No. 11 Florida State looks like a bona fide BCS championship contender after redshirt freshman Jameis Winston aced his NCAA debut in a 41-13 beatdown over Pittsburgh.
But that's putting it lightly. The young quarterback lived up to the hype—and more—while dismantling the Panthers under the bright lights of their Monday night matchup. In nearly perfect fashion, Winston completed 25 of his 27 passes and threw for four touchdowns on his way to 356 passing yards in his collegiate debut.
ESPN provided a highlight of his final touchdown pass, the third of the night to tight end Nick O'Leary:
Warchant.com said that his completion rate was the best for any Seminoles quarterback in school history:
Preliminary stats: Winston = with 356 yds and 93 percent completion rate. That's the best completion % in FSU history, if it holds official.— Warchant.com (@Warchant) September 3, 2013
His incredible first-half performance also earned him some recognition nationwide, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Check that-- Jameis Winston is the only QB in the last 10 seasons to throw 3 TD passes + rush for a TD in 1st half of his college career— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 3, 2013
ESPN Stats & Info also pointed out a very interesting tidbit concerning Winston's four-touchdown performance:
The last time a FSU QB threw at least 4 TD in his 1st career start (Danny Kanell in 1993), FSU went on to win the national championship.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 3, 2013
And don't think that Winston's emergence was because of the level of competition on the other sideline. Pitt might not be ready to make a BCS run, but the Panthers defense shouldn't be considered chopped liver either. If you do think Pitt has a bad defense, though, then the rest of the Seminoles' schedule will not be giving the young quarterback much of a challenge the rest of the season.
|Sept. 2||@ Pittsburgh|
|Sept. 28||@ Boston College|
|Oct. 19||@ Clemson|
|Oct. 26||N.C. State|
|Nov. 2||Miami (FL)|
|Nov. 9||@ Wake Forest|
|Nov. 30||@ Florida|
ESPN's Brad Edwards echoed the point with this tweet:
I keep hearing that Winston will face better defenses. Look at that schedule. Who's 2nd best D to Florida? Maryland?— Brad Edwards (@JBradEdwards) September 3, 2013
With the heir to EJ Manuel apparently locked into place, the Seminoles can now focus on their remaining 2013 schedule. Winston made perfect reads, scrambled to extend plays and consistently threw one of the best balls we've seen in the young 2013 season. Smart Football editor Chris Brown said it succinctly but perfectly:
Understatement: Jameis Winston throws a really pretty ball— Smart Football (@smartfootball) September 3, 2013
Running the table won't be easy, but an electric young quarterback, stingy defense and talented skill players give the Seminoles a shot to compete and win each week. It's true, despite losing several defensive starters to the NFL last season, that the Seminoles still boast one of the strongest units on that side of the ball in the nation.
How many games will FSU win in 2013?
In fact, the team has more junior and senior starters on its roster this season than it did in 2012, according to ESPN's Andrea Adelson.
Clemson and Florida will provide huge tests. The Tigers boast one of the most NFL-ready quarterbacks in the country in Tajh Boyd and explosive playmaker Sammy Watkins. And Florida is always a threat to play the Seminoles closely.
Don't be surprised, though, if the reloaded Noles, led by Winston, topple both of their rivals en route to an appearance in the BCS National Championship Game. That is, if they can also avoid a letdown game, something that has become a trend under head coach Jimbo Fisher.