saban disciples, gets to show just how ready his staff is to prove Malzahn is not the only coach worth celebrating in this ballgame.
On offense, it starts with Fisher and his talented weapons. The head coach calls the plays, and while Malzahn gets celebrated for setting his team up, the Seminoles have the more multi-faceted attack. Look for Jimbo to work the run and the pass to expose Auburn's defense. Although the Tigers have a solid defensive line rotation, watch for Fisher to try and limit its substitutions by working tempo at times and keeping his 11 personnel package in the game to run and throw.
The Seminoles offense, which gets a lot of praise for being talented, but none for being well-schemed or for the play calls, will have to show up big against Auburn's vulnerable defense. While quarterback Jameis Winston will draw the celebration, Fisher still makes things go with his decisions and how he's prepared his unit to succeed.
On defense, the Seminoles will get a shot to prove that Jeremy Pruitt, the defensive coordinator, is ready to match wits with Malzahn. As has been discussed here, look for Pruitt to work to make Auburn uncomfortable. Discomfort, for the Tigers, of course means throwing the football.
Although Nick Marshall has a very strong arm and boasts a completion percentage of 60.4, the fact is, Auburn's quarterback has not shown consistency pushing the ball down the field. Pruitt is going to load up the box and make Marshall beat him through the air. He will make the genius that is Gus Malzahn prove to the nation that he can adjust and beat a team that dares him to throw the football.
Fisher and Pruitt bring some elite-level football minds to the table, and this final edition of the BCS National Championship Game is far more than just the "Gus Malzahn is a Genius" show. The Seminoles have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball, but a win on Monday night will be as much about coaches putting them in a position to succeed as the athletes carrying out the plan.
Fisher and his staff give the Seminoles the edge. Those men on the sideline and in the booth are why Florida State's been phenomenal all season, and the Seminoles' prep for the title game should be no different.
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