The BCS is gone, and it’s always nice to be remembered as the last team to lift that trophy before everything changes. Florida State have been waiting a long time to raise the crystal ball up high, and it turns out Jimbo Fisher and a young Freshman Heisman Trophy Winner named Jameis Winston were the right men to get them back on top.
It’s been 14 years since Florida State won their last national championship, beating Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, posing as the season’s final that year. That was the second time the Seminoles finished as national champions, previously coming up first in 1993 after beating Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Who knew it was going to be a long ride back to the top fro a school that was never outside the top 5 from 1987 until the new Millennium.
It’s easy to say Jameis Winston was the final piece of the puzzle that Jimbo Fisher was putting together. He finished 12-2 last year and led the school to a BCS Bowl victory over North Illinois, but everyone knew it wasn’t it. A new quarterback, it turns out, and more incredible talent filling the defensive ranks, was the right recipe to end the Seminoles’ drought.
Winston didn’t have a very good game against Auburn, who forced him to go deep and long most of the evening, which didn’t work out too well for him. In the fourth quarter, Winston’s average pass traveled 3.6 yards past the line of scrimmage, his lowest average pass distance for any quarter this season. In the first three quarters combined, Winston averaged 10.8 air yards per pass attempt.
Florida State were used to having it easy this season. No game was even remotely close. No once challenged Winston, who had the luxury of making mistakes without having to worry about it actually costing him and his team anything. Finding himself down by 18 points against Auburn, it was time to stop treating him like a wonderkid and keeping things simple.
Winston did make some big plays and was absolutely clutch in the final quarter. He completed 9 of 11 passes in the fourth quarter for 117 yards and two touchdowns. He got help from a huge kickoff return (100 yard touchdown) from Levonte Whitfield and a good game on the ground from Devonta Freeman (73 yards, 1 touchdown). There was the P.J. Williams interception that made up for Winston fumbling the ball in the second quarter. This was a lot more than just Winston.
It was the first challenge Florida State have faced in over a year, and they passed. Their defense hasn’t faced a runner like Tre Mason, but they survived his 195 yards because at some point, Auburn needed more than just his legs, and Nick Marshall failed to deliver, unlike Winston, who made all the right moves and decisions in the final quarter.
Jimbo Fisher – It was the best football game he’s played all year, and I’ll tell you why, because for three quarters he was up and down and he fought. And to pull it out in the atmosphere and environment and with what was on the line tonight, to me if that’s not a great player, I don’t know who is.
Florida State will be the number one team going into next season, getting to keep the best player in college football for one more year. Becoming a dynasty is still a bit out there, especially with the new format, but this looks like once again the time of the Seminoles, at least for one more year.