- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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Florida State put the memories of past failures in Death Valley to rest and looked squarely to a future, which may well include a shot at a BCS title, with an emphatic 51-14 win over Clemson on Saturday. Here's what we learned from the victory.
No stage is too big for Winston: It was silly to doubt him in the first place. Jameis Winston wasn't going to be intimidated by the enormous crowd or deafening noise in Death Valley. He was inspired by it. He stepped into the huddle on the first drive, the crowd berating the Noles, and he told his teammates to enjoy it. He proceeded to throw for a career-best 444 yards while adding three touchdowns through the air and one more on the ground. Through six games, Winston has been as good as any quarterback in the country, and there's a reasonable argument that he's now the Heisman frontrunner.
This defense was built for Clemson: Remember a few weeks ago when there were legitimate concerns about whether Jeremy Pruitt's scheme could work in the short term? Bethune-Cookman and Boston College had success running the ball, and players said they were still trying to grasp the nuance of the system. That seems like an eternity ago now. Pruitt's 5-3-5 scheme perfectly negated Clemson's spread attack, and the result was arguably the worst performance of Tajh Boyd's career. The senior quarterback completed 46 percent of his throws, averaged 4.2 yards per attempt, and turned the ball over three times. FSU finished the game with four takeaways, most since the penultimate game of 2011.
The expectations are through the roof: Before the season, there was excitement. After a 5-0 start, there was hype. Now, it's BCS or bust for Florida State, which figures to be a heavy favorite in each of its remaining games. The dominant win over Clemson was the best resume-builder for any team this season, and assuming the Seminoles don't flub a game down the road -- something they've been known to do in recent years -- there's ample reason to think they'll play for a national title in January. Numerous players eagerly pronounced FSU the best team in the country after the game, but Winston warned there was still work to be done. "We're not letting any of that affect us," he said. "We're a great football team, and that's what we're here to do, play football."