Florida State vs. Clemson: 10 Things We Learned in Seminoles Win
With the season's first BCS rankings less than 24 hours away, no team made a bigger impact on Saturday than the Florida State Seminoles.
The fifth-ranked 'Noles defeated No. 3 Clemson 51-14 in the most impressive showing by any college football team this season. FSU went into Clemson, one of the toughest places in the nation to play a road game, and dominated the Tigers from start to finish.
Freshman quarterback Jameis Winston had a tremendous, big-time performance in the win, but he was just one of many stars for the Seminoles on Saturday.
A turnover on the first play of scrimmage set the tone for the entire game, and the Seminoles never looked back.
Here are 10 things we learned in FSU's big win over Clemson.
Jameis Winston Is for Real
No one questioned Winston's talent before the game. However, he was putting up big numbers against a weak schedule.
On Saturday, though, Winston looked like a senior quarterback on his way to a national championship. He is not a senior, but he may be on his way to a national title. There is a lot of the season left to play, but Winston looked like the best player in America on Saturday night.
The freshman signal-caller is mature beyond his years and shows impressive leadership for such a young player:
Jameis Winston had 293 pass yards against the blitz tonight - the most by a BCS AQ QB in the last three seasons. #FSUvsCLEM—ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 20, 2013
Winston Is Now a Legitimate Heisman Contender
It's worth noting that FSU has six games remaining, but Jameis Winston had a performance for the ages on Saturday night.
Not only did the freshman quarterback pick up a signature win, he continued to pile up impressive statistics. He also has his team at 6-0 on the season.
For the season, Winston has completed 112 of 157 passes for 1,885 yards. He has thrown 20 touchdowns against only three interceptions. He is completing over 70 percent of his passes.
After a freshman had never won the Heisman Trophy before 2012, is it possible we could have two straight freshmen win it?
Nick O'Leary Is a Secret Weapon
Thanks to his performance on Saturday, Nick O'Leary is now a household name.
The Florida State tight end caught five passes for 161 yards in Saturday's win over Clemson.
It wasn't his overall stat line that was most impressive, though. His physical play—trucking over a Clemson defender in the video above—highlighted his ability in the passing game. Later, O'Leary also added a 94-yard reception.
Instead of leaving the game after the long reception, O'Leary remained in the game blocking with the same effort as he did in the first quarter.
On a team full of athletic playmakers, O'Leary gives the 'Noles a different type of offensive weapon. And he gives Winston a safety valve in the short-passing game, an important element for a young quarterback.
Florida State's Receivers Are Among the Best in the Country
When you first look at Kelvin Benjamin, you see the type of big, fast and athletic receiver NFL teams love. Benjamin is 6'5", 242 pounds with outstanding speed and impressive ball skills. His first-quarter touchdown catch showed why opposing teams fear him.
As good as Benjamin was Saturday, he wasn't even the best receiver on his team against Clemson.
Junior Rashad Greene caught eight passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns against the Tigers. His 72-yard catch-and-run was a thing of beauty, as he displayed the blazing speed he is known for. On his second TD grab, Greene showed an ability to break tackles in space.
Greene (6'0", 175) is much smaller than Benjamin but is also the perfect complement to him. They bring different skills to the position and are becoming almost impossible to cover.
Imagine how good this team will become once Winston gets even more time with his star receivers.
Lamarcus Joyner Could Be an All-American
Senior defensive back Lamarcus Joyner may have been Florida State's MVP against Clemson if not for Winston's performance.
On Clemson's first play from scrimmage, Joyner hit Tigers tight end Stanford Seckinger to force a fumble. The Seminoles would score the game's first points just a few plays later.
Later in the quarter, Joyner blitzed Boyd, forcing a fumble that Mario Edwards recovered and ran in for a score.
If that wasn't enough, Joyner also picked off a Boyd pass in the second quarter, effectively ending any momentum the Tigers were attempting to build.
Joyner is a versatile player who can play both corner and safety. He is an effective blitzer from the slot and should get more national recognition after his performance on Saturday.
Offensive Line Set the Tone
When you are starting a freshman quarterback in a hostile environment, you need to have a lot of things to go right. Regardless of how talented the quarterback is, he needs help.
Jameis Winston got that on Saturday, courtesy of his offensive line. Rarely did Winston not have a clean pocket to throw from, and the Seminoles could run the ball every time they needed to.
This dominance started early in the game. When Winston dropped back to pass, he had time to go through his progressions often finding his third or fourth option. Tajh Boyd didn't have that luxury.
Winston's performance took the crowd out of the game early. His offensive line made that possible.
Jeremy Pruitt Is a Rising Star in the Coaching Business
First-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt aced his first true test vs. Clemson.
Pruitt, who came to the 'Noles from Alabama, did what no one else in college football has been able to do recently: stop Tajh Boyd.
Boyd completed just 18 of 38 passes for 164 yards, and he threw two interceptions. Pruitt's defensive schemes confused Boyd all night, and FSU had pressure in his throwing lanes the entire game.
Pruitt is on the fast track after working for Nick Saban for three years. If his defense keeps putting up performances like this one, Pruitt will be a head coach sooner rather than later.
FSU's Defensive Line Is Deep and Dominant
Pruitt has the makings of a great defensive coordinator and the secondary is very good, but the defensive line is truly what makes this unit go.
Mario Edwards' fumble recovery and ensuing return for a touchdown was the highlight play. Edwards looked like a tight end once he scooped up the ball and returned it for a touchdown.
This unit was outstanding from start to finish. They often created pressure on Boyd using just four rushers. When you can play like that on defense, it is often impossible to move the ball. That was the often case on Saturday.
FSU's front four got to Boyd several times and made Clemson's rushing attack nonexistent for much of the game.
Jimbo Fisher Has Officially Turned the Program Around
The Seminoles weren't exactly Duke when Fisher took over four years ago, but they had fallen on hard times compared to what FSU fans had become accustomed to.
Legendary coach Bobby Bowden stayed around perhaps a few years too long, and the program became stagnant. Fisher's first two years didn't endear him to Seminoles fans either.
Last year, things started to turn around for Fisher. He led the 'Noles to a 12-2 record and an Orange Bowl win.
FSU's 6-0 start this year has many around Tallahassee thinking of 1999 all over again. That was the last year Florida State won a national championship.
The dominant win over Clemson on Saturday showed everyone Fisher had his troops ready for the biggest game in several years for the Seminoles.
FSU Is Back
It takes more than one game to deem a player or program back. However, FSU's performance against Clemson, on the road, showed everyone the Seminoles are back to being national title contenders.
Having a quarterback as good as Winston helps things. He is a difference-maker, but this team has much more going for it than just Winston.
They are loaded at the skill positions, are solid at every level on defense and now have the confidence they can beat anyone, anywhere.
It's been a long time since we discussed Florida State on a national level. After Saturday, that is no longer the case.