Biggest Title Game Question: Can Auburn Keep It Close?

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All season long Florida State has dominated opponents, winning every game this year by 14 or more points.

Meanwhile just about every game Auburn’s played has left its fans nervous. Whether it was week one against Washington State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, or the miracles against Georgia and Alabama.

All could have easily been Auburn losses.  

If things had gone bad for Auburn down the stretch, we’re talking about a team that could be 5-7 on the season. Forget about playing for the BCS title, Auburn wasn’t that far away from not playing in a bowl game at all. 

If you’re trying to figure out why Las Vegas has gone 2-11 against the spread on Auburn’s game this season, this is the reason why — because Vegas sees how close Auburn has been to losing a ton of ball games and doesn’t believe the Tigers are very good.

That’s logical to a point, but it also misses a substantial detail — Auburn’s gotten better each week and those near losses have instilled a strong inner will, the Tigers believe they will win every game.  

With each of those close wins has come the confidence that arises from winning tight ball games. All season long Auburn’s been playing games in a proverbial phone booth, with no real separation between it and an opponent. There’s rarely been time to exult and celebrate victory. Certainly, Auburn’s players never broke out the dry erase board on the sideline to play hangman.

Unlike Florida State, who has just one final ranking top 25 BCS win all season, against #12 Clemson, Auburn has four top 25 wins — Alabama, Missouri, Texas A&M, and Georgia.    

Florida State has a great deal of swagger and confidence, but what it doesn’t have is much experience making plays against good teams in pressure-packed situations. That’s because FSU has dominated everyone all season long, making the fourth quarters of its games leisurely gaming pursuits more than white-knuckled thrill rides.

If you want to make a sporting analogy, FSU’s 2013 team is a lot like Mike Tyson back in the 1980’s, nasty and invincible, totally unchallenged by the competition.

Maybe FSU will show up in the BCS title game and destroy Auburn, ending all doubt about who is the better team by the third quarter. 

Could that happen?


Will it?

I don’t think so.

For me the question isn’t so much whether or not Auburn can win, it’s whether or not Auburn can keep the game close. Because I think if Auburn keeps it close the Tigers will find a way to win the game. We know that Auburn can win close football games, the SEC-tested Tigers expect to make plays in tight games to win. Do we know that about Florida State?


Jameis Winston has been stellar all season. But when has he been forced to make a play with the game on the line? When has he had the ball in his hands and had to have a touchdown? When has a win or a loss come down to a single play?

Never in his college football career.

Winston’s unflappable and talented, but he doesn’t have any experience in close games. He’s still just a redshirt freshman. Sooner or later he’s going to have a bad game. Sooner or later another team will match his Seminoles score for score.

What then?

That’s why the story of this game is simple — either Florida State wins big or Auburn finds a way to win.

Ultimately, I think the Tigers do what they’ve done all season — find a way to win.

A Tiger win would also pull off the inconceivable — all five BCS games would be won by the underdog.

That’s never happened before.

Come late Monday night, it will be reality.

And the Auburn Tigers will be hoisting the crystal ball heavenward for an 8th straight SEC national title.    

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.