Florida State Seminoles: Johnny Manziel

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
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Not bad, Week 17. Not bad at all.

Manziel or Winston? Prospects weigh in

December, 29, 2013
12/29/13
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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.

Did you know? ACC bowl games

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
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Thanks to ESPN Stats & Info, the ACC office and sports information departments for these tidbits.
  • This marks the first time in the ACC's 61-year history that three ACC teams have ended the regular season with at least 10 wins (Florida State, Duke and Clemson).
  • Throughout the year, the ACC has had three different top-10 teams (Three teams in the top 10 for three weeks, two teams in the top 10 for all but two weeks.)
  • ACC student-athletes have combined to win as many national individual awards as the other Power 5 conferences combined.
  • The ACC is the first conference in history to sweep the Heisman, Doak Walker, Davey O’Brien, Outland, Lombardi, Bednarik, and Nagurski awards in the same year.
  • As of Dec. 18, the ACC ranked second nationally with a total of 97 selections to postseason All-America teams (Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association, Football Writers Association of America, Walter Camp, Sporting News, USA Today, ESPN, CBS and Sports Illustrated.) The ACC’s 57 total first-team selections were also the second-most of any conference.
  • For the first time, the ACC boasted two of the top five vote recipients for the Heisman Trophy in Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and Boston College running back Andre Williams. They were also among the five finalists for the Walter Camp Foundation National Player of the Year, with Winston receiving that honor.
  • Duke will try to do something it hasn’t done in 53 years: Win a bowl game. The Blue Devils haven’t won a bowl since the Cotton Bowl following the 1960 season. They’ll battle Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A bowl on Dec. 31 (8 ET, ESPN). It could be the final collegiate game for Johnny Manziel. The Aggies haven’t beaten a ranked team this season (0-4).
  • The AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Dec. 31, 12:30 ET on ESPN), features two of the best running backs in the nation in Boston College’s Williams and Arizona’s Ka'Deem Carey. Williams finished fourth in the Heisman voting, while Carey finished 10th. One big difference is the load each player has been forced to carry. Williams has accounted for 80 percent of the Eagles rushing yards this season, while Carey has some help in the running game and has only accounted for 54 percent of Arizona’s rushing total.
  • Pitt is appearing in a bowl for the sixth straight season, but this will be its first bowl game not named the BBVA Compass Bowl since 2009. The Panthers have won just two of their last seven bowl appearances. Bowling Green has lost its last three bowl appearances with its last win coming in the 2004 GMAC Bowl.
  • One of the keys to Maryland’s improvement this season has been health at the quarterback position. Last season four players took snaps at quarterback, including four starts by Shawn Petty, who started the season as a linebacker. C.J. Brown, who missed all of last season with an ACL injury, has thrown for over 2,000 yards and accounted for 23 touchdowns this season.
  • Syracuse’s Terrel Hunt finished the regular season with 426 rushing yards, fourth among ACC quarterbacks in 2013. According to the school's game notes, it's already the most by an Orange QB since Donovan McNabb in 1998 (510).
  • North Carolina’s redshirt-sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams, who grew up in Charlotte, leads a very young Tar Heel offense. 42 of their 50 touchdowns this season have come from freshmen or sophomores, including the last 26.
  • Miami receiver Allen Hurns needs just 19 more receiving yards to set the school single-season record. Hurns already is one of just four players in school history with a 1,000-yard receiving season. Hurns hasn’t found the end zone as frequently as one might expect, though. Only two ACC players have more receiving yards than Hurns this season, but nine players have more touchdown catches than Hurns’ six.
  • The last time Georgia Tech and Ole Miss met in football was exactly 42 years ago: the Dec. 30, 1971 Peach Bowl. Ole Miss won that game, 41-18, its only win in three all-time meetings vs Georgia Tech. A bit of a surprise that this is just the fourth meeting all-time, considering that both were conference opponents when Georgia Tech was in the SEC from 1933-63.
  • Virginia Tech is making its 21st straight bowl appearance, the longest active streak recognized by the NCAA (Florida State is making its 32nd straight bowl appearance this season but vacated the 2006 Emerald Bowl). Rivals Georgia and Georgia Tech are tied for the second-longest active streak with 17 straight appearances. The Hokies need a win to avoid posting consecutive five-loss seasons for the first time since 1990-92 (three straight). To put that streak into perspective, all other current members of the ACC have notched consecutive five-loss seasons since the Hokies joined the league in 2004.
  • Florida State can become only the third team since 1950 to win all of its games by at least 14 points. The last to do it was Utah in 2004. The other was national champion Nebraska in 1995. FSU’s Winston can become just the third QB since 1950 to go undefeated with a national championship and a Heisman Trophy all in the same season. The two to do it were Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010 and USC’s Matt Leinart in 2004.
 

After Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman a year ago, it appears another freshman, Florida State’s Jameis Winston, is poised to take the trophy. But which quarterback had the better freshman campaign?

David Hale and Sam Khan Jr. take the debate to the Interwebs for your reading pleasure:

Take 1: Hale: Winston was consistent, even in biggest games
No matter what Winston accomplishes this season, there’s one thing Manziel will always have over him. Only one player can be the first freshman to win a Heisman, and that was Manziel. He was, to be sure, a worthy winner.

But beyond the history, the debate on which quarterback had the better freshman campaign is easy. It’s Winston.

[+] EnlargeFSU
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesIf winning matters, Jameis Winston has won a conference title and has his team in the national championship game: two things Manziel has not done.
Compare passing numbers through 13 games and Winston comes out well ahead. He threw for a freshman-record 38 touchdowns, compared with 26 for Manziel. Winston threw for more yards, averaged significantly more yards per attempt (10.9 to 8.5 for Manziel) and had a quarterback rating (190.1) that dwarfs Manziel’s (155.3). Winston had seven 300-yard games; Manziel four. Winston accounted for four or more touchdowns six times.

And before anyone makes the strength-of-schedule argument, remember that Winston had a slightly higher adjusted QBR -- which takes into account myriad factors, including competition.

Sure, Manziel came out of nowhere to become a Heisman winner. But wasn’t there a lot more pressure on the much-hyped Winston to live up to those immense expectations?

Then let’s look at how each player fared in his biggest games.

Manziel played six games against ranked teams, and he won four. He completed 67 percent of his throws -- same as Winston -- but the rest of his stats were utterly pedestrian. He averaged just 7.5 yards per attempt, threw for seven TDs and had five interceptions.

Winston, on the other hand, won all four of his games against ranked teams handily. He averaged 11.8 yards per attempt and threw for 12 touchdowns with five INTs.

Winston wasn’t only at his best in big games, he simply never had a bad game. Manziel struggled mightily against Florida and LSU.

And Winston has the edge in the most important statistic: wins. The Seminoles are 13-0 and playing in the BCS National Championship next month. Manziel's season was great and the Aggies were a surprising 11-2 last year, but they didn't even get to a BCS bowl. Their season ended in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.

OK, so now we get to the obvious check mark in Manziel’s corner: his legs.

Admittedly, there’s no comparison here, and Manziel’s ability to run is the great equalizer in this debate. But it’s hardly fair to penalize Winston for looking to throw before he looks to run.

Winston put together a highlight reel of big throws that followed miraculous escape acts. His numbers when under pressure were by far the best in the nation. He managed to extend plays, completing an absurd 16 of 21 passes with four touchdowns and 15 first downs on third-and-10 or longer.

Does that make up for Manziel’s 21 rushing TDs and 1,400 rushing yards? Probably not, but a quarterback's primary jobs are to make throws and win games. Winston was head and shoulders ahead of Manziel in both areas.

Take 2: Khan: Manziel did it all, against tougher teams
Winston has lived up to the hype and that's hard to do. In my opinion, he has been college football's most outstanding player in 2013. In every big game, he delivered and he led his team to the BCS title game.

But there's no debate here. As terrific as Winston has been this season, Johnny Manziel's freshman campaign was better.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Thomas Campbell/USA TODAY SportsJohnny Manziel is clearly the superior runner.
Manziel was statistically better, had to carry his team more and did it against a tougher schedule. Oh, and as David mentioned, Manziel was the first freshman to do it. Can't beat that.

Yes, Winston's passing numbers are better. However, what Johnny Football did with his legs in 2012 is what set him apart, and it's what made him the toughest player to defend in college football. Winston hasn't run nearly as much because the Seminoles don't need him to (77 carries for 193 yards and four touchdowns), but that was a signature part of Manziel's game. He was a true dual threat. Manziel exploded for 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns and led the SEC in rushing a year ago.

Not the leading rusher among quarterbacks. The leading rusher, period.

A&M needed that. Without that element of Manziel's game, the Aggies might not have beaten Louisiana Tech. They might not have beaten Alabama. The season would have been different.

Manziel broke Cam Newton's SEC single-season record for total offensive yards in a season, finishing with a whopping 5,116. And while Winston had more touchdown passes, Manziel had more total touchdowns with 47. Winston still has a chance to catch that total if he accounts for five touchdowns against Auburn in January.

And let's not forget A&M's schedule last year. A&M finished third in the country in the NCAA's "toughest schedule" rankings. The Sagarin ratings had the Aggies with the sixth-toughest schedule last year. The NCAA's schedule rankings are unavailable for this season, but for comparison's sake, Florida State's schedule is currently ranked 63rd in the Sagarin ratings. That's a huge difference.

Winston didn't have to face an LSU team that put five players from its front seven alone in the NFL draft. And even with that, Manziel and the Aggies still could have won that game (they lost 24-19). The best defenses Winston has faced were Florida (10th) and Clemson (23rd). Manziel faced three that finished in last year's top eight (Alabama, Florida, LSU).

And the best win -- at least to this point in time -- belongs to Manziel. Texas A&M's upset over then-No. 1 and eventual champ Alabama in Tuscaloosa was the epitome of Manziel's freshman campaign. He was virtually unstoppable. He threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 92. Gaining 345 yards individually against a Nick Saban-coached defense? Simply amazing.

Winston has a chance at the crystal football. Manziel can't top that and there's no denying it. But that's more of a team accomplishment and there's not a ton Manziel can do about it.

If you were picking a team to go win a football game and both supporting casts were the same, which QB would you pick: 2012 Johnny Manziel or 2013 Jameis Winston? My guess is you're taking Johnny Football. He's done things on a football field that seemingly nobody else can.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
12:00
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Great story.

Noles roll again amid Winston scrutiny

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The stands were sparsely populated by the end, a small contingent convinced either by obligation or morbid curiosity to wait out the inevitable.

When Florida State scored its ninth touchdown of the day, Kenny Shaw wondered if it was time to call off the dogs. After the 11th, he wondered if the Seminoles might make a push to score 100.

After it was over, Jimbo Fisher was asked if he'd ever been on a team that scored 80, as Florida State did in an 80-14 win over Idaho on Saturday. Actually, Fisher said, he once quarterbacked a team that scored 82.

"I guess we've got to step our game up a little," FSU QB Jameis Winston responded.

Eighty points and more work to do. That's the elite strata where Florida State resides on the field these days, and Saturday was a crown jewel in a dominant season.

Shaw, Devonta Freeman and Karlos Williams all topped 100 yards. The defense picked off four passes and scored twice. As he has in four of the past five games, Winston made just a cameo in the second half, and yet he still threw for four touchdowns, pushing his season total to 32 -- one shy of Chris Weinke's school record.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesDespite the storm brewing off the field, Jameis Winston remained as focused as ever on it.
After Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel struggled in a loss to LSU, Winston's strong outing (14-of-25 for 225 yards and four touchdowns) should've secured him a massive lead in the Heisman race with just two games remaining, too, but that's where life for Florida State stops being so easy. There is a whole set of messy questions still lingering away from the game itself that complicate everything about what's to come.

The investigation into sexual-assault claims leveled against Winston will bleed into a third week, state attorney Willie Meggs told the Associated Press on Saturday, saying he likely wouldn't make a decision on whether the Florida State quarterback would be charged with a crime until after Thanksgiving. But as Meggs bides his time, the rest of Tallahassee buzzes with questions and rumors and innuendo.

Before the game, fans debated the next step in this legal drama as they guzzled beers and grilled burgers. When Winston took the field for Florida State's first offensive series, he earned a massive ovation from the crowd, though Fisher chalked it up as a routine greeting for the Heisman candidate. After it was over, only a small contingent of Florida State's roster was available to media -- a measure instituted by the school to avoid any quotes that might be misconstrued by a horde of reporters parsing every last word. And, as has been the case before each of Winston's public comments since the news of the investigation first broke, FSU staff offered a concise reminder that he would talk only about football, even if the football was a complete afterthought in the wake of yet another blowout win.

On the field, there's little left to discuss. Florida State is as good as any team in the country.

Off the field, the illicit details of an alleged 11-month-old encounter have led to an enigmatic legal battle that is the talk of college football.

"The football field is a sanctuary to me," Winston said. "And it's like that for all my teammates. I can feel it. On that field, everything is zoned out, clear the mechanism, we focus and we're out there to get a victory."

The victory came easily, as so many have this year. Florida State has won each of its games by at least two touchdowns, scored 40 points or more in all 11 contests and outscored its three nonconference opponents by a combined 196-27.

Saturday's game was more about a celebration of the senior class, which took the field in front of the home crowd for the final time. It also was another referendum on Winston's focus, and he continues to show nothing of any private worries during his public appearances.

In that context, the 80-point afternoon was an appropriate conclusion to Florida State's home slate. This was a senior class that arrived amid turbulence, as legendary coach Bobby Bowden was pushed out the door following the 2009 season and Fisher took the reins. It's a group that signed on with Fisher amid one storm, then weathered numerous others along the way.

"We've been through this years in and years out," Shaw said. "You're going to go through what championship teams go through. We're trying to stay upbeat, continue on the same schedule, play like everything's normal."

Things aren't normal, but those distractions haven't altered Florida State's march toward the BCS championship game.

When it was over, Shaw was asked when he might stop to reflect on his four years at Florida State. On a day when so much debate raged among those away from the field, Shaw offered a far more succinct approach.

"Probably after Pasadena," he said.

FSU's easy wins limit Winston's workload

November, 12, 2013
11/12/13
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- There was little to dissect of another easy win for Florida State, so the topic at Jimbo Fisher's weekly news conference Monday quickly turned to his handling of a blowout.

With a big lead, a reporter suggested, there was little sense leaving quarterback Jameis Winston in for the fourth quarter.

"Or the third quarter," Fisher interjected.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesBecause FSU has been winning easily, Jameis Winston has spent a lot of time on the sidelines.
Indeed, Winston's recent outings have been brief, and in two of his last three games, he took a seat on the bench after just one drive in the third quarter. It's a light workload for the current Heisman frontrunner, and while the easy wins allow for some second-half relaxation, those margins present their own set of concerns.

Start with Winston's Heisman campaign. The postseason award fits firmly in the category of "clutter," and Fisher warns about such distractions daily. But it's also true that a Heisman Trophy brings a certain amount of prestige, and even the regimented coach understands it's a rare opportunity.

"It's clutter," Fisher said, "but it's good clutter."

Winston's numbers through nine games more than warrant his status as favorite for the honor, but his workload doesn't exactly provide opportunities to pad his stats. In Florida State's 59-3 win over Wake Forest on Saturday, Winston threw for a career-low 159 yards, and he didn't complete a pass for more than 18 yards.

"I think we got the ball two times in the second quarter, so you can't judge how we were playing," Winston said.

Therein lies the problem. For one 10-minute stretch of action, Florida State's offense ran just four plays, but thanks to a stellar defensive effort, the Seminoles added 28 points to the scoreboard.

It's the paradox of success for Winston: He's too good to be playing in the fourth quarter, which might hurt his chances of being rewarded for his success with a Heisman.

Winston's top competition for the Heisman is last year's winner, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel. With one additional game under his belt, Manziel has accounted for nearly 4,000 yards of offense and 39 touchdowns -- both numbers far outpacing Winston's totals. But opportunity has played a big part of Manziel's resume, with the Texas A&M quarterback accounting for a far greater percentage of his team's plays in the second half this season than Winston has.

Winston's abridged appearances late in games haven't helped his stats, but Fisher said voters should understand the context.

"I think they see who's in control, and it's how you play when you play -- the quality of your play," Fisher said.

How Florida State has played with a big lead lately also is something of a concern. When Winston has settled into a rhythm, he has been excellent, but too often in recent weeks, consistency has been tough to find.

Winston helmed just five drives against Wake Forest that started on the Seminoles' half of the field. Those drives ended with two touchdowns, a punt, a fumble and an interception. After Winston's final throw -- a pick on a pass forced into tight coverage because the quarterback wanted his reserve tight end to get his first catch of the year -- Fisher was livid.

"We had some times we've got to be a little smarter," Fisher said after the game. "As soon as you start to press this game, it bites you. Whatever is there, read it take it. That's it."

Knowing his time on the field was limited, Winston tried to do too much. His receivers didn't help. There were three crucial drops, and Christian Green fumbled away what would have been a big catch. Focus was wavering, and that won't be tolerated.

"When [the defense] is getting turnovers and scoring touchdowns like that, sometimes it's hard," Winston said. "But I've got to do a better job of commanding the team and leading us down there on those drives."

Fisher breathed fire on the sideline and after the game, but really, it's hard to be too upset with a 56-point margin of victory.

"I acted like I was unhappy," Fisher said. "I want to keep them on edge."

That's the balance going forward. Florida State is a heavy favorite again this week, and that figures to continue through the end of the regular season. Winston's fourth-quarter work likely will remain limited, even with backup Jacob Coker now out with a knee injury. The offense will have to learn to adjust to a haphazard workload, and the Heisman voters might need to dig a little deeper to appreciate Winston's place in the box score.

That's all fine for now, Fisher said, just as long as his offense is prepared for a tight second half when it finally comes.

"There are some things we can improve on," Fisher said. "From a focus concentration point you've got to be able to do that. We're learning."
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The playful chiding started around campus the day after the game. Students stopped Jameis Winston, stood a few feet back, then asked if he could see them.

The joke quickly caught on in Florida State’s locker room, too. Rashad Greene, the Seminoles’ star receiver who has hauled in 45 catches, including eight touchdowns, from Winston this season, pestered his quarterback about his eyesight.

“Man, you can’t see,” Greene told him.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesWhile everyone focused on Jameis Winston's squinting, the Florida State QB doesn't even look twice at all the attention.
Winston grinned, then offered the obvious retort.

“How do I see you down the field then?” Winston replied.

The Heisman hopeful laughed off all the jokes this week, but the mere fact that a few on-field squints caught on camera during last week’s win over Miami garnered national attention underscores just how big the spotlight is on Winston these days.

The truth is, Winston has been squinting toward the sideline for the past four years, and it hasn’t affected his game much. In high school, a contact popped out mid-game, and he finished up with just one. He completed all but four passes, his father, Antonor, said.

Since then, the squinting has been little more than a quirky side effect of Winston’s competitive spirit. He’d rather take an extra look toward the sideline to get the play from his coach than miss any of the action because a lens was scratched.

“He’s a different cat,” Antonor Winston said. “Jameis is the type of guy that, if one of those contacts come out, he doesn’t want to be going to the sideline with people wanting to know what’s wrong. He doesn’t want to come out of the game. He’d rather win and can’t see.”

But for Winston, the latest headlines have less to do with his eyesight than the bubble he’s been living in since his exceptional debut against Pittsburgh on Labor Day.

In the 10 weeks since that game, Winston has become a national celebrity, and virtually anything he says or does is liable to garner national attention. There was the preseason hoopla when he repeated a reporter’s question about “Manziel disease,” and a mini-drama erupted from media wondering if Winston had insulted Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. There was Winston’s quip about a Nevada player’s haircut that quickly made the rounds on Twitter and became its own Internet meme. The pregame speeches, the postgame interviews -- it’s all news simply because Winston said it.

“That's one thing, my face has always been shown,” Winston said. “If you see the other players, they squint for the sideline, too. People say I squint worse, but if you're squinting, you're squinting.”

Winston actually visited an optometrist on Monday -- complete with a photo on Twitter as evidence -- but he said that was a coincidence, an appointment scheduled long before the Miami game. And if he was somewhat defensive about his vision, he certainly wasn’t upset at all the attention.

“It's just life, man,” Winston said. “Sometimes people can change things into big things. But that's fun things. There's nothing bad about that.”

That mindset is a distinct departure from Manziel’s response to the media frenzy that surrounded him after his Heisman win a year ago. Manziel was photographed at fraternity parties, interviewed while attending NBA games, mobbed in public places around Texas A&M’s campus. In June, Manziel responded to all the attention with a tweet saying he “can’t wait to leave College Station.”

For Winston, however, life in the fishbowl hasn’t been nearly so stressful.

“It doesn’t bother Jameis a bit,” Antonor said.

Winston countered the vision concerns by insisting reporters pick out distant signs for him to read. He followed up on the attention given to the Nevada player’s haircut by seeking out Brock Hekking after their Sept. 14 game and introducing himself. For all the cameras continuously surrounding him, Winston hasn’t tempered his personality much.

He’s always wanted the big stage, and all the attention comes with the job.

“When you’re an elite guy like that, you’ve got people that want to follow you,” running back Devonta Freeman said. “And when you say great things, people are going to follow.”

Still, the spotlight can be harsh at times, and Fisher said Florida State works to prep its players for that reality. Programs are developed and guest speakers are brought in to educate players on dealing with the media, handling success, shrugging off failure.

In spite of all that training, though, Winston hasn’t changed much. He laughs and jokes and shows off when he feels like it, still deflects as much attention to his teammates as he absorbs.

That’s been the true test of his character, Fisher said.

“Success reveals more about somebody than failure. Who you really are continues to show when you have success,” Fisher said. “He’s exactly the same guy.”

No. 3 Florida State is set to meet No. 7 Miami in yet another Top 10 matchup for the ACC. Miami is the final ranked team on the Seminoles' regular-season schedule, leaving us to wonder whether the Hurricanes actually are the Seminoles' toughest remaining opponent on the road to an unbeaten season.

Heather Dinich and Andrea Adelson debate that very question.

Heather says: Miami on Saturday

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaCoach Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles defeated Miami 33-20 last season.
It’s not going to get any more difficult than this.

No. 7 Miami is the biggest obstacle still standing in the way between the Seminoles and an undefeated season.

A road trip to Gainesville you say? Psh. Even the Canes beat the Gators -- and that was when Florida was good.

Everything Miami has -- or, more accurately, hasn’t -- done this season is a moot point. The key is that the Canes have done enough to set up a top 10 showdown between two undefeated rivals in front of an ESPN College GameDay crowd. Florida State is going to get Miami’s best shot -- and the Seminoles know it. Not that Florida won’t be aiming for that same bullseye, but Miami is simply a better team than Florida and has proven it in head-to-head competition.

The Gators have lost back-to-back games against ranked opponents. They’re 4-3 and dropped out of the rankings in Week 8 after losing to Missouri, 36-17. They’ve also lost to Florida State in two of the past three seasons. This is a Florida team that’s projected to go to the BBVA Compass Bowl right now -- a freefall from last season's Sugar Bowl appearance. Eight players have suffered season-ending injuries since summer camp, including starting quarterback Jeff Driskel, and the team’s top defender, Dominique Easley. The Gators rank 12th or worse in the SEC in scoring, passing, rushing and total offense.

By comparison: Virginia Tech ranks No. 110 in the country in total offense -- right behind Florida.

SportsNation

Which is the toughest opponent left on the Florida State regular-season schedule?

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Unlike the Gators, Miami can move the ball. The Canes are No. 19 in the country in scoring offense. They’ve got one of the most productive running backs in the country in Duke Johnson. And the defense is averaging 3.14 sacks per game -- a huge improvement from last year, when Miami averaged just 1.08 per game.

If Florida State can get past the Canes on Saturday, the most difficult stretch of the season will be behind the Noles. The ACC -- the entire country for that matter -- has been waiting for this rivalry to be relevant again.

Now it’s Florida’s turn to wait.

Andrea says: at Florida, Nov. 30

Florida does not appear to be a tough opponent today, not with all the injuries that have taken a preseason Top 10 team and turned it into an also ran.

But this will undoubtedly be the toughest test on the remaining Florida State schedule. First, this game will ultimately define the Florida season, especially if the Gators lose to Georgia this weekend. Should Florida State come into the regular-season finale against Florida unbeaten, then you can be assured the Gators would love nothing more than to wreck any shot Florida State has at winning a national championship. Laughable?

Rewind to 1997, when double-digit underdog Florida beat No. 1 Florida State 32-29, denying the Noles a shot at the title. It is true that 1997 Florida team is better than this 2013 Florida team but, nonetheless, upsets in rivalry games do happen. And they have happened in this series.

Secondly, and most importantly, Florida presents much tougher matchups for the Seminoles. The Gators rely on a power ground game, and the Florida State defense has been built to best defend a different type of offense. Linebacker Terrance Smith confirmed that point, saying after the NC State win, "I feel our defense is kind of made for the spread.” Against power run teams like Boston College and even Bethune-Cookman at times, the Florida State defense had its share of struggles. The Noles gave up 392 total rush yards in those two games.

There is no doubt Florida will have the best defense Florida State has faced this year, despite the injuries. That includes the all-important secondary, where Florida features future Freshman All-American Vernon Hargreaves III. He is tied for the SEC lead in passes defended and tied for second in the league with three interceptions.

Opposite him, Loucheiz Purifoy is one of the best cornerbacks in the country. Through the first seven games this year, opposing quarterbacks have completed just 47.5 percent of their passes on this Florida secondary -- good for No. 5 in the nation. Quarterbacks are averaging just 5.5 yards per attempt, which is No. 4 in the nation. Coach Will Muschamp is a defensive guru. Perhaps he can devise a plan to slow down Jameis Winston. That is what Florida did last year to Johnny Manziel (173 yards passing, one total touchdown).

Third, all the pressure in the world is going to be on Florida State to beat an overmatched rival. Everybody expects Florida to roll over. Florida State has done well handling pressure all season, but what it will face in this game is nothing compared to Death Valley. The finish line will be in site, against a bitter in-state rival that has won seven of the last nine games in the series. Simply put, no matter the record, Florida is not NC State. Nor is it Wake Forest or Syracuse.

Florida will be a tough out. The toughest out on the remaining slate.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The enthusiasm eventually overwhelms even the most strident purveyors of moderation, which is why it was hard for even Jimbo Fisher to quash a smile after Saturday's 63-0 win against Maryland in which his quarterback somehow managed to astonish a fan base that has come to expect almost anything from him.

There were the five touchdown passes, a career high.

There were the 393 yards, also a career best.

And there was the escape act, as Jameis Winston slipped through the arms of a would-be tackler, rolled out of the pocket and added more salt in an already gaping wound for the overwhelmed Terrapins.

"It was a tremendous play," Fisher said. "It really was."

Don't expect much more exuberance than that from Fisher, who has worked as hard as anyone to downplay the excitement surrounding Winston since the buzz first began to build this spring, but the seemingly endless series of highlights the redshirt freshman has provided speaks for itself.

In ESPN's latest adjusted QBR rankings, Winston ranks sixth, behind a handful of top Heisman contenders, and a closer examination only underscores how good he's been. In games when FSU has trailed, Winston's QBR is 94.5, second best in the nation behind Georgia's Aaron Murray. On third down, Winston's QBR is 99.1, behind Bryce Petty, Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota. On passing plays this year, Winston's 97.3 QBR trails only Petty.

Winston has compiled those numbers with remarkable consistency, too. In each of his first five starts, Winston has finished with a QBR of at least 75 (on a scale to 100). From 2008 to 2012, only three other quarterbacks did that in their first five games of a season, according to ESPN Stats and Info, and all three -- Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson -- are starting in the NFL.

And then, of course, there's the comparison fans have wanted to make since Winston starred in Florida State's spring game. If a Heisman is in Winston's future, it's largely because Manziel blazed that path as a freshman just a year ago.

So how does Winston stack up to Manziel's first five games from 2012?


(* Manziel had 495 rushing yards in his first five games. Winston has just 135.)

The numbers are close enough that even Fisher can't deny that the Heisman talk isn't so far-fetched -- and that's a statement unto itself.

"When we keep winning games," Fisher said of an appropriate time to discuss Winston's Heisman chances. "The Heisman is the team that wins the most games and the best player on that team. We have to keep having success."

Still, that's a big step from Fisher's stance on the award just a year ago.

After Florida State upended Clemson at home behind a stellar performance from EJ Manuel, the FSU QB vaulted to the top of the Heisman predictions. Fisher was quick to downplay the buzz. He compared Manuel to a hunting dog, and he said the Heisman was for show dogs.

In that win over Clemson, Manuel threw for 380 and two touchdowns. Winston has topped 300 yards and thrown at least four touchdowns in all three of the ACC games he's played so far.

Of course, Manuel's numbers -- and FSU's record -- didn't keep him in contention the rest of last season, and Manziel's strong start proved to be just the beginning. Manziel's final eight games of 2012 were staggering: 67 percent completions, 15 passing TDs and 14 more on the ground, 915 rushing yards, and six games with an adjusted QBR better than 90.

The question now, with No. 3 Clemson looming and expectations rising with every dazzling performance, is how Winston will finish.

Matching Manziel won't be easy, but it's also possible Winston is only getting better.

"With the team I have, it's always been easy," Winston said of his strong start. "It's probably slowing down a little bit more, but those guys around me -- I have so many weapons, I think it's always been looking like that out there."

Winston's hot start has FSU among elite

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
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Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesJameis Winston had five passing touchdowns against Maryland.
Jameis Winston has Florida State on its way possibly to its best season of the 21st century.

The redshirt freshman has been quite impressive in his first five games as the Seminoles' starting quarterback.

Winston had five passing touchdowns against Maryland, the most by a Florida State quarterback since Christian Ponder had five in 2009 against Georgia Tech.

Winston now has 17 passing touchdowns, the most by anyone in a player's first five career games over the past 10 seasons.

Winston joins Boise State’s Kellen Moore as the only FBS players over the past 10 seasons with a QBR of at least 75 in each of their first five career games.

In three ACC games, Winston has a 93.6 Total QBR, has completed 76 percent of his passes, and is averaging 360 passing yards per game with 13 passing touchdowns and one interception.

Heisman hopeful
How does Winston compare to past Heisman winners in their first five games of the season? He has more touchdowns responsible for (passing and rushing touchdowns) than Johnny Manziel (2012) and Cam Newton (2010). And he has fewer turnovers (two) than any of the past three Heisman winners –- Manziel, Robert Griffin III (2011) and Newton.

The rout was on
Winston’s superb play led the Seminoles to a dominant victory over No. 25 Maryland 63-0.

Florida State's 63-0 win over Maryland is tied for the largest margin of victory over a ranked team since the AP Poll began in 1936. In 1997, UCLA beat No. 11 Texas, 66-3.

It’s the largest margin of victory by any team in an ACC conference game.

It’s also the largest shutout win ever by Florida State over a ranked team.

The 5-0 Seminoles are idle next week before clashing with undefeated No. 3 Clemson on Oct. 19 at Death Valley.

SEC Power Rankings: Week 1

September, 3, 2013
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The first week of college football is in the books, and it's time to see where we think all 14 SEC teams stack up in our weekly power rankings:

1. Alabama (1-0; LW: 1): OK, Alabama isn't perfect. Contrary to what AJ McCarron said, the offensive line looked ugly for most of the night in Alabama's win over Virginia Tech. It has to get better in a hurry. But when your defense and special teams are clicking like they were on Saturday, who needs offense?

2. South Carolina (1-0; LW: 4): Two players I've been saying to keep an eye on since the spring: Mike Davis and Shaq Roland. Both looked pretty good, especially Davis, in that opening win, and both will be fun to watch this weekend. The defensive front looked great, but can someone please give Jadeveon Clowney some vitamin C and an extra Gatorade?

3. LSU (1-0; LW: 6): Don't sleep on these Tigers. They're undervalued, but were very impressive in their 37-27 victory over a ranked TCU team in their own backyard. The defense still looks fast, and the offense racked up nearly 450 yards behind some explosive plays. The return of running back Jeremy Hill should make this team even better.

4. Texas A&M (1-0; LW: 2): Johnny Manziel looked good when he was actually playing football Saturday. He went through his progressions and didn't think "run" first. But his antics have to stop (just ask Kevin Sumlin), and that defense has to get much, much, MUCH better before Alabama rolls into town in two weeks.

5. Florida (1-0; LW: 5): It doesn't look like the Gators will miss much of a beat defensively after they suffocated Toledo and that uptempo offense. The offense? Well, it did look more polished and the passing game actually moved down the field, but the Gators were very vanilla. Expect that to change against Miami.

6. Georgia (0-1; LW: 3): We knew the defense would struggle against Clemson's high-octane offense, but the Bulldogs looked really bad in the tackling department. This group has to go back to the basics, and that isn't a good thing with physical South Carolina coming to town this weekend. Also, that offensive line has to protect Aaron Murray better because Todd Gurley can't do it all himself on offense.

7. Ole Miss (1-0; LW: 8): The future certainly looks bright in Oxford, Miss., but this program is hoping the present is just as bright. The Rebels kicked off the college football season with an electric, back-and-forth win over Vanderbilt. This offense looks built to go the distance, but depth is still a major concern. Health is key.

8. Vanderbilt (0-1; LW: 7): The Commodores lost a heartbreaker to the Rebels at home, but this team still looks as explosive as it was last year. The defense has some things to clean up, but defensive coordinator Bob Shoop should make sure that happens. Jordan Matthews has star status, but not having Chris Boyd on the other side of him hurts the offense.

9. Auburn (1-0; LW: 9): The Tigers had quite a fun opener. Both the offense and defense were up and down, but it had to be nice for Gus Malzahn to see his running game put up 295 yards on Washington State. The pass defense has some work to do and injuries won't help.

10. Missouri (1-0; LW: 11): The 58-point, 694-yard performance from the Tigers' offense looked more like what people in Columbia, Mo., expected to see more often last year. Granted, it was against Murray State, but that sort of outing will build some confidence within this group. It was good to see James Franklin and Henry Josey on the field and healthy again.

11. Arkansas (1-0; LW: 13): By looking at the box score, you'd think Bobby Petrino's offense was back in Fayetteville, Ark., after the Hogs put up 522 yards on Louisiana-Lafayette. The Hogs could run and pass, and the defense held the Ragin' Cajuns to just 274 yards. The Hogs still have a couple of cupcakes to face before things get interesting at Rutgers.

12. Tennessee (1-0; LW: 12): We really don't know what to take from Tennessee's thumping of a very overmatched Austin Peay team, but the Vols looked to have some real legs in the running game. How long that will last is a mystery, but it was a good start. Things get tougher this weekend when Western Kentucky and Bobby Petrino visit Rocky Top.

13. Mississippi State (0-1; LW: 10): That was a bad offensive performance by the Bulldogs in their 21-3 loss to Oklahoma State. Mississippi State was 2-for-16 on third downs and Tyler Russell threw for only 133 yards against a defense that ranked 113th nationally in pass defense last year. The Bulldogs held the Cowboys to just 146 passing yards, but allowed nearly 286 rushing yards.

14. Kentucky (0-1; LW: 14): That was not the opener Mark Stoops wanted or needed. The Wildcats looked overmatched against Western Kentucky and are still struggling mightily to find playmakers in the passing game. What had to really upset Stoops was that his defensive line, which was supposed to be this team's best unit, didn't get enough pressure up front and allowed the Hilltoppers to rush for more than 200 yards.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jameis Winston made headlines this week claiming he hoped to avoid "Manziel disease," a reference to the off-field issues surrounding Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, and in the process the Florida State quarterback got a firsthand lesson on how tough the media scrutiny can be.

Winston's comments only followed a question from a reporter who used the "Manziel disease" phrasing, but when the FSU quarterback repeated it in his answer, the quote gained national attention and made the rounds on Twitter and other social media outlets.

Jameis Winston
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesJameis Winston's comments on Johnny Manziel's situation earned the redshirt freshman quarterback scrutiny this week.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said he wasn't upset with Winston and understood his quotes were attributed without the proper context, but he said it should be a good lesson to the highly touted quarterback that everything he says will be scrutinized.

"I always tell him, 'Are you getting attention or are you talking for a purpose?' " Fisher said. "There's two different ideas there. Sometimes when you're young, you like for people to listen to you. Just make sure you're doing it within your personality, but you're talking for a reason. And remember you're representing you, your family and your organization."

Winston, who has earned attention as a top recruit and star in the making during the past year, was the star of Florida State's annual fall media day session Sunday, entertaining a throng of reporters for about 15 minutes. When a reporter asked what would happen if he got "Manziel disease" amid all the hype, Winston offered a lighthearted reply.

"If I get Manziel disease, I want every one of you all to get your mikes and start slapping me on the head," he joked.

Winston quickly added that he'd heard only good things about Manziel, and that he saw many similarities between them -- making Manziel's off-field troubles a good reminder of what can happen when the spotlight is on him.

"It's good to see things like that because he's a great guy, he's like me -- he's fun, he's outgoing," Winston said. "But sometimes when all eyes are on you, you can't do certain things."

The prompt reaction to his "Manziel disease" quote underscored that lesson, Fisher said.

Winston has not been made available to the media since the comments, and while Fisher said he didn't feel his quarterback had done anything wrong, he could choose to limit Winston's interaction with the press going forward.

Winston is currently battling sophomore Jacob Coker for the Seminoles' starting quarterback job. The team scrimmaged for the first time in fall camp Wednesday, but Fisher said he's still not close to tabbing a starter for Florida State's opener at Pittsburgh.

Video: Winston discusses Manziel

August, 11, 2013
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ESPN.com's David Hale discusses the comments made by Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston regarding Johnny Manziel.
Throughout the summer, Nole Nation will be counting down the 40 players we're projecting to make the biggest impact on the Seminoles' 2013 season, taking into consideration everything from experience to potential to their spot on the current depth chart.

Next up: No. 3 Jameis Winston

Position/Class: QB/RFr.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesAfter months of hype, Florida State's Jameis Winston is set for his Monday night debut at Pittsburgh.
What he's done: The list of accomplishments for Winston thus far are impressive. He's garnered immense attention as a high school quarterback. He's been the top-recruited quarterback in the country. He's garnered a massive cult following after video surfaced of him throwing footballs over fraternity houses. He's been praised as perhaps FSU's top cheerleader throughout the 2012 season -- home and away. He's generated buzz from teammates for his impressive practice performances. He's battled two more veteran quarterbacks throughout spring practice and come out on top. He's starred in this year's spring game, throwing a touchdown past two-time All-ACC defender Lamarcus Joyner on his first throw. He's touched 100 mph on the radar gun in baseball games as one of FSU's top relief aces. In fact, the only thing Winston hasn't done so far is actually throw a pass in a college game.

Where he's at: Jimbo Fisher's final evaluation is the only one that matters, and he has yet to officially name Winston his starter, but for all intents and purposes, that seems a done deal. Winston was the clear winner during spring practice, and his biggest competition, junior Clint Trickett, transferred to West Virginia soon after practice concluded. Jacob Coker will still push Winston for the job -- a competition that actually figures to be better than what Coker mustered this spring with an injured foot -- but at this point, it would take a major upset for anyone other than Winston to be taking the first snaps of the season. The bigger question for most fans at this point is what Winston will do with those snaps, and the expectations are immense. While Fisher has cautioned restraint, more than a few fans are already dreaming of Heisman trophies and national titles.

What's to come: Winston doesn't seem particularly concerned about the high bar of expectations. Heck, he's put them on himself. He's already balanced football and baseball and compared his longterm ambitions to that of Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. But whether he's ready to step in and star as a freshman remains to be seen. Just last year, a redshirt freshman QB won the Heisman, and Johnny Manziel might be the comparison Winston will hear the most. But the more appropriate measure might be that of EJ Manuel, who had an strong season in 2012 but was marked by inconsistency along the way. Winston figures to hit a few bumps in the road, too, as he learns on the job, but his confidence and talent are virtually unmatched, and he's got a strong supporting cast around him. If he can approach Manuel's production from last year, it will have been a successful debut. If he can exceed them, Florida State just might end up being a bigger contender for a conference and national championship than many are currently projecting.

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