It’s a question that college football fans and media alike have been pondering ever since Jimbo Fisher became a head coach : Is Florida State back?
After a 51-14 thrashing of then-No. 3 Clemson, in place called Death Valley, last night many will be quick to say yes, the Seminoles are finally back to their 90s-level of play. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, especially after what I saw last night, but I’ll offer a different opinion: Who cares?
We can debate if FSU is back to perennial national title contender from now until January, but the reality is we won’t have a definitive answer until years down the road. During the dynasty FSU finished in the Top-five 14 consecutive seasons, so even if the 2013 Seminoles play for a BCS title this year it might not be ‘back’ by FSU’s standards.
Back to my original point though, who cares? Why do we have to qualify what this season means in the macro picture for Fisher and Florida State? Instead I’d urge you to rather just enjoy watching that kid Jameis Winston play for the next two seasons.
What Winston is doing this season is not normal. Against Clemson last night the redshirt freshman was 23 of 34 for 444 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, and also scored a rushing TD. He now has thrown for 1,885 yards, 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
FSU is now 6-0 for the first time since 1999, ranked No. 3 in the country, and No. 2 in the initial BCS rankings. Winston has been unfazed so far this season, no matter what’s been thrown at him.
Prior to kickoff Fisher told ESPN’s Heather Cox he wasn’t worried at all about his young signal caller would perform under the bright lights.
“I know how he prepares, I know how he thinks and I know what’s in his heart and I trust him with everything,” Fisher said.
Fisher isn’t the only the one. Winston’s teammates all have the utmost confidence in him (both the football and baseball team just to be clear), and it shows on the field. Winston is the ultimate competitor, while also still performing as the class clown more often than not. As Clemson rode a bus to prepare for its decent into Memorial Stadium, Winston delivered a simple message to his teammates prior to its biggest game in years, “Smile”.
“We ain’t leaving without a victory,” Winston told the locker room in front of ESPN’s cameras. “My brothers, put a smile on your face. OK. Because Florida State, if we’re going to do it- we do it big. Let’s go, let’s fight.”
Winston’s calm demeanor prior to the game translates to on-field success. Multiple times this season he’s vanished from a pack of would-be- tacklers only to deliver a highlight throw for a touchdown. Against Clemson, save for one play when FSU had a headset malfunction, Winston looked like the senior signal caller, while Clemson QB Tajh Body looked utterly rattled.
According to cfbstats.com, when FSU faces third-down and at least 10 yards to go, Winston is 10 for 11 for 202 yards, two touchdowns and nine first downs. Teams rarely convert in those situations, but the Alabama native and his teammates are doing it 90.9 percent of the time. It’s absurd.
With FSU’s success Winston will head into an area of celebrity and fame that only Johnny Manziel has had to deal with in this current media culture as he makes a legitimate run at the Heisman trophy. In response to a question during media day prior to the season, Winston told reporters to hit him over the head with a microphone if he ever came down with Manziel disease.
He was asked again on Saturday night how he would deal with the pressures of the spotlight.
“I’m going to keep playing,” he responded. “I put everything on my team. It’s easy to get the big head when you think it’s just about yourself, but if I didn’t have those guys, if I didn’t have Coach Fisher, if I didn’t have coach (Randy) Sanders lecturing me every single day it would be easy to slide off… but those guys and the guys I’m playing with they’re amazing, and they’re not going to let me do it.”
Again he’s just a redshirt freshman. During my time covering Winston the only thing you couldn’t get the guy to do was talk about himself.
So while much of the conversation the next few weeks will center around whether or not Florida State is back, don’t forget to just enjoy watching Jameis Winston play football.
I know I am.