Florida State Seminoles: Florida State Seminoles
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.
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.
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.
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.”
2. There’s the speculation at the top of the BCS standings, where No. 2 Florida State and No. 3 Oregon may leapfrog one another the next three weeks as their schedules ebb and flow. Then there’s the battle at the other end, where No. 17 Fresno State and No. 18 Northern Illinois are jockeying with one another and both trying to stay in front of No. 20 Louisville and No. 23 UCF from the AAC. If one of the former finishes ahead of one of the latter, that will guarantee a BCS bid. The BCS ratings always provide fodder.
3. Senior quarterback Clint Trickett left Florida State after spring ball when he realized that he wouldn’t beat out redshirt freshman Jameis Winston. On Saturday, Winston threw for 444 yards at Clemson and became a Heisman frontrunner. Trickett started at West Virginia and threw for 254 yards and a touchdown against Texas Tech. But the Red Raiders outscored the Mountaineers 21-0 in the last 20 minutes to win, 37-27. Over the last five possessions, Trickett completed 6 of 11 passes for 19 yards. The offense made one first down.
Jameis Winston (left) and Tajh Boyd (right) will go head-to-head this Saturday.
Boyd has picked up right where he left off last season. In six games, he is responsible for an ACC-high 20 touchdowns and has just two turnovers.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was a bit of an unknown to start the season. He was the former No. 1 recruit in the ESPN 150, but the redshirt freshman had yet to take a snap on the FBS level. It did not take Winston long to adjust.
He started his career by completing 25-of-27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns in a nationally televised win against Pittsburgh and has not slowed down since.
Winston is the only quarterback in the FBS to rank among the top five in Total QBR (91.7 Total QBR), completion percentage (73.2), and passing yards per attempt (11.7). He has been responsible for 19 touchdowns, which is one more than Boyd had through five games this season.
Entering this top-5 matchup between Clemson and Florida State, which team has the edge at quarterback?
Winston is completing 68.3 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or longer, best among BCS AQ quarterbacks (min. 15 attempts).
Winston has at least six completions and has completed at least half of his passes of this distance against every FBS opponent that he has faced.
In comparison, Boyd is completing a lower percentage of his passes, but leads all AQ quarterbacks with 10 touchdowns on passes of this distance. He now has 27 touchdowns on passes thrown 15 yards or longer since the start of last season, four more than any other AQ player.
Winston is completing 69.6 percent of his passes when opposing teams bring five-or-more pass rushers this season, the fifth-highest percentage among BCS AQ quarterbacks (min. 30 attempts).
Boyd has struggled against added pressure, completing 57 percent of passes against five-or-more rushers, which is five percentage points lower than last season and one point below the AQ average.
Both of his interceptions this season have come against the blitz.
Boyd has rushed for 187 yards and five touchdowns this season after rushing for 514 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012. Boyd has been hard to bring down. He has gained the fourth-most yards after contact (449) and has the second-most third down conversions (37) of any AQ quarterback since the start of last season.
Winston has gained 135 yards on the ground, but has only once gained more than 25 yards in a game. On third down, Winston has more taken four sacks and converted just two rush first downs. However, Winston has the advantage scrambling. He has 34 more scramble yards than Boyd despite attempting 10 fewer scrambles. Overall, Winston has scrambled for 128 yards and is averaging an ACC-high eight yards per scramble this season.
Winston has converted a first down on 67 percent of his pass attempts this season, tied with Johnny Manziel for the highest percentage in the FBS. Winston ranks third in both Total QBR (99.1) and yards per attempt (12.4) on third down this season.
Boyd has a 77.0 Total QBR on third down, and he is converting a first down on 38 percent of his pass attempts. He is responsible for an ACC-high five touchdowns on third down and has not turned the ball over in 68 third-down passing or rushing plays.
The numbers seem to favor Winston. He has the fourth-highest opponent adjusted QBR (91.3) in the FBS this season. That is 17.4 points higher than Boyd, who ranks 40th.
Yet, one thing that the numbers cannot account for is how Winston will react in the biggest game of his life thus far. Clemson will be the first team ranked in the top 20 that he has faced. Boyd had been here before, most recently in wins against Georgia in the season opener and against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Who do you think has the edge at quarterback? Vote in our poll and share your thoughts in the comments.
1. Clemson (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 1): The Tigers did what we all expected in a 52-13 win over South Carolina State. They also ended up moving up one spot in the AP poll to No. 3. Their big win over Georgia in Week 1 remains the crown jewel in the ACC crown after two weeks.
2. Florida State (1-0, 1-0 ACC; last week: 2): The Seminoles were off this past week after beating Pittsburgh in the opener. Let's see what Game 2 has in store for Jameis Winston this weekend against Nevada.
3. Miami (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 3): The Hurricanes had the most impressive win in Week 2, over No. 12 Florida, which vaults them to No. 15 in the latest AP poll. But that win does nothing to change their standing in the ACC. There remains a clear gap between Clemson, Florida State and the rest of the league. Miami looks like it is starting to close the gap, but the Canes still have a long way to go -- especially after their offense struggled for most of the day against the Gators.
4. Georgia Tech (1-0 0-0 ACC; last week: 4): The Jackets were also off in Week 2, so all we have to judge them on is a blowout win over FCS Elon. The next five weeks will tell us what we need to know about this team, as the Jackets prepare to play at Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, at Miami and at BYU. That is one of the most brutal stretches any ACC team has to play this season.
5. North Carolina (1-1, 0-0 ACC; last week: 7): The truth is, you could flip flop the Tar Heels and Virginia Tech at this point. Despite their victories over the weekend, both have problems that must be addressed. For starters, North Carolina has to get the coin toss figured out. The defense was once again up and down. They need a more consistent, better effort out of that group.
6. Virginia Tech (1-1, 0-0 ACC; last week: 5): North Carolina gets the nod ahead of Virginia Tech for this week based on the quality of opponent it just played. The Tar Heels beat an FBS team, Virginia Tech an FCS team. I think we can all agree the Hokies have a formidable defense -- better than North Carolina's -- but the offense still has a ways to go to be respectable. Logan Thomas now has one touchdown pass and three interceptions on the season.
7. Virginia (1-1, 0-0 ACC; last week: 6): No. 2 Oregon boatraced the Hoos on Saturday, but the truth is, nobody really expected them to win the game. They stay in the top half of the rankings this week based on their win over BYU in the opener. That win looks a lot better today after BYU clobbered No. 15 Texas. Virginia enters a five-game stretch now with winnable games. If the Hoos can take advantage, they will be looking good for a bowl spot.
8. Maryland (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 8): The Terps have beaten their first two opponents by a combined 90-20 and have not faced much of a test. The opponents' strength has been really weak, hence their spot here. Still, this is a team that has showed off its talent on offense in the first two weeks. C.J. Brown, in his return from a knee injury, ranks No. 3 in the nation in total QBR to lead all ACC quarterbacks. Chew on that one for a while.
9. Duke (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 10): Give the Blue Devils credit for pulling out a road win in Memphis with backup quarterback Brandon Connette this past Saturday. You can write the win off by saying it was "only Memphis," but the Tigers are a rapidly improving team and Duke was on the ropes. Any road win is a good win for a team that won only once away from home last season.
10. NC State (2-0, 0-0 ACC; last week: 9): The Wolfpack get downgraded slightly for struggling to beat Richmond. While it is true the Spiders have caused FBS opponents fits, the Wolfpack nearly handed the game away with their own miscues. NC State had four turnovers, including three inside Richmond territory. Quarterback Pete Thomas struggled, throwing two interceptions. While he did lead the team into field goal range for the game winner, he has some work to do to improve.
11. Boston College (2-0, 1-0 ACC; last week: 14): The Eagles climb out of the cellar for the first time in a long time after their 24-10 win over Wake Forest. You can already see the difference new coach Steve Addazio has made in the program. His team is playing a lot more physically and with a lot more energy. That is best illustrated in Andre Williams, who is now averaging 5.5 yards per carry -- one full yard better than last season. The BC run game has gone from awful to respectable in a matter of weeks. The Eagles have now matched their win total from 2012.
12. Pittsburgh (0-1, 0-1 ACC; last week: 12): The Panthers were off last week, so they stay put here. The good news is they will not have to play a team as strong as Florida State the rest of the way in the ACC. They get New Mexico this week.
13. Wake Forest (1-1, 0-1 ACC; last week: 11): The Deacs were supposed to be better this season with so many veterans returning, but they looked completely lost against BC. The defense got gashed on the ground. The offense could not run, nor could it execute the option effectively. Not sure why coaches insisted on sticking with it when it was not working. Their inability to run the ball was a bugaboo last season, and it looks to be the same this season.
14. Syracuse (0-2, 0-0 ACC; last week: 13): The Orange have been the biggest disappointment in the ACC so far based on the first two games. No doubt they played a tough schedule to start against two Big Ten teams, but they were not even competitive in a loss to Northwestern this past weekend in which Drew Allen got benched after throwing four interceptions and the defense gave up 581 yards of total offense. Scott Shafer has some serious questions to answer before the season gets away from him.
Prince showed off a slimmed down frame -- he’s lost more than 30 pounds, he said, to reach about 285 -- and dominated in blocking drills against a stout group of defensive linemen.
Prince, No. 33 in the ESPN 150, put himself in position to rise over the upcoming months.
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After all, Richmond’s team ended the season for Barnett last November with a one-point win the state-playoff semifinal round.
Barnett said he thought he earned a victory over Richmond on Sunday at the Nike Football Training Camp on the home turf of the coveted 2015 offensive tackle.
“I want to go up against the best,” Barnett said, “so I was like, ‘Come on, let’s battle.’ It went well. I got the best of him. He got me a few times, but I think I won that one.”
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The ESPN 300 prospect, who is ranked 34th in the nation amongst receivers, said he is planning to announce a decision on the day of the game.
"I'm considering Nebraska, Florida State and Cincinnati," Walker said.
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The 5-foot-9, 165-pound athlete, who totaled three receptions for 35 yards in Godby's 21-20 state championship victory over Immokalee (Fla.) Immokalee on Friday, said he is receiving heavy interest from several top programs.
"I'm hearing a lot from Alabama, Florida State, Florida, Miami and hopefully Oregon soon, but I'm not sure," Hayward said. "I have offers from Kentucky, FSU, Miami and Florida already."
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Though his season is over, things are starting to heat up with McQuay's recruitment. He continues to have a top five of Florida State, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Michigan and USC. Michigan defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery was on hand to watch McQuay on Friday.
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