It took North Carolina State almost 38 minutes to score its first points against second-ranked Florida State on Saturday. It took the Seminoles just under two minutes to get their first points, and after scoring six touchdowns in the first half of what would ultimately be a 49-17 victory, the 'Noles made a case for the country's top spot.
Quarterback Jameis Winston played just one drive in the second half, thanks largely to the first half of domination that saw Florida State run and throw at will against the Wolfpack, while the defense suffocated the NC State attack. Winston threw the ball deep, threw the ball short and again showed the world that harassing him with pressure is not the answer.
As Warchant.com tweeted, Winston was phenomenal in the first 30 minutes:
A day before the Seminoles are expected to move to No. 3 in the BCS rankings, falling behind Oregon, Jimbo Fisher's team let the nation know it would not make it easy on the voters or the computers. The offense was crisp, the defense was dominating and the Seminoles were rolling.
The real issue here, before the Oregon Ducks take on UCLA, is that the nation seems to have three elite teams ahead of everyone else. If they all finish unbeaten, these three squads are going to make it tough to decide who deserves to play for the crystal football.
There's an Alabama team that stumbled out of the gate and played a tight one with Texas A&M but has since been rolling and stomping out opponents. There's Oregon, a team that even in its worst game to date, against Washington State, still managed to win by 24 points.
And then there is Florida State.
This team has outscored its opponents 163-31 in its last three games, two of which came against ranked opponents, and has a quarterback squarely in the Heisman race. It has grown into the 3-4 scheme of new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and is playing tough against the run and the pass.
Florida State is hungry, and as USA Today's Paul Myerberg noted from Fisher's halftime comments, even 42-0 is not enough for this team:
Despite the shutout being lost as the Seminoles worked in young defenders for the entire second half, it is pretty clear that this Florida State team is the real deal and is as deserving of first-place votes as both Oregon and Alabama.
With the Ducks getting set to play 12th-ranked UCLA, the pressure will be on Mark Helfrich's team to perform under the lights. Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban have already gotten big games out of their squads to stay in the hunt for the BCS National Championship Game. That's very real pressure added to the necessity to stay undefeated for Oregon.
Oregon will pass Florida State in the BCS rankings if it takes care of business, but ultimately the nation is watching three teams separate from the pack. Entering 2013, it was understood that Oregon and Alabama would be in the championship mix. Now, as teams fall by the wayside, Florida State has made its way into the arena as an elite team.