In Florida State’s dominant 63-0 win over Maryland this past Saturday, two things were confirmed — Jameis Winston is a legitimate Heisman candidate and the Seminoles are a legitimate national championship contender.
Winston fits the modern-day Heisman prototype pretty well. An award that used to be handed out to the clear-cut leader of the widely-accepted best team in college football has now become an award for the flashiest player with the flashiest highlight film and stat line who creates that “Heisman moment.” Florida State’s redshirt freshman quarterback couldn’t be closer to that description. Every time he drops back in the pocket, spectators feel the “what will he do next” effect that we have seen in so many recent Heisman winners — Johnny Manziel, Cam Newton and Tim Tebow to name a few. He’s a baseball pitcher/outfielder with a rocket arm who keeps his eyes downfield on every play. Pundits may still be hesitant to buy into the hype of the young quarterback just yet, saying that it was against a Maryland team that had too much hype of their own. That may be true. Maryland, though undefeated, was probably too unproven to earn the No. 25 ranking it had when the Terrapins played the Seminoles. Nonetheless, 23-of-32 passing for 393 yards and five touchdowns against a conference opponent is impressive even against bottom-tier ACC teams (Side stat: 7 carries for 24 yards). He’s already starting to get the national recognition with weekly honors.
Winston wasn’t the only Seminole entity that made a statement against the Terrapins. Defensive coordinator Jermey Pruitt’s unit stop a Maryland offense that was touted as one of the most explosive in the conference coming into the game. The Terrapins’ season-low in points going in was 32, the offense was blanked by the Seminole defense. Maryland had clearly bullied some inferior opponents and were unable to adjust to the competition and atmosphere against Florida State. The shutout performance was a reassuring sign after a slightly disconcerting week against Boston college, allowing 34 points. The Seminoles’ hot start has caught the attention poll voters. Much to the chagrin of Georgia fans, Florida State managed to leap the Bulldogs in the latest polls after the Seminoles’ blowout win and Georgia’s narrow overtime victory against Tennessee. Either way, Florida State would’ve earned the jump eventually by remaining undefeated (have to win at Clemson, vs. Miami).
Regardless, a team that ranks third in the nation in both points for and points against is thriving off early-season success on the shoulders of Winston. Now the sights are set on a road trip to Clemson on Saturday, Oct. 19. Florida State has already faced two early road tests, at Pittsburgh week one and at Boston College on week four, though neither environment compares to Death Valley at night on national television. Winston has performed spectacularly in both of those outings, while the defense did struggle against Boston College.
The showdown against Clemson — after a Florida State bye and Clemson home game against BC — should turn out to be a competition for leverage in the ACC, national title implications and a likely Heisman battle between Tajh Boyd and Winston.