Florida State Seminoles: Florida State Seminoles

Winston makes the difference for FSU

November, 4, 2014
Nov 4
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Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesJameis Winston displayed his come-from-behind ability in a victory at Louisville on Thursday.
Florida State is not dominating teams as it did last season. The Seminoles are undefeated but have trailed at halftime in four of eight games, and their average win probability at halftime (58%) ranks 50th in FBS.

But the 2014 Seminoles don’t have to compete with the 2013 Seminoles to make the first College Football Playoff. They only have to be judged one of the four best teams by the selection committee. And regardless of their diminished dominance compared with last season, they have something no other team has: the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

Playing from behind
This season, the Seminoles have run almost twice as many plays while trailing (184) than they did all of last season (93). More than half of those plays (55) from last season were in the BCS Championship game against Auburn.

Florida State ranks 28th in Game Control, which accounts for average in-game win probability and adjusts for opponents faced. Last season, Florida State led the nation in Game Control, and since 2005, only one team entered bowls undefeated (Hawaii 2007) with a Game Control outside the top 20.

Here’s where Jameis Winston comes in. He is 21-0 as a starter. His career Total QBR (86.8) is the fourth-best mark for a player with at least 10 starts in the QBR era (since 2004) behind Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota and Johnny Manziel.

Winston has played his best when his team has needed him the most. He has led four second-half comebacks in his career, including a game-winning drive in the BCS Championship game.

In the Seminoles’ 42-31 win last week at Louisville, Winston helped rally his team from a 17-point deficit with 11:22 left in the third quarter. From that point on, he completed 15-of-25 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns. He did this against a team that entered the game allowing the lowest Total QBR in the nation and that had given up a total of three passing touchdowns in the previous six games.

In the postgame news conference, Winston said, “Being down is nothing when you’ve got heart and you persevere. Personally, we play better when we’re down, honestly.”

Numbers back him up
That appears to be true for Winston. He ranks among the top 10 in FBS in Total QBR (81.4), completion percentage (68.3%) and yards per attempt (9.7) when his team is trailing.

He has been better when trailing in the second half. In that situation, he leads the FBS in yards per attempt (10.5) and third-down conversion percentage (75%) and ranks fourth in Total QBR (90.3).

His best performance might have come against Notre Dame on Oct. 18. He completed 15-of-16 second-half passes (all when trailing), including all eight of his passes thrown 10 yards or longer.
Third-down efficiency has separated Winston from the pack. He has converted a first down on 54% of his third-down passing plays in his career, on pace to be the best for any FBS quarterback in the last 10 seasons (min. 10 games started).

There is a first half/second-half divide with his third downs, too. Look no further than last week against Louisville, when Winston completed 2-of-5 third-down passes in the first half for 19 yards and an interception. In the second half he was 5-of-6 for 169 yards and three touchdowns.>Not surprisingly, Winston leads the FBS in third-down Total QBR in the second half.

The Seminoles might not be winning every week by 40 points like last season, but they are 8-0. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Seminoles have a 34% chance of winning the rest of their games, including the ACC Championship game. An undefeated Power 5 team that is the reigning national champion and has a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback sounds a lot like a playoff team.

July 1 could be a big day for the Oregon Ducks. After narrowly missing out on five-star quarterback Kyler Murray and then QB Blake Barnett (No. 56 in the ESPN 300), No. 141 Travis Waller is set to announce with the Ducks and Notre Dame considered the top two. After being considered a lean to Notre Dame in recent weeks, a June 21 offer by Oregon is a potential game-changer. With the offer to Waller, Oregon is in position to not get left out of the quarterback sweepstakes in 2015. The Ducks offered No. 89 Sam Darnold on June 16 following Barnett's pledge to Alabama. With the offer to Waller five days later, they have a very good chance to snag one of the two remaining top quarterback prospects on the West Coast.

[+] EnlargeTravis Waller
Tom Hauck for Student SportsTravis Waller, the No. 6 QB-DT in the ESPN 300, is set to decide between Oregon and Notre Dame on July 1.
There are currently four five-star prospects committed in the Class of 2015. On July 2, another will come off the board when No. 13 Justin Hilliard announces his decision. The day should be a great one for either Ohio State or Notre Dame with the Buckeyes having been the team to beat headed into last weekend's unofficial visits to South Bend and Columbus. As decision day closes in, Ohio State remains the team receiving the behind-the-scenes chatter as the most likely destination for the outside linebacker. Should the Buckeyes reel in Hilliard next Wednesday, it will be a huge shot in the arm for Ohio State as he is close with a number of top prospects in the Midwest with the ability to impact a class with more than just his pledge.

ESPN 300 No. 226 Sage Hardin will announce his decision Friday at 6 p.m. via Twitter (@SageHardin75). While the athletic offensive tackle hasn't been tipping his hand in regards to a favorite, he did tell RecruitingNation on Wednesday night that Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee, California, Miami (Fla.), Georgia Tech and NC State are in the running. The Georgia offer June 16 was a huge one for the Atlanta-area prospect, as was the offer from Tennessee June 17. The Hurricanes have placed the full court press on Hardin, and a June 7 unofficial visit to NC State impressed more than anticipated. There are family connections to Virginia, but the uncertainty of the Cavaliers' future is cause for concern. This one is likely to come down to the home state Bulldogs, the Volunteers and Cavaliers with Georgia having gained the most mention since offered 11 days ago.

Three-star safety P.J. Locke has announced that he will make his commitment on July 1 at Beaumont Central High. He has a final 10 school list of Arizona State, Baylor, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State, Stanford, TCU, UCLA and Wake Forest. Since an early June unofficial visit to Eugene, the Ducks have been the team trending with Baylor and TCU working hard to try to keep the physical safety in-state.

ESPN 300 No. 63 Abdul Bello had plans to make a number of summer camps, and for the first time see college programs outside the Sunshine State. The plans changed in early June with Bello taking summer school classes. After only having the time to attend Florida camp in early June, Bello and his coach are currently working to scheduled July trips to LSU and Auburn, along with a trip to Florida State and likely back to Gainesville for Friday Night Lights.

Florida State will hold its annual July camp on the 16th through 18th. Although the Class of 2015 will be the main focus of the Seminoles' camp, the top prospect in attendance may well be 2016 quarterback Malik Henry. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Henry will be in Tallahassee and is scheduled to work out all three days of the camp. Henry is at the top of the quarterback board for Florida State in 2016, and is also at the top of the board for UCLA with the hometown Bruins having had the full court press on Henry for months already.

No. 48 Richard McBryde continues to have Auburn in front with Miami (Fla.), Florida and Alabama in the mix. The Under Armour All-America Game selection said Thursday that Auburn is recruiting him the hardest, and is pushing him to commit. With that said, McBryde said he hopes to make unofficial visits to Miami (Fla.) and/or Florida. McBryde said the pressure from Auburn to commit does not hurt the Tigers, but shows how much they value him as a player.

Four-star athlete Shaquery Wilson continues to have Georgia on top of his list followed closely by Arkansas. The month of July will prove to be impactful in the wide receiver and cornerback prospect's recruitment. Wilson is scheduled to camp at Alabama for three days in July at wide receiver, and an offer would definitely be a game-changer. Wilson will also attend Dawg Night in July, as well as make unofficial visits to Tennessee and Auburn.

In the Class of 2016, cornerback Trayvon Mullen has enjoyed about as impressive of a week as is possible, picking up offers from Alabama and LSU on the same day, as well as getting offers from Wisconsin and Ohio State on Thursday. While the Crimson Tide's offer is a big one, a May offer from Clemson was just as big because the 6-foot-2, long-armed corner has been a Tigers fan for a few years.

Position U: Kicker

June, 18, 2014
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Who really deserves to claim the title of “Kicker U” for the 2000s?

1. Ohio State (80 points): The Buckeyes placed first among place-kickers and tied for ninth at punter thanks to an award winner in each category. The high-point man who helped Ohio State win the “Kicker U” label was Mike Nugent, who won the Lou Groza Award, was a two-time All-American and All-Big Ten pick and was picked in the second round of the 2005 draft. Punter B.J. Sander won the Ray Guy Award and was drafted in the third round before enjoying a short career with the Green Bay Packers.

Award winners: B.J. Sander, Guy (2003); Mike Nugent, Groza (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Mike Nugent (2002, 2004).
First-team all-conference: Dan Stultz (2000), Adam Groom (2002), Mike Nugent (2002, 2004), B.J. Sander (2003), Josh Huston (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: B.J. Sander (Round 3, 2004), Mike Nugent (Round 2, 2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

2. UCLA (72 points): A pair of consensus All-Americans (Justin Medlock and Kai Forbath) and a Lou Groza Award (which Forbath won in 2009) helped UCLA push toward the top of the rankings. Medlock was also drafted in 2007 and has spent portions of several seasons on NFL rosters, while also kicking at times in the CFL.

Award winners: Kai Forbath, Groza (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Justin Medlock (2006), Kai Forbath (2009).
First-team all-conference: Nate Fikse (2001, 2002), Justin Medlock (2004, 2006), Aaron Perez (2008), Kai Forbath (2009), Jeff Locke (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Justin Medlock (Round 5, 2007), Jeff Locke (Round 5, 2013).

3. Colorado (64 points): Three-time all-conference pick Mason Crosby -- also a consensus All-American in 2005 -- accounted for nearly all of Colorado’s point production at place-kicker. He went on to become a sixth-round draft pick and has set several franchise records as a member of the Green Bay Packers. Mark Mariscal also added some points by winning the Ray Guy Award and becoming an All-American and all-conference selection in 2002.

Award winners: Mark Mariscal, Guy (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: Mark Mariscal (2002), Mason Crosby (2005).
First-team all-conference: Jeremy Flores (2001), Mark Mariscal (2002), Mason Crosby (2004, 2005, 2006), John Torp (2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Mason Crosby (Round 6, 2007).

4. Michigan State (62 points): With six first-team All-Big Ten selections -- including three-time honoree Brandon Fields, who was also a consensus All-American in 2004 -- Michigan State takes the No. 3 spot. The Spartans have also had two punters drafted since 2001, which is a rare feat for a college program, as well as kickers Dave Rayner and Craig Jarrett.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Brandon Fields (2004).
First-team all-conference: Brandon Fields (2003, 2004, 2006), Brett Swenson (2009), Aaron Bates (2010), Dan Conroy (2010), Mike Sadler (2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Craig Jarrett (Round 6, 2002), Dave Rayner (Round 6, 2005), Brandon Fields (Round 7, 2007).

T-5. Baylor (56 points): Baylor places almost solely because of one player: mid-2000s standout Daniel Sepulveda. The two-time Ray Guy Award winner scored 44 points by himself, which is greater than the score for every other program in the punter rankings except one (No. 2 Michigan State, which had 48).

Award winners: Daniel Sepulveda, Guy (2004, 2006).
Consensus All-Americans: Daniel Sepulveda (2006).
First-team all-conference: Daniel Sepulveda (2004, 2006), Derek Epperson (2009), Spencer Roth (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Daniel Sepulveda (Round 3, 2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

T-5. Oklahoma State (56 points): Between Quinn Sharp’s three all-conference selections at punter and two at place-kicker, Dan Bailey's 2010 Groza Award and Matt Fodge’s 2008 Guy Award, Oklahoma State fared well at both kicking positions.

Award winners: Matt Fodge, Guy (2008); Dan Bailey, Groza (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Dan Bailey (2010), Quinn Sharp (2010, 2011, 2012 at punter; 2011, 2012 at place-kicker).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.

7. Florida State (54 points): A pair of Groza Award wins (by Graham Gano and last season by Roberto Aguayo) helped Florida State place third solely among place-kickers and sixth overall. Aguayo helped extend the Seminoles’ streak of first-team All-ACC place-kickers to three consecutive years after Dustin Hopkins earned the honor in 2011 and 2012. Since Aguayo was only a redshirt freshman last fall, there is a good chance the streak will continue. Punter Shawn Powell was the Seminoles' only All-American during this stretch.

Award winners: Graham Gano, Groza (2008); Roberto Aguayo, Groza (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: Shawn Powell (2011).
First-team all-conference: Dustin Hopkins (2011, 2012), Shawn Powell (2011), Roberto Aguayo (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Dustin Hopkins (Round 6, 2013).

8. Georgia (52 points): Give Mark Richt credit: In his 13-plus seasons as Georgia’s coach, he has rarely been without a consistent place-kicker. Players like Blair Walsh, Brandon Coutu, Billy Bennett and most recently Marshall Morgan have given Georgia a consistent scoring threat in the kicking game. And Drew Butler had one of the best seasons by any punter in SEC history when he won the Ray Guy Award in 2009.

Award winners: Drew Butler, Guy (2009).
Consensus All-Americans: Drew Butler (2009).
First-team all-conference: Billy Bennett (2002), Brandon Coutu (2005), Drew Butler (2009), Blair Walsh (2010), Marshall Morgan (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Brandon Coutu (Round 7, 2008), Blair Walsh (Round 6, 2012).

8. Miami (52 points): Another program with two punters who were drafted (Matt Bosher and Pat O’Donnell, both in the sixth round), Miami hasn’t had a punter win the Ray Guy Award or earn an All-America nod, but the Hurricanes do boast four all-conference punters since the turn of the century. Bosher was also an all-conference place-kicker in 2010.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Freddie Capshaw (2000, 2001), Todd Sievers (2001, 2002), Jon Peattie (2003), Matt Bosher (2009 at place-kicker, 2010 at punter), Pat O’Donnell (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Matt Bosher (Round 6, 2011), Pat O’Donnell (Round 6, 2014).

10. Florida (48 points): Chas Henry, who won the Ray Guy Award and was a consensus All-American and first-team All-SEC pick in 2010, accounted for 24 of Florida’s 30 points at punter. The Gators also had a pair of place-kickers (Jeff Chandler and Caleb Sturgis, a two-time all-conference pick) drafted.

Award winners: Chas Henry, Guy (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: Chas Henry (2010).
First-team all-conference: Chas Henry (2010), Caleb Sturgis (2011, 2012), Kyle Christy (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Jeff Chandler (Round 4, 2002).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Caleb Sturgis (Round 5, 2013).

REST OF “KICKER U” RANKINGS
46 – California; 44 – Auburn, Nebraska, Utah, Wake Forest; 42 – Georgia Tech; 40 – Purdue; 38 – Pittsburgh, Tennessee; 34 – Iowa, Louisville, Maryland; 32 – BYU, Texas A&M, TCU, Wisconsin; 28 – LSU, Michigan, Oregon State; 26 – USC, Virginia Tech; 22 – Arizona State; 16 – Ole Miss; 14 – Arizona, Penn State, Texas; 12 – Alabama, Duke, Illinois, Kansas State, Kentucky, Missouri, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Syracuse, Washington State; 8 – Virginia, West Virginia, Boston College; 6 – Indiana, Oregon, Rutgers, Stanford; 2 – Arkansas, South Carolina, Vanderbilt; 0 – Clemson, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi State, North Carolina, NC State, Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Washington.

Getting to know: CeCe Jefferson 

June, 2, 2014
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — CeCe Jefferson is one of the top defensive ends in the country, ranked No. 9 in the ESPN 300. Yet the 6-foot-3, 248-pound, five-star prospect found himself playing middle linebacker, defensive end and even fullback in his team's spring football game.

That’s exactly how Jefferson likes it.

"I like moving around because it shows the coaches at the next level that I’m versatile enough to do it,” Jefferson said. "I don’t mind playing multiple positions in college. Linebacker is probably what I’m going to be because I’m not really that big to play defensive end against 300-pounders all night. So moving around is definitely not a problem to me. I feel like I’m versatile enough to do it, so if a coach asks me to do it, I’m going to do it.”

It’s Jefferson’s versatility and ability to cause so much disruption for opposing offenses that has college coaches from across the country flocking to Glen St. Mary, Florida, to try to land the talented defender from Baker County High School.

Getting to know Jeffery Holland 

April, 1, 2014
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video Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- On a team loaded with talented prospects, do-it-all athlete Jeffery Holland takes a back seat to no one. The 6-foot-2, 226-pound outside linebacker plays multiple positions for Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian, including running back, tight end, wide receiver and, of course, linebacker -- the position most schools recruiting him want him to play. Holland even lined up at cornerback for a game during the IMG 7v7 Southeast Regional championships in Bradenton, Fla., over the weekend.

The No. 8 player in the country, his athleticism is something that comes naturally, but it doesn’t hurt that he has pretty good bloodlines too. Holland’s uncle, Carey Holland, won an SEC basketball title at Auburn in 1985.


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South Florida is arguably the most fertile area in the country for recruiting, and college football coaches annually flock to the talent-rich area to try to land a small piece of a very large pie. The large area located south of Lake Okeechobee that includes the football hotbeds of Broward, Palm Beach and Dade counties has produced 45 ESPN 300 members in the last two recruiting cycles and almost half (22) signed with out-of-state schools.


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Getting to know Eric Swinney 

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
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Throughout this recruiting cycle, RecruitingNation will profile a number of ESPN 300 prospects in the 2015 class, including an inside look at the prospect, his recruitment, a scouting report and what college program could benefit when he ultimately makes his decision.

ROSWELL, Ga. — Running back Eric Swinney was one of 13 ESPN Junior 300 prospects to attend the Atlanta Nike Football Training Camp on Sunday. Of those 13, 12 are from Georgia, which regularly churns out elite college football players. For some reason, however, the state doesn’t seem to get the recognition as a top talent-producing state.


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MARIETTA, Ga. -- The Nike SPARQ combines have grown with each passing year, and on Saturday there was a record turnout. If the 1,993 prospects who attended weren't impressive enough, the performances by several top prospects who came to compete certainly left spectators turning heads.

Here is a rundown of some of the event's top performers.
  • ESPN Junior 300 running back Taj Griffin posted one of the top SPARQ scores of the day. Griffin checked in at 5-foot-10, 174-pounds, ran a 4.41 40-yard dash and a 4.35 shuttle, had a 46-inch vertical leap and a 36-foot power ball toss for a combined score of 124.29. On the recruiting front, Oregon, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and Tennessee continue to stand out the most.

  • No. 3 junior offensive tackle Chuma Edoga posted an impressive score of 94.65. After measuring at 6-4 and weighing 276 pounds, Edoga ripped off a 5.01 40-yard dash, a terrific 4.69 shuttle and had a 33.8-inch vertical jump and 37-foot power ball throw. Following his impressive effort, he said his top four schools in order are Tennessee, Southern California, Georgia and Stanford with a decision likely on May 25, his birthday. The big news might have been that he currently prefers the Volunteers, but his mother is in the corner of the Bulldogs and Cardinal.
  • No. 252 prospect C.J. Sanders made the trip and did not disappoint. He checked in at 5-9 and 176 pounds, ran a 4.57 40-yard dash, had a blazing 4.09 shuttle run, leaped 36.5 inches and tossed the power ball 41 feet. On the recruiting front, USC, Notre Dame and Georgia are the latest to offer, joining Duke, Northwestern, Stanford, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. He visited USC last week, and lists Reggie Bush as his childhood idol. Sanders is the son of former Ohio State and NFL wide receiver Chris Sanders. His mom played basketball at Michigan. He reports his family favors Duke and USC early on with a decision slated for the summer.
  • Class of 2016 prospect Ben Cleveland is already considered one of the top offensive line prospects in the country, and the 6-7, 317-pounder showed why Saturday. He clocked a very impressive 5.22 40-yard dash and 4.87 shuttle, and had a 25.8-inch vertical leap and 41.5-foot power ball throw for a score of 99.78. He has offers from Georgia, Clemson, Florida, South Carolina and Texas with Alabama expected in the near future. He made an unofficial visit to Clemson two weeks ago.
  • Class of 2015 running back Jaylen Burgess posted a 118.44. The 5-10, 214-pounder ran a 4.66 40-yard dash and a 4.38 shuttle, and had a 36.7-inch vertical leap and 42.5 power ball throw. He is receiving interest from Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Clemson, Duke and a number of other ACC schools. Duke and Tennessee are the coaching staffs Burgess talks to the most. He posted more than 1,500 all-purpose yards as a junior.
  • Class of 2016 linebacker and defensive end Charles Wiley checked in at 6-3, 203 pounds. He clocked a 4.68 40-yard dash and 4.45 shuttle, and also leaped 35 inches and threw the power ball 34.5 feet. He has an early offer from Virginia Tech.
  • Class of 2015 athlete Jeremiah Mercer is flying completely under the recruiting radar. While he had to sit out the 2013 season due to transfer rules, he made his mark Saturday posting a score of 97.47. The 5-11, 163-pound running back and wide receiver ripped off a 4.48 40-yard dash and 4.18 shuttle, and added a 36.2-vertical leap and 31-foot power ball toss. He is receiving interest from Vanderbilt and Mississippi State and lists Florida State as his dream school.
  • Class of 2016 inside linebacker Tyler Reed posted a very impressive score of 104.91. After measuring 6-2, 234 pounds, Reed ran a 4.96 40-yard dash and 4.59 shuttle, and had a 35.5-inch vertical leap and 41-foot power ball throw. He recorded 130 tackles as a sophomore.
  • Class of 2015 running back Eric Montgomery posted a 115.47, one of the day’s top scores. The tailback checked in at 5-11, 185 pounds, ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and a 4.19 shuttle, and jumped 36 inches and threw the power ball 38 feet. On the recruiting front, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, among others, are showing interest.

The new College Football Playoff is supposed to encourage schools to schedule better nonconference games, as teams try to beef up their schedule strength to earn one of the playoff’s coveted four spots at season’s end.

On Thursday, Texas A&M and UCLA announced that they’ll play each other during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Other schools have announced future marquee nonconference opponents, including Texas A&M vs. USC, Notre Dame vs. Texas, Alabama vs. Michigan State and LSU vs. Oklahoma.

Here are five other nonconference games I’d like to see in the future:

[+] EnlargeNick Saban, Urban Meyer
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesUrban Meyer and Nick Saban have faced off for SEC titles, but their current teams, Ohio State and Alabama, have played only three times in history.
1. Alabama vs. Ohio State: Alabama’s Nick Saban and OSU’s Urban Meyer dominated the SEC when Meyer was coaching at Florida, combining to win five BCS national championships from 2006 to 2012.

When Meyer was still coaching at Florida, the Crimson Tide and Gators played in two of the most anticipated SEC championship games. The No. 2 Gators beat the No. 1 Tide 31-20 in 2008, and then the Tide turned the tables on No. 1 UF with a 32-13 win in 2009.

Alabama and Ohio State have played only three times in history, with the Tide winning each time, most recently in a 24-17 victory in the 1995 Citrus Bowl.

2. Texas vs. Texas A&M: Perhaps the biggest casualty in conference realignment, Texas and Texas A&M haven’t played each other since the Aggies bolted the Big 12 for the SEC after the 2011 season. Sadly, there are no plans for the in-state rivals to play again in future regular seasons.

The Aggies and Longhorns played each other 118 times from 1894 to 2011, with their annual meeting traditionally being played on Thanksgiving Day. UT won nearly twice as many games as the Aggies (76-37-5), including nine of the last 12 meetings.

With former Louisville coach Charlie Strong taking over at Texas, and Kevin Sumlin building the Aggies into an SEC powerhouse, the game would also pit two of the sport’s best African-American coaches against each other.

3. Oregon vs. Baylor: Two of the game’s most explosive offenses -- and two of its best-dressed teams -- would undoubtedly light up the scoreboard if they ever played. In fact, the contest would probably look more like a track meet.

Under coach Art Briles, the Bears have become the Ducks of the Southwest, with their hurry-up, spread offense and myriad flashy uniforms closely resembling what Chip Kelly and then Mark Helfrich built at Oregon. The Bears and Ducks follow the same blueprint on offense: play fast and score fast.

We hoped to see this matchup in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last season, but alas, it didn’t happen. Oregon and Baylor have never met on the gridiron.

4. Michigan vs. USC: Two of the sport’s traditional heavyweights have faced each other eight times in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio, but only twice during the regular season -- in 1957 and 1958.

The Trojans won the last three meetings in the Rose Bowl, 32-18 in 2007, 28-14 in 2004 and 17-10 in 1990. USC has won six of the past seven meetings overall and holds a 6-4 advantage all-time.

We might have seen this matchup during the regular season if a Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling partnership hadn’t fallen apart in 2012.

5. Georgia vs. Florida State: UGA coach Mark Richt was a longtime assistant under legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden before taking over the Bulldogs, and he recently poached defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt off the Seminoles’ staff.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles go head-to-head for a lot of recruits every year, and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher upgraded his roster by effectively recruiting South Georgia and Atlanta.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles have played 11 times and only once since 1984 -- UGA defeated FSU 26-13 in the 2003 Sugar Bowl. Georgia leads the all-time series, 6-4-1.

The 10 most memorable BCS moments

January, 13, 2014
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With the door closed on the 16-year reign of the BCS, we dove into the 72 BCS bowl games to find the 10 most memorable moments of the BCS era.

10. Utah’s hook-and-ladder: The first team ever dubbed a “BCS Buster” was the Urban Meyer-coached and Alex Smith-led Utah Utes in 2004. In the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, Utah led Pittsburgh 28-7 late in the third quarter and lined up at the Panthers’ 18-yard line. Smith swung it left to Steven Savoy, who lateraled to Paris Warren, who ran it in for the score as the Utes completed a 12-0 season.

9. Peerless Price down the sideline: Tennessee led Florida State 14-9 with 9:29 remaining in the fourth quarter in the 1999 Fiesta Bowl with the first BCS Championship on the line. UT quarterback Tee Martin found Price down the right sideline, and Price took it the distance for a 79-yard score. Price had 199 receiving yards for the winning Vols, the most ever in the BCS title game.

8. Ginn’s costly return: Ohio State received the opening kickoff from Florida in the 2007 BCS Championship game, and Ted Ginn Jr. wasted no time in getting the game’s first score on a 93-yard return. What will always be remembered, however, is that Ginn suffered a foot injury on the ensuing celebration and was out for the rest of the Buckeyes’ 41-14 loss.

7. Warrick's juggling score: Though the championship of the 1999 season was marked by Virginia Tech freshman QB Michael Vick, it was Florida State’s Peter Warrick who was named the most outstanding player. He had a punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, and his juggling catch on a 43-yard score midway through the fourth served as the dagger.

6. Vince Young, Part I: Facing Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl, Young was responsible for all five Texas touchdowns in a 38-37 win. Though he had runs of 60, 23 and 20 yards, the most impressive was a 10-yard run in which Young escaped the tackle of Michigan lineman Pat Massey before scampering to the right pylon.

5. Dyer isn’t down: Tied at 19 with Oregon with just more than two minutes remaining in the 2011 BCS Championship Game, Auburn running back Michael Dyer appeared to be tackled for a short gain at the Auburn 45-yard line. Having rolled over the defender, Dyer was never ruled down, and ended up gaining 37 yards on the play before he was taken down at the Oregon 23-yard line. Auburn would win on a field goal as time expired.

[+] EnlargeBoise
Steve Grayson/WireImageIan Johnson's two-point conversion run in overtime propelled Boise State over heavily favored Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
4. Winston to Benjamin: Trailing Auburn 31-27 in the final BCS Championship Game, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston drove the Noles 78 yards in less than a minute to the Auburn 2-yard line. Receiving the snap with 17 seconds left in a wild fourth quarter, Winston threw a perfect pass to Kelvin Benjamin, who brought it down for the game-winning score to complete an undefeated season.

3. Was it pass interference? Some will remember Maurice Clarett’s game-saving strip of Sean Taylor, but the lasting legacy of the game is the dubious pass interference call in overtime. Miami led 24-17 and Ohio State faced fourth-and-3 from the 5-yard line. Glenn Sharpe was called for pass interference, giving the Buckeyes new life in a game they would win 31-24.

2. Boise State’s trick plays: In the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, Boise State trailed heavily favored Oklahoma 35-28 with 18 seconds left and facing fourth-and-18 from the 50-yard line. Jared Zabransky completed a pass to Drisan James just short of the first down, but he lateraled it to Jerard Rabb, who took it the rest of the way for the tying touchdown. In overtime, down 42-35 on fourth down, wide receiver Vinny Perretta completed a 3-yard pass to Derek Schouman for a touchdown. Chris Petersen elected to go for two, and Zabransky faked a throw to his right before handing it behind his back to Ian Johnson on the Statue of Liberty play for the winning two-point conversion. Johnson would propose to his girlfriend, a Boise State cheerleader, on the sideline after the game.

1. Vince Young, Part II: After a Longhorns touchdown and key fourth-down stop, undefeated Texas trailed undefeated USC 38-33 with 26 seconds remaining and faced fourth-and-5 from the 9-yard line, with the 2005 BCS championship on the line. Vince Young dropped back to pass but saw nobody open, and immediately sprinted for the right pylon for the title-winning score in the marquee game of the BCS era.

Numbers back Winston winning Heisman

December, 13, 2013
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Heading into Saturday’s 2013 Heisman Trophy ceremony, it’s seemingly a foregone conclusion that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will take home the award. The advanced metrics support Winston as a winner, and recent precedent based on these metrics shows it should be pretty lopsided.

College football Total QBR data goes back to 2004 (as far back as we have play-by-play data), and there have been seven Heisman-winning quarterbacks since that year. All of those ranked in the Top-8 in opponent-adjusted QBR prior to the Heisman ceremony (i.e. not including the bowl games), with each of the last five quarterbacks winners ranked in the Top 3.

But there’s actually another QBR-related statistic that correlates more strongly with winning the Heisman in that span – points above average (QB PAA, or just PAA).

While QBR is designed to measure per-play efficiency, PAA – which is calculated from QBR – measures total production above an average quarterback (QBR of 50), taking into account both efficiency and overall usage.

The relationship between PAA and QBR is similar to that between yards and yards per attempt, where one is a cumulative total and the other is on a per-play basis.

To simplify, QBR measures how efficient a quarterback is, while PAA measures how productive a quarterback is relative to an average quarterback with the same amount of action. It makes sense that the more productive players, in terms of points added, should get preference for end-of-season awards based on the total value provided to the team over the course of the year.

A quarterback with a lower QBR than someone else but more action plays could have contributed more points above average than his counterpart because he was involved in more of the offense. For example, Johnny Manziel ranks sixth this year in opponent-adjusted QBR, but moves to third in opponent-adjusted PAA because he had many more action plays than three of the guys ranked above him in QBR.

Of those seven Heisman-winning quarterbacks since 2004, each ranked in the top seven in Opp Adj PAA entering the bowl season, with four of the last five winners being tops in that category.

The only exception was Robert Griffin III, who trailed Russell Wilson in PAA prior to the Heisman ceremony in 2011.

Winston ranks No. 1 in FBS with +102.9 Opp Adj PAA to go along with his top ranking in opponent-adjusted QBR.

The three previous quarterbacks to rate as both the “most efficient” and “most productive” quarterback going into the Heisman ceremony since 2004 all won the trophy by a fairly wide margin, so it’s reasonable to think Winston will do the same.

3-point stance: Oregon's trap game?

November, 18, 2013
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1. In the 11th game of last season, Oregon lost to Stanford, 17-14, in overtime. In the 11th game in 2011, Oregon lost to USC, 38-35. In the 11th game in 2009, Oregon held on to win at Arizona, 44-41, in three overtimes. I’m not smart enough to figure that out. Ducks offensive coordinator Scott Frost told me that in April. The coaches didn’t have a reason, other than fatigue or overconfidence. But they are aware of it. If Oregon looks flat at Arizona this week, it won’t be from falling into the same trap.

2. Alabama and Florida State are guaranteed nothing in the BCS. But the gulf between the No. 2 Seminoles and No. 3 Buckeyes indicates that there won’t be any drama about who goes to Pasadena as long as the Crimson Tide and the Seminoles win out. Given that Alabama still must play No. 6 Auburn, and then, with a win, either No. 8 Missouri or No. 11 South Carolina, we may yet witness a huge public debate about the Buckeyes and No. 4 Baylor. As of now, that debate is for entertainment purposes only.

3. Here’s one thing the BCS standings might have gotten right: as Coaches By the Numbers tweeted Sunday, only three teams are 5-0 this season against teams with winning records. They are No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Florida State and No. 3 Ohio State. You can argue that their opponents don’t play anyone, hence their records. But if it were that easy to beat that many teams with records over .500, more than three teams would have done so.

FSU domination goes beyond final score

October, 28, 2013
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Earlier today, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher discussed how voters should judge the Seminoles’ blowout of North Carolina State last Saturday.

In the 49-17 win, Fisher sat his starters for nearly all of the second half after Florida State ran up a 42-0 halftime lead. Asked after the game if he'd missed a chance to earn some style points in the eyes of voters, Fisher said he refused to coach based on the polls.

"I'm not going to go out there and embarrass this game and the integrity of how you've got to play," Fisher said. "If that's the way they're going to do it, they need to reevaluate. If they can't tell we dominated that game early and put it away -- I just think that's bad for college football, in my opinion."

Fisher has a point. Florida State scored touchdowns on its first five possessions and was up 35-0 just 13 minutes into the game, never looking back on the way to an easy victory.

Though the Seminoles were technically outscored 17-7 in the second half, at no point was victory even remotely threatened. Would running up the score to earn “style points” and impress voters really have said anything more about Fisher’s team than the dominating first half already did?

This is where using the final score to evaluate a team’s performance can break down. As anyone can tell you from watching games, not all seven-point wins are created equally. In the case of Florida State against NC State, a 32-point blowout actually understates how dominant the Seminoles were in the game.

A better way to look a team’s dominance or control over an opponent is to look at how their chances to win evolve throughout the game.

Based on play-by-play data from FBS games going back to 2004, ESPN Stats & Information has a win probability model that can do exactly that: take into account the situational factors (time, score, field position, down, distance, etc.) and determine the percentage chance each team has of winning the game at that point.

As the touchdowns piled up early on, Florida State’s chance of winning quickly rose to 80 percent, then 90 percent, then 95 percent, and never really dropped from there. The graph of their average win probability on each play in the game shows just how quickly it got out of hand.



Florida State’s average win probability for that game was 94.9 percent, meaning that on an average play in that game, the Seminoles had about a 95 percent chance of winning. That value is not only the highest average win probability by any team in any game this year, but the second-highest in the more than 7,500 FBS games play-by-play data exists for over the past 10 years.

While the final score wasn’t indicative of one of the biggest blowouts of the year, watching the progression of the game in Tallahassee shows that Florida State “dominated that game early and put it away" about as much as any team has in any game.

In the near future, ESPN Stats & Information will be releasing a team rating system that goes beyond wins and losses to judge teams’ résumés. But it does not explicitly incorporate the final score, instead using this measure of average in-game win probability as a more thorough way to judge how well a team performed on every play in every game.

With the emphasis on how a team approaches winning or losing on every single play, there’s very little incentive to run up the score when the game is already in hand.

So Coach Fisher can rest easy knowing that he won’t have to worry about extra style points to get his team its due for a truly dominant performance like last Saturday.

NC State a trap game for Florida State?

October, 24, 2013
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Getty Images, AP PhotosJameis Winston (left) will try to succeed where E.J. Manuel (middle) and Christian Ponder (right) failed.

On Saturday, Florida State had arguably the best win of any team this season, routing then-No. 3 Clemson 51-14. The Seminoles are 6-0 for the first time since 1999, when they went 12-0 and won the national championship.

Coming off its win over Clemson in Death Valley, Florida State returns home to face what appears to be an easy game against a North Carolina State team that is winless in ACC play. Not so fast...

The Wolfpack have given the Seminoles trouble in recent years. The last four times an AP-ranked Florida State team played an unranked NC State team, the Wolfpack have pulled off the upset.

2012: NC State def. 3 Florida State 17-16
Florida State was 5-0 entering the game in Raleigh last season. The Seminoles jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead, but were shut out after halftime. Mike Glennon passed for 218 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. EJ Manuel finished with a 33.2 Total QBR, his lowest in any ACC start in his career.

2010: NC State def. 16 Florida State 28-24
Florida State entered the 2010 game 6-1, with its only loss coming at Oklahoma. The Seminoles led 21-7 at halftime, but were unable to contain Russell Wilson in the second half. Wilson had two of his career-high three rushing touchdowns after halftime. Christian Ponder, like Manuel last season, struggled in the second half, committing two turnovers and completing less than half of his passes.

2006: NC State def. 17 Florida State 24-20
Florida State had won three of its first four games when it traveled to Raleigh for a Thursday night game in 2006. Daniel Evans, making his second career start for the Wolfpack, threw three touchdowns and his Total QBR of 69.3 was his highest in any game. Drew Weatherford struggled in the fourth quarter for the Seminoles, completing 4 of 8 attempts for 32 yards with an interception on the final play.

2005: NC State def. 9 Florida State 20-15
Florida State was 7-1 when unranked NC State arrived in Tallahassee in 2005. NC State dominated this game on the ground, outrushing the Seminoles 196-43, including 179 rush yards by Andre Brown.

Weatherford had one of the worst games of his career, throwing three interceptions, two of which were on Florida State’s final two drives. He finished with a 9.3 Total QBR.

The common theme for the Seminoles in those four losses was below-average quarterback play. Their combined Total QBR was 29.7 and they had the same number of interceptions (5) as touchdown passes (5).

Quarterback play should not be an issue for the Seminoles this time around with Jameis Winston under center.

Winston is third in the nation in opponent-adjusted QBR (92.5) and is one of three FBS players who have had a Total QBR of at least 75 in all of their games this season. NC State has allowed an opponent-adjusted total QBR of 64.3 this season, the second-worst among ACC teams.

In other words: the challenge may be greater for NC State this time around.

Week 8: A sight to behold

October, 22, 2013
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Kenny ShawStreeter Lecka/Getty ImagesFlorida State's Kenny Shaw celebrates after defeating the Tigers 51-14.
For four months, ESPN The Magazine will follow the march to the Vizio BCS National Championship, moment by moment, culminating in our Story of the Season double issue Dec. 27. Every Tuesday, Mag senior writer Ryan McGee will pick the previous week’s biggest moments and tell you why they’ll have the most impact on potential BCS title matchups. If you disagree, send a tweet to @ESPNMag and tell us why your moment matters more, using the hashtag #StoryoftheSeason. Who knows? Your moment (and tweet) might just end up in our issue.

THERE IS NO greater entrance -- perhaps moment -- in all of college football than when the Clemson Tigers emerge at the base of the big scoreboard in Memorial Stadium's open end zone. The team gathers around Howard's Rock, and the sound that gathers with it is unsurpassed, especially on a night like Saturday night, the gemstone matchup with Florida State, when greatness is anticipated.

It is equally awe-inspiring to watch someone silence Death Valley just as quickly as it has been riled up.

"Tonight was an amazing environment," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Saturday night, looking just as shocked as everyone else that his team had rolled over the Tigers to the tune of 51-44. "This is a tremendous place to play."

It truly is. And that begins in the east end zone. Some old-timers still refer to it as the Green Grass Section. The rest of the world calls it The Hill. A knoll covered in Clemson students, parted to form a narrow ribbon of turf upon which the Tigers run into Death Valley. To soak that up, one must get out of the press box and take their place among them. (Without a hillside ticket, don't even try from the gate. With a media credential, you can sneak your way from the bottom if you catch a South Carolina state trooper looking the other way.)

As the noise level grew, it was impossible not to think of these same two teams 25 years earlier. On Sept. 17, 1988, the No. 3 Tigers hosted the No. 10 Seminoles. What most remember about that day was Bobby Bowden's fabled Puntrooskie, a fake botched punt deep in the Noles' own territory that was gathered up by FSU's LeRoy Butler, who ran 78 yards to set up the game-winning score. The images of that play still make older Clemson loyalists shake their head in anger. They did the same on Saturday morning when ESPN's "College GameDay" ran a Puntrooskie feature that echoed off the buildings throughout campus.

"Damned disrespectful!" an orange-clad tailgater yelled toward the giant TV screens on Bowman Field in the center of campus.

But the Puntrooskie isn't the first image that pops into the heads of many who were there that day. That group includes me (I was a high school senior in nearby Travelers Rest, S.C.) and Clemson tailback Terry Allen, who went on to play 11 years in the NFL. "I remember coming down The Hill and the place was rocking and all the sudden it was like, Who is this fool down there standing at the bottom of The Hill telling us to bring it?"

It was FSU's Deion Sanders, hitting himself in the numbers and screaming at the Tigers as they ran into their own house. No doubt the gentleman from the quad was somewhere in the stadium that day shouting "Damned disrespectful!"

No opponent stood at the base of The Hill pounding on his chest plate Saturday night. But FSU quarterback Jameis Winston might as well have. Not even 90 seconds into the game, Winston flicked a 22-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin, directly toward The Hill crowd, and it was 7-0 Florida State. Not even 10 minutes later, the Noles were laying siege to The Hill again as a field goal sailed toward them and through the uprights for a 10-0 FSU lead. The next score they saw was FSU defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. rumbling into their end zone after recovering QB Tajh Boyd’s fumble and returning it 37 yards for a touchdown that made it 17-0 with 3 minutes, 7 seconds still to play in the first quarter. At game's end, FSU would have 565 yards of offense. Winston had 444 yards passing with three touchdowns, officially launching him into the Heisman Trophy hunt and catapulting Florida State to second in the initial BCS standings.

Clemson fell out of the realm of the unbeatens, down to ninth in the BCS, and Boyd likely lost his invitation to New York this December.

By the end of the first quarter, the feeling on The Hill was more like being in The Library. By the end of the third quarter, it looked as though that's where everyone who had started the game on The Hill had gone.

"My granddad and dad were here for the Puntrooskie game," one student explained (she asked that her name not be included because she was supposed to be on a church mission trip). "We have a rule in the house that we don't talk about it. I was always like, well, it couldn't have really been that bad. But now I feel for them. This sucks."

It could have been worse. The Tigers' locker room is located on the opposite end of the stadium, 100 yards from The Hill. As the clock hit zeroes and the home team slowly walked toward that refuge, they were serenaded by a swath of garnet-and-gold fans doing the FSU war chant, right by the field house entrance.

Over where the Clemson players had started their night, there was no one left to hear it.




On Saturday night and again on Sunday afternoon, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was understandably in damage-control mode. He reminded the room that his team has only one loss, is still ranked in the top 10, still has a chance to win an ACC championship, and at the very least will lock up a great bowl game.

A similar speech was being repeated on practice fields and in pressrooms throughout the country after a Week 8 full of bloodletting. It started Friday night when No. 8 Louisville fell to unranked UCF. It continued Saturday afternoon when No. 9 UCLA lost to No. 13 Stanford. Throw in a bushel of second SEC losses by Texas A&M (to Auburn), Georgia (to Vanderbilt), LSU (to Ole Miss), South Carolina (to Tennessee) and Florida (to Missouri).

Just two weeks ago, there were 14 undefeated teams across the BCS conferences. Now there are only eight. For some high-profile one-loss teams, such as Stanford, and yes, perhaps Clemson, the season might still come back to them. But as Swinney was quick to emphasize on Sunday, they are all walking on the thinnest sheets of ice ... in cleats.

"We're at that 'elimination game' phase of the season when it comes to championships," former Oregon coach-turned-ESPN analyst Mike Bellotti explained as he sifted through the wreckage of the weekend. "You don't want to lose any games. But from here on out, you really can't lose again. One loss and you're in trouble -- how much trouble depends on who you lost to and who you are still going to play. But two losses? You're done.”


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