Florida State Seminoles: ACC championship

For 30 minutes, Saturday's game offered an eerie reminder of Florida State's low point as a sluggish second half bore a stark resemblance to an October loss to NC State. In the end, however, FSU made just enough plays to secure its first ACC championship in seven years, and celebrate its biggest win of the season.

Here's a quick look at some of the players who made the fourth quarter interesting and helped secure a Discover Orange Bowl berth in the end.

THREE UP

FSU's top juniors won't look past UF

November, 23, 2012
11/23/12
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For EJ Manuel and the rest of Florida State's seniors, the moment is emotional by design. They'll take the field Saturday knowing its the last time they'll do so at Doak Campbell Stadium, a mix of nostalgia and finality.

The same could be true for junior Bjoern Werner, too, should he decide to enter the NFL draft at year's end, but he's choosing not to look at it that way.

[+] EnlargeStephen Morris
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesAn injury at the end of last season kept CB Xavier Rhodes at FSU another year, but now the emotional player faces a huge decision.
"I'm just going to finish the season and think about it after the season," Werner said. "If I start thinking about it too early, I'm just going to mess up my game. We have big games -- Florida, an ACC championship, and hopefully an Orange Bowl. I can't think about that stuff."

Werner is one of a handful of Florida State underclassmen who could forgo a final season with the Seminoles in favor of an NFL career, which could make Saturday's game all the more significant if they let the weight of the decision sink in.

So far, however, they all appear to be following Werner's lead.

"I never put that pressure on me," said safety Lamarcus Joyner, whose draft future is perhaps the most uncertain of any of FSU's potential early departures. "That's something that has to be evaluated definitely at the end of the season."

Werner figures to be a sure first-round pick if he departs early, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes could be as well.

A year ago, as a redshirt sophomore, Rhodes weighed the decision, too, but an injury during FSU's bowl game made the choice easy. This time around, he's acutely aware that the finality of a season and a career can sneak up on a player -- whether or not he's thinking of heading to the NFL.

"Every game to me is emotional," Rhodes said. "You've got to cherish every second of it. That's how I go into every game."

Rhodes, Werner, Joyner and linebacker Christian Jones could all choose to leave at year's end, but that's still a decision that doesn't need to be made for a few weeks.

In the interim, there's a game with Florida -- a team none of the four juniors have lost to as active players. Keeping that streak alive means a lot more at this point than a career that may soon be ending.

(Read full post)

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