Auburn LT Greg Robinson vs FSU DE Mario Edwards Jr.
Auburn LT Greg Robinson is arguably the top lineman for the Tigers. At 6’5″ 305 lbs, he’s not the biggest left tackle in the nation, but he’s an excellent player that even has an outside shot of going in the 1st round in the NFL Draft. He’ll be matched up against one of the top run defenders at defensive end in the nation with Mario Edwards Jr. Edwards is a big defensive end at 6’4″ 277 lbs, but is actually down from 290+ last season. He is strong and agile and excellent at setting the edge.
Auburn RB Tre Mason vs FSU LB Telvin Smith
Florida State linebacker Telvin Smith is undersized 6’3″ 218 lbs. He makes up for it with excellent anticipation and closing speed. Most importantly, Smith is a solid tackler that goes for the sure tackle over the big hit. He leads the Seminoles in tackles this year and plays very well sideline to sideline cleaning up when the FSU interior strings plays to the outside. Tre Mason is a Heisman finalist and deservedly so. Mason has excellent vision and patience to find the hole and then the speed and power to finish the run. When these two converge, the winner will make a big difference in Auburn’s ability to consistently move the chains.
Auburn WR Sammie Coates vs FSU CB Ronald Darby
Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates is the big play wide receiver for Auburn. Coates is 2nd in the nation in yards per catch at 22.13 yards. He has 14 catches on the season of 30+ yards which is 3rd most in the country. He is a big, physical receiver at 6’2″ 200 lbs and has good speed. Probably his best trait, however, are his ball skills and body control in going after the pass. It’s not a guarantee that he’ll be matched up with Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby, but Darby is probably the best pure cover corner for the Noles. Darby was almost nonexistent through much of the season simply taking away one side of the field. This is despite the fact that he was slowed at the beginning of the year due to off season surgery. He is finally close to 100% and his ability to match up one-on-one with Coates will be key in allowing FSU to bring an extra defender into the box if necessary.
FSU TE Nick O’Leary vs Auburn LB Cassanova McKinzy
Florida State tight end Nick O’Leary is one of the top tight ends in the nation and finished as one of three finalist for the John Mackey Award. O’Leary has good speed and agility for a tight end, runs good routes, and has excellent hands. He has 33 catches on the year for 557 yards and 7 touchdowns. He is often lined up against opposing teams linebackers due to the Noles having 3 very good wide receivers on the field at most times. Cassanova McKinzy, Auburn’s weak side linebacker, will be the one matched up with O’Leary most likely. McKinzy is big at 6’3″ 246 lbs. He doesn’t possess great one on one coverage skills, and this matchup is one that FSU might be able to exploit.
FSU LT Cameron Erving vs Auburn DE Dee Ford
Auburn defensive end Dee Ford is the Tigers best pure pass rusher. He leads Auburn with 8.5 sacks on the year and 17 quarterback hurries. At 6’2″ 240 lbs, Ford is primality a speed rusher. A 1st Team All-SEC selection, Ford will need to get pressure on FSU quarterback Jameis Winston to slow the Seminoles passing attack. If Auburn is forced to bring the blitz, FSU has proven to be very successful against blitzing teams this year. Florida State left tackle Cameron Erving is a USA Today and SI 1st Team All-American and the Jacobs Trophy winner as the top lineman in the ACC. Erving has very good this year for the Noles and is a possible early entree into the NFL. Against the most similar end he’s faced, Clemson’s Vic Beasley (6’2″ 235 lbs, 12 sacks), Erving had a excellent day shutting out the undersized, fast end. If Erving is able to have similar success, the Noles will have an easier time passing.
FSU WR Kelvin Benjamin vs Auburn CB Chris Davis
Auburn cornerback Chris Davis is the top cover corner for Auburn. While he doesn’t have an interception on the year, Davis leads Auburn with 13 passes broken up. Davis is a 2nd Teams All-SEC selection by the Coaches and AP writers. At 5’11″ 200 lbs, Davis has average size for a corner. He’ll possibly be matched up with Florida State wide-receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin is a monstrous 6’5″ 236 lbs wide out with excellent speed and agility for his size. Benjamin has really come on in the last couple games with a 9 catch 212 yard, 3 touchdown performance against Florida and a 5 catch 119 yard, 2 touchdown performance against Duke. Given Auburn’s propensity this season to give up big games to big wide receivers (6 catches 178 yards to Alabama’s Amari Cooper, 6 catches, 144 yards to Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham), this is an important matchup for Auburn to slow down the Florida State passing attack.