The Seminoles haven’t defeated opponents this season -- “bludgeoned” might be more appropriate. The nation’s top-ranked team averages 53 points a contest. Defensively, it permits just 10.7. No team has been able to stand toe-to-toe with the Seminoles. Florida State’s closest game was still decided by two touchdowns, as it went on the road and beat Boston College 48-34.
What’s more, the Seminoles’ have routinely wrapped up games by halftime, outpacing opponents by nearly 300 points — 369-72 — in the first half.
Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson knows his unit has to be on point from the get-go Monday night.
“They can look average at times and have 21 points on the board,” Johnson said. “They've got great athletes that make big plays at important times. We do need to start well. We cannot get in a big, deep hole with a team that's this good and expect to come back and win.”
What’s the key to trying to slow down an offense that hasn’t scored fewer than 37 points in any game?
Easy — make the quarterback a non-factor. The problem, of course, is that it’s always easier said than done.
And it doesn't help matters when that quarterback also happens to be the Heisman Trophy winner. In addition, Winston has a trio of wide receivers -- Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw -- who each have at least 929 receiving yards.
“When you think about Jameis Winston, there's not one thing,” Johnson said. “He can make any throw on the field. I think he's a great leader and a tremendous leader for a young player. … And the other thing is, his mobility, when he doesn't make that throw, his mobility just puts you in a very tough situation when he gets out of the pocket.”
If the Tigers can keep Winston in the pocket — and more importantly, get to him with regularity — they believe everything else won't matter nearly as much.
“I think pressure makes any quarterback pretty average,” senior defensive end Dee Ford said. “I think it's just the nature of the game. If you can put pressure on the quarterback, that's just what happens.”
Auburn’s defense thinks it has a silver bullet, though.
While Johnson concedes his unit will give up points, he’s confident Auburn’s offense will be able to pick up the slack.
“I think our offense will give us an opportunity not to have to play uphill all day long like most teams have against them,” he said, “and maybe we can play downhill a little bit and see what that does.”