A lot can be said about Florida State’s rise to powerhouse status in college football. Most of the team’s success can be attributed to one man: redshirt-freshman quarterback Jameis Winston.
For the Seminoles, who were ranked No. 12 coming into the season, Winston is 14th in the nation in passing yards with 2,502 and leads many Heisman watch lists.
With the amount of success this Seminole team has had this season, why would so many question their No. 2 ranking? The number of statement wins that the Seminoles have under their belts should push them over Oregon into the No. 2 spot.
The Seminoles began capturing national attention when they throttled a then-unbeaten Maryland team. Maryland had just entered the rankings at No. 25 when Winston put up 393 passing yards and five touchdowns in a 63-0 blowout. The shutout proved that the highly touted defense is just as good as the high-powered offense.
To get a shutout in college football is a near impossible task. To do it against a ranked team? That was a statement.
Florida State’s biggest statement win thus far, however, came on Oct. 19, when the Seminoles went into Clemson, S.C., and stunned then-No. 3 Clemson. Clemson’s senior quarterback Tajh Boyd had nearly 1,800 yards passing going into the game, but the Seminole defense forced him into his worst performance of the year, intercepting him twice and allowing him only 156 yards passing, which paled in comparison to his near 300 yard average.
Winston had a career game against the Tigers, throwing for 444 yards and three touchdowns. Junior tight end Nick O’Leary and junior receiver Rashad Greene combined for over 300 yards receiving, a performance that earned Greene the third of his four 100-plus yard receiving games.
Last week the Seminoles faced another unbeaten team, in in-state rival No. 7 Miami. In a game that many thought could be Winston’s breaking point, Florida State shut out Miami in the second half en route to a comfortable 41-14 win.
Winston had his worst game of the season. He’s thrown just four interceptions in his short career leading up to the Miami game, but tossed two in his 325-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Hurricanes. The junior running back tandem of James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman scored two touchdowns each, as the Seminoles went on to score four or more rushing touchdowns for the fifth time this season.
That makes three unbeaten-ranked opponents that the Seminoles have routed, which is three more than Oregon’s zero.
Oregon has yet to play an unbeaten-ranked opponent; in fact they won’t play a ranked and unbeaten team for the rest of the regular season.
The quality of the defenses that each team has faced favors Florida State for the No. 2 ranking. The Seminoles have faced four top-50 defenses — Pittsburgh, Maryland, Clemson, and Miami. They put up an average of over 550 yards per game in those matchups.
The Ducks have yet to face a top-50 rushing defense on the year. The Ducks are considered to be an elite running team, but that claim is devoid of proof thus far.
Oregon’s opponents’ average winning percentage is .509, while Florida State opponents are at .548. The Seminoles’ competition has been stronger than the Ducks’, yet another basis for their No. 2 ranking.
One of the biggest factors in the rankings is the fact that Oregon runs the triple option, which is not as respected nationally as the spread offense. It is more difficult to jump teams with a traditional offense — but not impossible as we saw last year with K-State. This is the problem that the Ducks face, they might run one of the most feared offenses in the country, but just because it is an option offense their ranking won’t show it as much as other offenses.
The next few weeks will be pivotal in deciding who the better team is. Depending on the outcome of this weekend’s game between Oregon and No. 5 Stanford, the Ducks might jump the Seminoles for No. 2. As long as both teams stay undefeated, this argument might come down to December 7th, when both the ACC and the Pac-12 hold their conference championship games.
But look for “Famous” Jameis Winston and the Seminoles to lock the No. 2 spot down in the coming weeks, and potentially play Alabama in the BCS national championship game.