Countdown to Kickoff: 3 Deciding Factors

Who wins the turnover battle?
The great equalizer that’s impossible to predict.  You can certainly spot trends regarding fumbles or forced fumbles, but fumble recovery is luck.  Auburn has fumbled the ball 28 times this season, 5th most in the nation.  Luckily, they’ve recovered many 61% of those, so they’ve only lost 11 fumbles on the year.  Florida State has fumbled just 11 times this season, 4th fewest in the nation.  The Noles have recovered 65% of those, so they’ve only lost 4 fumbles on the year.  Both of those recovery percentages are very high.  Auburn has forced just 9 fumbles on the year, 87th in the nation.  Florida State has forced just 12, 49th in the nation.

Interception wise, Florida State leads the nation with 25, while Auburn has picked off 13 passes which is 53rd in the nation.  Seminole quarterback Jameis Winston has thrown 10 interceptions on the year out of 349 passes (2.8% of his passes).  Tiger quarterback Nick Marshall has thrown 5 interceptions on the year out of 212 passes (2.3% of his passes).

Who manages and overcomes the initial surge of adrenaline?
It’s the biggest game on the biggest stage.  Players are going to be hyped up beyond what they’ve probably ever been before.  That can lead to big, emotional plays.  It can also lead to pressing and losing focus of the task at hand.  Both teams need to manage that surge while at the same time not coming out flat.  Match the emotion and passion of the other team, but not to the detriment of your assignments and techniques.

For example, Timmy Jernigan might be asked to hold the point of attack and not necessarily try and whip his man and get into the backfield.  He has to stay within himself, not try and make the play, but play to assignment.  On the other side of the field, Chris Davis might be asked to jam Kelvin Benjamin.  He has to stay within himself and trust his technique.  If he his over anxious and goes to aggressive, he could whiff leading to a big play.  The quicker a team gets “settled” into the game and focused on the task at hand, the better.

Third Down Conversions
Third downs are going to happen and it’s imperative to continue the drive, particularly in a game with two very good offenses.  Even if points aren’t scored, extended drives give each defense a chance to rest and make in game adjustments.  Both teams are very good at 3rd down defense.  Florida State is 3rd in the nation allowing opponents to convert just 29.74% of the 195 3rd downs they’ve faced.  Auburn is 22nd in the nation allowing opponents to convert just 34.04% of the 188 3rd downs they’ve faced.

Offensively, both teams are also good at converting 3rd downs.  Florida State is 3rd in the nation converting 55.17% of their 145 3rd downs.  Auburn has converted 45.56% of their 169 3rd downs, 27th in the nation.

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