Florida State Seminoles: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Recruiting the right quarterback means a tremendous amount to every college football program.

In the Class of 2015, the race has been on for months for programs in need of signal-callers.

With the calendar having turned to June, there are more than 55 quarterbacks who have given verbal commitments to FBS programs.

Most recently, Florida snagged West Coast prospect Sheriron Jones over the weekend. In all, 39 of 62 programs in the Power Five conferences have QB commitments, and more are on the way.

Can we get Bobby Bowden to stand opposite Lou Holtz for debate on The Final Verdict of "College Football Final" this week?

Week 8 schedule

Thursday, Oct. 16
  • Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh
Saturday, Oct. 18
  • Notre Dame at Florida State
  • NC State at Louisville
  • Clemson at Boston College
  • Virginia at Duke
  • Georgia Tech at North Carolina
  • Syracuse at Wake Forest
Our pick: Notre Dame at Florida State

Why you should come along: Sure, the term "Game of the Century" is overused, but the classic 1993 showdown of No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Notre Dame is justifiably in the conversation. It was a game that lived up to the considerable pregame hype. The Seminoles could be No. 1 again, and the Fighting Irish could be looking to knock them from that perch again. Florida State's Jimbo Fisher and Notre Dame's Brian Kelly are two of the best coaches in college football, restoring relevancy and mystique to programs that were ridiculed more than revered not long ago.

The trip to Doak Campbell is the first true road game for Notre Dame -- there are neutral-site games against Purdue and Syracuse. While it is not a conference game, the national implications could be felt all the way into January. The Irish have a tough schedule, but a victory at Florida State would go a long way toward compensating for an early loss, perhaps against Michigan or Stanford.

As for Florida State, this could be a game in which a loss would shift the 2014 season's narrative. Even as the likely preseason No. 1 team, a one-loss Florida State team is not guaranteed to make the College Football Playoff, and a loss to Notre Dame could be tough to overcome.

Putting the playoff talk to the side, it is just a welcoming sight to see these programs playing each other again, especially considering just how memorable the 1993 meeting was. Notre Dame fans still believe that the Fighting Irish deserved to travel to Florida for the Orange Bowl to play the Seminoles rather than Nebraska. Florida State defeated the Huskers, giving Bobby Bowden his first national championship.

Pittsburgh hosts Virginia Tech two days earlier, but you might be better off soaking in the pregame scenes in Tallahassee.
Scheduling talk has consumed all of college football over the last month. But for all the chatter, there are no answers when it comes to getting scheduling right.

[+] EnlargeDan Radakovich
AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail, Mark CrammerAs Clemson's AD and a member of the playoff committee, Dan Radakovich (left) will get a first-hand look at how important scheduling becomes.
Eight conference games vs. nine conference games. One power-five opponent or more? Everything remains a guessing game until the College Football Playoff era begins because nobody truly knows how the playoff committee will evaluate strength of schedule.

Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, one of 13 members on the committee, said plainly, "It’s going to be the totality of the schedule. Being a conference champ is one of the top priorities as is winning the games, so there’s really not just one factor that is overwhelming the others. It’s the body of work associated with the program."

In the selection committee procedures, released earlier this month, there is a brief mention about how strength of schedule will be evaluated. The committee will be given data from SportSource Analytics, which will provide stats on every FBS team, along with opponent records and opponents' opponents' records. Unlike the basketball model, which relies heavily on RPI, the committee will not use just one data point.

That means much of this is left up to interpretation. The Pac-12, for example, finished second in the ESPN Stats & Information Conference Power rankings to end the 2014 season. The Pac-12 plays nine conference games. The ACC, on the other hand, finished fifth in the same set of power rankings. The league decided to stick with eight conference games. Does this automatically mean the Pac-12 gets a built-in advantage based on playing a conference schedule that is perceived to be more difficult?

Nobody really knows until we see the committee pick four teams based on on-field results.

What we do know is three conferences have opted for nine league games. That is a big reason why the ACC will require teams to play at least one power-five opponent in nonconference per year, beginning in 2017. Notre Dame is included in that group; BYU is not.

Will that be enough?

The Pac-12 already plays a tougher conference schedule, plus most of its teams play power-five opponents. Last season, only four teams did not have at least one power-five nonconference game. Four -- including Oregon and USC -- had two.

"It’s a wait and see," Miami athletic director Blake James said. "It will take some programs not making it to the final four and having the committee or someone come out and address that it was a scheduling issue that prevented them from being there. With that said, we all have to be cognizant of the fact that our schedules are going to be evaluated and you want to be one of the four teams. The challenge there is no one knows who is going to be the dominant program three, five, 10 years out, which is how we’re doing our schedules. You can schedule an elite program right now and by the time you play them, they might not be an elite program and vice versa. It’s a real challenge and it will be interesting to see how it plays out."

You saw examples of that throughout college football last year. Oregon had Virginia and Tennessee, power-five opponents, yes, but both teams finished with losing records. Ohio State scheduled Cal when the Bears were good, not knowing they would have a 1-11 season when the teams ended up playing. Perhaps more scheduling contracts will be broken in the playoff era, as teams jockey to get current elite teams on the slate.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsACC teams get the opportunity to boost their schedules with Notre Dame.
ACC athletic directors also have the challenge of having Notre Dame on the schedule once every three years. League ADs already know when they will play Notre Dame several years down the road. So in years they play the Irish, do they add a second power-five team or take the brakes off so the schedule does not become too challenging?

"In Blacksburg, if we have Michigan and Notre Dame on the schedule, I think our fans would be fine with that," Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said.

Elite games like that are hard to find, because both parties have to be willing to play one another. That could make more scheduling challenges for everyone, especially since the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten will have fewer nonconference spots open because they play more league games.

"The cost of guarantees continues to rise, too," James said. "You have three of the five conferences that are playing nine games so right away there are fewer games needed and geographically you want to try to stay within your area and schedule games that make sense for your fan base and alumni base. When you put all those things together it makes scheduling already challenging and I do think it will be more challenging in the future."

Given all the challenges and the uncertainty about strength of schedule during playoff evaluation time, ACC athletic directors left open the possibility that they could change their minds on scheduling. Like James said, it's wait-and-see.

"As we get through the first cycle of this new football playoff, I think it will be telling for us as to whether or not this decision is the right decision or whether we need to do something else," Florida State athletic director Stan Wilcox said. "I think we felt comfortable knowing we're not the lone conference out there, that we're comfortable being at eight."
Let's talk conference scheduling!

Mark Ament in Louisville writes: I'm not surprised the ACC ended up with 8 conference games, given the Notre Dame arrangement. The biggest negative to an 8-game schedule in my mind is the one rotating cross-divisional game. It will take each school six years to play every other school in the conference, which means that players will not play one or two conference schools during their four or five years. No one should go through their entire career without playing every school in your conference. Forget the playoff, this is about fundamental conference membership and identity. It's just wrong.

Andrea Adelson: A lot of athletic directors believe it's wrong, too. That is why there were six who voted for a nine-game schedule and some who wouldn't mind scrapping divisions all together, so at least there can be more frequent meetings between all conference teams. But given the Notre Dame factor and how large the league is right now, there have to be tradeoffs made to serve the best overall goals for the league. At this point, the ACC determined that staying at eight serves everyone best.


Chris G. in Melrose, Mass., writes: Hi, Andrea. Count me as a huge fan of the ACC sticking with the 8-game sked, PARTICULARLY now that they have the "one game vs. Power 5 conferences each year." This way, I get to see the BC Eagles play one team each year (Iowa? Kansas St.? Colorado?) that they never would have otherwise. This opens up more recruiting opportunities ... and more road trip opportunities! I just don't see any downside to this decision. Thanks for listening!

Adelson: The downside is the one Chris mentions above. It seems ludicrous that NC State will play Notre Dame more often than it plays Duke, doesn't it?


JJ in Tumalo, Ore., writes: 8 Game ACC schedule. Do you have a crystal ball? How can you possibly know if this will benefit FSU and the Dwarfs in the Playoff Era? Come on Woman!

Adelson: I don't think anybody knows that just yet. But the ACC just saw one of its teams play an eight-game league schedule and win the national championship. I think everybody believes an unbeaten ACC team would have a spot in a four-team playoff so there is no real incentive to change, especially since strengths of schedule will increase with Notre Dame in the mix and the tougher nonconference opponent requirement.


Larry Stone in Cookeville, Tenn., writes: When I first read the story about the ACC scheduling itself in nonconference games, I rolled my eyes. Then, the more I thought about it....wouldn't that solve a lot of problems. It's out of the box. Think about the SEC concerns over Tennessee and Alabama playing yearly. Simply make that game a nonconference game except the one year it comes up in rotation. Eight games, set by the scheduling formula, COUNT toward the league title. State and Duke could play every year and it be non-conference except the year it DOES come up in the formula.

Adelson: I actually like the creativity here, and think some athletic directors should do it if it benefits their programs. ACC baseball teams do it all the time, we just have not seen it done in football and that is why the idea sounds so silly. The Big Ten, by the way, also has discussed this idea as well so it's not as ridiculous as it sounds on first blush.


DysFunkShaNole in Atlanta writes: AA, just throwing this out there. Based on the recent discussions around "nonconference" scheduling with other ACC teams, it seems it would be best for the ACC to break out cross-conference rivalries (e.g. Miami-FSU) into nonconference games in years that aren't on the standard rotation. Hear me out. It's always seemed counterproductive to me to continue these regular-season rivalries because it A) reduces the chances that those teams can meet again in the ACCCG, and B) if they do meet again it reduces interest in the game itself. This way, teams can preserve the rivalries but not impact ACC standings and get to play more cross-division teams over time. Could it fly?

Adelson: Not sure that idea could fly, but it is an interesting concept. One big reason why Miami was in favor of a nine-game conference schedule is because it wants more teams to "share the wealth" in playing Florida State, so to speak. Every year Miami has to play that game, but not everybody in the Coastal does. It's the same argument LSU has in having to play Florida every year as its cross-divisional opponent. It's unfair to some teams, and they have to deal with that consequence year-in and year-out.


Loc Nguyen in Dover, N.H., writes: My ACC proposal to solve both the 8-game schedule and championship game. Basically there would be two years of the status quo of Atlantic/Coastal Divisions with division winners making the title game. The next two years the divisions would be separated a different way for example North/South (although any method that produces 3/4 former A/C members would work). So for a North Conference of BC, SU, PITT, UVA, VT, UL, WF would play each other and get 2 from the South. The two from the South would not include a rivalry and would be the other A/C members you don't face. They would still keep the division champs competing for the title. So there would be more variety that fans want yet increase probability to get to the playoffs that coaches/ADs want.

Adelson: Also a creative idea, but I think athletic directors want long-term solutions and not to have to shuffle up the divisions every few years. One of the big reasons there has not been much of a push to shuffle the divisions up is because their power is usually cyclical. The Coastal used to be the dominant division. Now it's the Atlantic. The concept to watch moving forward is scrapping divisions all together. There is not yet a lot of momentum there, but a handful of ADs would be in favor.
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When it comes to running backs, the state of Texas is loaded. Ten running backs represent the Lone Star State in the ESPN 300. Of those 10, five are committed. A total of seven running backs in the state have reported FBS commitments.

ESPN 300 RBs from the state:

No. 50 Ronald Jones II: Ranked the nation’s No. 3 running back, Jones is an explosive, game-changing back who -- as scary as it might sound -- will only get better. Jones committed to Oklahoma State on April 6 and finished his junior season with more than 2,400 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns.


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ACC's lunch links

May, 1, 2014
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3-point stance: Notre Dame luxuries

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1. It took Notre Dame 67 years to perform its first facelift on Notre Dame Stadium in 1996. It took 17 years for the university to announce plans for a new iteration of The House That Rockne Built. The new construction will give Notre Dame the club seating and the suites that every other major stadium has. My favorite part of the news release: Father John I. Jenkins, the university president, said that he didn’t think raising $400 million to fund the construction would be an issue. With that fan base, he’s dead right.

2. The good and bad of Twitter: the travel nightmare endured by Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman in Atlanta, when he spent 19 hours stuck on an icy interstate, is only a slight exaggeration of the road-warrior sagas that FBS recruiters go through every January. Herman used Twitter as lifeline and diary during his overnight stay. Then there’s Syracuse coach Scott Shafer, who, unaware of how serious conditions were, tweeted that Atlantans were “softnosed.” Shafer meant it as a chain-jerk, but it was a classic ready-fire-aim use of the medium. We’ve all been there.

3. Alabama has a commitment from kicker J.K. Scott of Denver Mullen High, which rings a bell for anyone who remembers Wide Right I and II. After Florida State lost to Miami in consecutive seasons, knocking itself out of the race for No. 1, Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden had enough. In Feb. 1993, he signed the best high school kicker in the nation, Scott Bentley, also from the Denver area. Less than a year later, Bentley kicked the field goal that gave Bowden the 1993 national championship.

3-point stance: Super Bowl coaches

January, 23, 2014
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1. In four consecutive seasons, from 1992-95, the Super Bowl featured a coach who had won a college football national championship. Jimmy Johnson won Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII (1992-93) with Dallas. Barry Switzer won Super Bowl XXX with the Cowboys, too. Between Jimmy and Barry, Bobby Ross lost SB XXIX with San Diego. No national championship winners before Johnson, and none after Ross -- until this season. Pete Carroll gets his shot with Seattle next week.

2. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher almost sounded frustrated over the course of last season as he would tell reporters that Jacob Coker almost beat out Jameis Winston to be the Seminoles’ starting quarterback. Yeah, right. But Fisher continued to say it all the way through the BCS Championship Game. Now it seems Coker, who followed AJ McCarron at St. Paul’s in Mobile, now will follow him at Alabama, once he graduates from FSU this spring. He will be a godsend for the Crimson Tide.

3. The ACC released its 2014 schedule Wednesday, and Florida State got the NFL treatment. The defending national champion’s schedule is harder. Pittsburgh and Maryland are gone. In come new members Louisville and Notre Dame, which begins its ACC semi-schedule. The Cardinals have quite the league initiation. They are the only ACC team to play four road games in five weeks. That doesn’t include playing in the two northernmost ACC outdoor stadiums, Boston College and Notre Dame, in November.

ACC announces 2014 schedule

January, 22, 2014
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The 2014 ACC schedule was released Wednesday, featuring Louisville’s inaugural season in the conference, the first year of the ACC’s partnership with Notre Dame, one of the nation’s toughest nonconference schedules and a weekend of rivalry games to end the regular season.

Defending national champion Florida State will start the first season of the College Football Playoff on Aug. 30 at Cowboys Stadium, where the Seminoles will face Oklahoma State in the sixth annual Cowboys Classic. It also happens to be the site of the final game of the season, as Arlington, Texas, is where the new College Football Playoff will crown its first champion on Jan. 12, 2015.

Some of the ACC schedule's highlights include:
  • Miami will travel to Louisville on Labor Day night.
  • Notre Dame will play North Carolina, Syracuse, Louisville and Florida State.
  • Week 1 also includes Clemson at Georgia and UCLA at Virginia.
  • Five nationally televised Thursday night games, including Virginia Tech at Pitt (Oct. 16); Miami at Virginia Tech (Oct. 23); Florida State at Louisville (Oct. 30); and Clemson at Wake Forest (Nov. 6). The final 2014 ACC Thursday night contest on ESPN will have North Carolina traveling to Duke on Nov. 20.
  • Three nationally televised Friday night games, including Virginia Tech hosting Virginia (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2) on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 28. The Hokies and Cavaliers previously played on Thanksgiving Friday in 1996. Boston College will also host Pitt (ESPN or ESPN2) on Sept. 5 and Louisville will play at Syracuse (ESPN or ESPN2) on Oct. 3.
  • ACC teams will play nine games against teams from the final 2014 Associated Press poll (No. 4 South Carolina, No. 12 Ohio State, No. 16 UCLA, No. 17 Oklahoma State, No. 19 USC and No. 20 Notre Dame).

Here's what we like about this schedule, aside from the fact it came out unusually early this year: great rivalries to end the season (including Louisville-Kentucky), another Labor Day matchup and a strong nonconference lineup that includes the likes of Ohio State, South Carolina and UCLA. We're going to break it all down -- lots -- between now and Aug. 30, so stay tuned.
Three days of practice are now in the books and overall execution was sharper as the players begin to move into final preparations for the Under Armour All-America Game on Thursday. The productivity of the players picked up as did the speed of the play, and they’re continuing to think less and display their natural ability more. It was a physical day, with the pads popping and some big hits throughout the practice. Here are some of the highlights.

Top performers


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Manziel or Winston? Prospects weigh in

December, 29, 2013
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- There are many topics of conversation among prospects playing in the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game. One of them centers around the past two Heisman Trophy winners.

On Saturday, upon checking in for the prestigious game, a number of prospects weighed in on a hot topic involving Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Florida State's Jameis Winston.

If they had to choose between the two, who would the players take as their college quarterback? Here are their responses:

[+] EnlargeMarlon Humphrey
Courtesy of IntersportNo. 9 overall prospect Marlon Humphrey likes how Johnny Manziel makes others around him better.
Five-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Al./Hoover High): Ah man, I think I’m going to have to go with Johnny Manziel. I just feel like he kind of made a team out of nothing. Jameis Winston is a great quarterback too, but he doesn’t have the scrambling skills that Manziel has. This year, you could tell that his teams defense wasn’t that good, the players around him weren’t as good, but he kept making his team better. He’s has the fight in him I would want on my team.

Florida commit and No. 20-ranked Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central High): I would say Jameis Winston. He’s really a pure quarterback, and I think he sets up things more for a running back than Johnny Manziel does.

Auburn running back commit Racean Thomas (Oxford, Al./Oxford High): I would probably pick Jameis Winston. The reason behind that is because he is more of a leader for a young quarterback, and I think he can make his team a more mature team. I really think he would be a great quarterback to play with.

Florida wide receiver commit and No. 28 Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead Senior High): Whew, I don’t know. I think Jameis Winston. I look at how both of them played as a freshman, and I like how Jameis Winston leads his team. He is also more pro-ready than Manziel.

Texas defensive end commit and No. 78-overall Derick Roberson (San Antonio, Texas/William J. Brennan High): I guess I would say Johnny Manziel. I like how he plays with his swagger and confidence the most, so I would probably say him.

Notre Dame commit and No. 76-ranked Tyler Luatua (la Mirada, Calif./La Mirada High): I would take Manziel just because of the way he plays. If he doesn’t have a wide receiver open, he can make plays himself. He can get the ball to his players if and when he wants to, but can also do it on his own when he needs to.

No. 38 overall John Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Long Beach Polytechnic High School): That’s a hard one. As of right now, I would go with Jameis Winston. Overall, he’s a great player. I think Winston has an awesome football IQ. Johnny had his year too, but I think Winston is just a great player. Outstanding.

Dylan Sumner-Gardner: Jameis Winston, man. I feel comfortable with Jameis Winston as my quarterback because he’s smart and accurate. Johnny is accurate too, but Johnny is Johnny. How he runs around, people may get nervous. I would just feel more comfortable with Jameis as my quarterback.

No. 22 overall Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville High): That’s a hard one right there. Let me think ... maybe Johnny Manziel because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a white boy get down like that. It would have to be Johnny Manziel.

Penn State wide receiver commit Chris Godwin (Middletown, De./Middletown High): I think Jameis Winston. I think overall he’s a better passer. I want a quarterback back there that can get me the ball on a consistent basis, but Johnny Manziel is a great player, too. I’m actually a big fan of both of them.

Five-star and Virginia defensive tackle commit Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, VA
Oscar Frommel Smith High)
: Dang, that’s a good question, man. I would go with Jameis Winston. His leadership qualities, coming in as a freshman and doing the things he is doing is definitely uncommon. It just foreshadows what he is going to do in the future, too. He’s already established a great foundation for himself, and I would definitely take him in the future.

Maryland commit Will Ulmer (Washington, D.C./Saint John’s High): I’m going with Johnny Manziel. I think he’s more dynamic, and more of a game-changer. Jameis Winston is a great quarterback too, but you have to think about all the dudes he has around him at FSU -- all the great receivers and good running backs. I would go with Manziel because if you put him on the Florida State team, or a stacked team like that, it would be a scary sight.

ACC, Notre Dame announce future dates

December, 20, 2013
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The ACC and Notre Dame announced future dates for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons, highlighted by an Irish-Boston College matchup in 2015 at Fenway Park as part of the Shamrock Series.

The joint announcement, made Friday, is part of the scheduling agreement Notre Dame made with the ACC when it decided to join the league in all sports but football. Because of previous schedule commitments, Notre Dame will face four ACC teams in 2014. Wake Forest, initially scheduled to play Notre Dame in 2014, will now face the Irish in 2015 -- giving Notre Dame six ACC games.

Beginning in 2016, Notre Dame will play five ACC teams each year and alternate between playing three home and two away games one year, with two home and three away games the next. BC announced separately it will host Notre Dame at Alumni Stadium in 2017. Below is a look at the Irish's future ACC opponents over the next three years, with Notre Dame as the home team.


2014

Sept. 27 at Syracuse (MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.)

Oct. 11 North Carolina

Oct. 18 at Florida State

Nov. 22 Louisville

2015

Sept. 12 at Virginia

Sept. 19 Georgia Tech

Oct. 3 at Clemson

Nov. 7 at Pitt

Nov. 14 Wake Forest

Nov. 21 Boston College (Fenway Park, Boston)

2016

Sept. 24 Duke

Oct. 1 at Syracuse (MetLife Stadium, E. Rutherford, N.J.)

Oct. 8 at NC State

Oct. 29 Miami

Nov. 19 Virginia Tech

One visit remains for No. 7 Jackson 

November, 21, 2013
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With four visits under his belt, Adoree' Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra) has one remaining. But there is nothing clear about which school will receive that fifth trip.


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Jashon Cornell (St. Paul, Minn./Cretin Derham-Hall), the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2015, has narrowed his top list. After much deliberation, Cornell has cut the list of schools in the running down to 15.

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ACC weekend rewind: Week 11

November, 11, 2013
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Florida State is now in full control of its championship destiny. Miami needs to get its act together. Duke is delaying interest in basketball season in Durham (OK, probably not) and several surprise teams are making their pushes toward the postseason. All that and more in our ACC weekend rewind:

The good: Let's face it: The ACC's surest path toward national respect is by winning it all, something it has not come close to doing in recent years. And, fair or unfair, the only way an ACC team was going to become a serious player in that title conversation this year was if Alabama or Oregon lost. So Stanford's Thursday night shellacking of the Ducks was surely celebrated by the folks of Tallahassee, Fla., who then watched their beloved Florida State Seminoles punctuate the weekend with a 59-3 stomping of Wake Forest. The formula is simple now for FSU: Just win, something the program has been doing with relative ease so far this season.

[+] EnlargeFlorida State Seminoles
Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images/AP ImagesFlorida State's defense throttled Wake Forest as the Seminoles continued their BCS title run.
The good, pt. II: Play the way the Seminoles' defense did Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C., and you get a second category in your honor. They held the Demon Deacons' quarterbacks to a total QBR of zero for the game, the first time that has happened for a team in a game this season. They forced seven turnovers, picking off six passes while returning turnovers for touchdowns on consecutive plays. Wake Forest's three quarterbacks combined to complete seven passes to their own players, which was just one more than they completed to FSU defenders. As our David Hale noted, from the 7:15 mark of the first quarter to the 10:31 mark of the second, FSU ran four offensive plays and scored 28 points.

The bad: Miami entered Tallahassee last weekend as a top-10 team looking to make some noise if it could manage a respectable showing against the rival Seminoles. Two games later, and the Hurricanes have seen their Coastal Division frontrunner status fly away after consecutive losses to FSU and Virginia Tech, which turned three key Miami special teams gaffes into 21 points, resurrecting their own chances at making the ACC title game. Kudos to Logan Thomas for putting consecutive forgettable outings behind him by completing 25 of 31 passes for 366 yards with two touchdowns and no picks.

The ugly: Virginia's 45-14 loss at North Carolina was its seventh straight loss, its most in a single-season since 1981. The Cavaliers had little margin for error to begin with, but did themselves no favors by surrendering a pick-six and a punt return for a score to the resurgent Tar Heels, who have now won three straight games and are knocking on the door of bowl eligibility at 4-5 after a 1-5 start. Craig Littlepage has voiced his support for Mike London so far this season, but you have to wonder how much that will change with each passing loss.

The clutch: Sure, ruining Notre Dame's national title hopes in South Bend, Ind., last year would have been sweeter. But Pittsburgh's 28-21 home upset of the No. 23 Fighting Irish was nonetheless a high mark for the program, which recorded a signature win for second-year coach Paul Chryst and delivered the Irish's BCS bowl hopes an early knockout blow. Ray Vinopal keyed a strong defensive performance for the Panthers, coming up with a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions and forcing a fumble early. Now Pitt is just one win away from bowl eligibility with three games remaining.

The hat trick: Andre Williams outdid himself in Boston College's 48-34 win at New Mexico State, as he broke the 200-yard mark for the third time this season. Williams set an Eagles single-game record with 295 yards rushing on 30 carries, including a go-ahead 80-yard score and a game-sealing 47-yard touchdown on the next possession. What more can you say about the senior? He now leads the nation in rushing yards with 1,471. His 163.4 rushing yards per game are also a national best, nearly 11 full yards per game clear of the No. 2 man, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey. BC is now 5-4, three wins past last season's total and, more importantly, a victory away from bowl eligibility.

The hat trick, pt. II: Duke redshirt freshman DeVon Edwards had a day for the ages, recording two pick-sixes -- one of 25 yards, the other of 45 -- on back-to-back NC State plays within 16 seconds of each other and returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the Blue Devils' 38-20 win, their fifth straight victory. Edwards became the first Duke player with two pick-sixes in a game since Leon Wright against Army in 2009 and became the first Blue Devil to return a kickoff for a score since Jabari Marshall against UConn in 2007. Edwards was named the national defensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation for his efforts. He added 10 tackles, too.

The brick wall: So, it's unlikely that anyone will confuse this year's Syracuse defense with 2011 Alabama, 2008 USC or any other greats of recent memory. But after losing to Georgia Tech 56-0 the Orange have been on a roll, pitching 113 straight minutes of shutout ball over the past two-plus games before Brad Craddock's 23-yard field goal got Maryland on the board with 1:10 left in the third quarter Saturday. That would be all the Terrapins could manage in a 20-3 loss to an Orange team now 3-2 in its first season of ACC play and 5-4 overall, just one win shy of bowl eligibility. Syracuse forced four turnovers and held Maryland to 292 yards of total offense, though the challenge gets amplified just a bit this weekend when it travels to Florida State.

The class act: Hats off to Marquise Williams, who became North Carolina's starting quarterback for the rest of the season after Bryn Renner underwent season-ending shoulder surgery this week. Williams, normally No. 12, wore Renner's No. 2 in honor of the injured senior, and he completed 15 of 28 passes for 185 yards with two touchdowns and one pick while adding 46 rushing yards and another touchdown in the Tar Heels' win over Virginia. Oh, and he caught a 29-yard touchdown pass for good measure, with Quinshad Davis it to make Williams the first North Carolina quarterback to catch a touchdown pass since 1984, when Kevin Anthony did the same against Virginia.

The headaches: Good luck trying to sort out the potential scenarios for a Coastal Division winner after Virginia Tech's upset of Miami and Duke's win Saturday, which helped leave the division with four teams with two losses apiece. And good luck trying to sort out all of the possible bowl destinations for a number of ACC teams after a week in which conference newcomers Pitt and Syracuse inched their way closer to postseason play with upset wins to get to five victories apiece. Boston College got to five wins, too, while Maryland remains at five after the loss to the Orange. North Carolina is making a push at 4-5 and on a three-game winning streak, and there are already six bowl-eligible teams. So yes, there could be 11 teams bowling in the ACC this winter. Not bad.

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FSU Coach Explains Why Winston Went Unpunished
ESPN Florida State reporter Jared Shanker breaks down head coach Jimbo Fisher's explanation that Jameis Winston's suspension from the baseball team for a shoplifting incident in April was sufficient punishment.
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