Miami vs. FSU: 10 Things We Learned in Seminoles' Win
Who's the best team in the country?
Florida State took a big step Saturday night in staking its claim as the nation's top team with a 41-14 shellacking over rival, and previously undefeated, No. 7 Miami.
The 'Noles were dominant in every phase of the game and outgained the Hurricanes by 224 yards. Quarterback Jameis Winston struggled in the first half before shaking things off to have an efficient second half.
FSU was led by junior running back Devonta Freeman, who scored three touchdowns on the night.
With their second win over a Top 10 team in three weeks, the Seminoles surely look like one of the two best teams in the country.
Here are 10 things we learned about the Seminoles in their win over Miami on Saturday.
Jameis Winston Is Human After All
If you look at Jameis Winston's final stat line, you might think it was a pretty impressive performance. He was 21 of 29 for 324 yards and a touchdown.
However, it was Winston's two first-half interceptions that led to all of Miami's 14 points. Both throws were on Winston, one was a bad decision and the other was just a bad throw.
But no one is perfect. Unfortunately, Winston has been so good that we expect perfection.
This game shouldn't hurt his Heisman chances. His team won in convincing fashion and is headed for an undefeated season. He is arguably the nation's top player.
Winston Faced Adversity and Came out Shining
Stat-wise, this may not have been Winston's best game. At least not in the first half. Winston completed nine of 15 passes in the first half, but two of his misses were interceptions.
Those interceptions were costly and gave Miami a lot of momentum heading into the second half.
How would Winston respond?
Fabulously. In the second half, Winston connected on 12 of 14 passes for 164 yards. He often evaded pressure by moving in the pocket or checking down to a running back.
And even in the first half when he was struggling a bit, Winston had two big runs on third down to keep FSU drives alive. The 'Noles would score on both drives.
Moving forward, this was big for Winston to face some adversity and bounce back the way he did.
Devonta Freeman Is a Stud
The junior running back from Miami had the best game of his career on Saturday night. Freeman, spurned by Miami out of high school, ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns, while also finishing with 98 yards receiving and another score.
Freeman made big plays in the passing game, whether it was a called screen or a check-down from Winston.
Freeman was most valuable, though, grinding out the tough yards in the running game. He had one 19-yard run and several short runs to keep Miami honest and force the Hurricanes to put an extra man in the box.
He may not be the most talented back on the roster, but Freeman is the most complete.
Offensive Line Experience Is Perfect for Young QB
Florida State's five starting offensive linemen have combined to start over 90 games for the 'Noles.
That experience is crucial for a team with such a young quarterback. It proved critical in Saturday's win over Miami as Winston was sacked just one time.
This line is equally adept at opening holes in the running game, too. FSU ran for 192 yards against a very good Miami defense. They truly have no weaknesses and, as a unit, are the best in the country.
Left tackle Cameron Erving is playing at an All-American level and is a future NFL first-round draft choice.
Teams that win the national title usually have strong offensive lines. Look at Alabama in recent years. FSU has that type of line play in 2013.
Jeremy Pruit Won't Be in Tallahassee Long
This isn't a knock on Pruitt, FSU's first-year defensive coordinator. He is just headed for bigger and better things.
Pruitt, who came to Tallahassee from Alabama where he was Nick Saban's secondary coach, has the 'Noles playing defense as good as anyone in the country.
When Miami was running all over the Seminoles in the first half, Pruitt didn't panic, and instead altered his game plan to make Stephen Morris beat his defense. Morris, obviously, couldn't do it and the holes for Duke Johnson got much smaller as the game wore on.
Pruitt's shown an outstanding ability to adjust on the fly. It will serve him well when he becomes a head coach within the next few years. Florida State fans, enjoy him while you can.
Jimbo Fisher Is a Quarterback Whisperer
When you hear of the top quarterback gurus in America, you rarely hear the name of Jimbo Fisher. FSU's head coach should forever be known as a quarterback whisperer for getting Christian Ponder drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.
For the last two years, FSU had a quarterback drafted in the first round. No one saw E.J. Manuel actually being picked in the first round either.
Give credit to Fisher.
What he is doing with Winston is special, too. Yes, Winston is much more talented than his two predecessors, but Fisher knows how much he can put on his young quarterback before backing off.
In the win over Miami, Fisher went with a run-heavy drive after Winston had thrown two interceptions. He put him in a position to make only high percentage throws. It wasn't that he lost confidence in Winston, he just wanted to slow things down for him after Winston's two turnovers.
Winston bounced back nicely and Fisher deserves credit.
FSU Dominated on Third Down
The most important stat in the Seminoles' win over Miami was third-down conversions.
Miami was just four of 11 on third down, while the 'Noles were 11 of 15. Obviously, anytime you are that good offensively on third down, you are going to win the football game.
Florida State did it in a variety of ways on Saturday. The Seminoles trusted their running backs to get the short, tough yards and Winston easily found his receivers down the field on third down.
Entering the game, Florida State was No. 9 in the nation in third-down efficiency on offense, and No. 13 on defense. It improved on those numbers in the win over Miami.
FSU Is Loaded at the Skill Positions
We know all about Winston, but FSU is more than just Winston on offense.
At running back, the 'Noles are led by Devonta Freeman. Behind him are sophomore James Wilder, Jr. and junior Karlos Williams. Freeman is a good all-around back with terrific speed, while Wilder brings power. Williams is a perfect blend of both Freeman and Wilder. The Seminoles can win with any of the three behind Winston.
The Seminoles have arguably the top group of receivers in the nation. Rashad Greene is the team's leading receiver. Greene is a burner and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Kenny Shaw is the team's second-leading receiver and is an accomplished return man as well. Kelvin Benjamin, the 6'5", 240-pound sophomore, may be the 'Noles' most talented wideout.
And for good measure, junior tight end Nick O'Leary is an accomplished receiver as well.
This offense is almost impossible to stop because of the talent at the skill positions.
Defensive Line Is Deep and Talented
FSU lost five defensive linemen to the NFL after the 2012 season. Three of those players were former All-ACC selections.
So, how do the Seminoles replace them?
Defensive tackles Jaccobi McDaniel and Timmy Jernigan are a force in the middle. Jernigan is having an outstanding season and should be a first-team All-ACC selection.
It is sophomore Mario Edwards' emergence that has this group playing so well, though. One of the top recruits in the country last year, Edwards was slow to adjust to the college game at first. With each passing game in 2013, Edwards continues to improve and looks like the player he was expected to be.
Against Miami, FSU faced an offensive line that was much bigger, yet wore them down as the game wore on. FSU doesn't have the biggest defensive front, but they are, perhaps, the quickest front four in the nation.
The 'Noles Have a Terrific Kicker
Yes, as if it isn't enough to have so much talent on offense and defense, the Seminoles also have kicker Roberto Aguayo.
The freshman kicker is perfect in his college career. He has connected on all 53 of his PATs and is 12 of 12 on field goals.
If the Seminoles are in a close game this year, they will have to feel good with Aguayo doing his part. Not only is he accurate, he has an extremely strong leg, too.