The spotlight has been on Jameis Winston and deservedly so. But focusing exclusively on Florida State’s immensely talented and charismatic star quarterback doesn’t accurately encompass the Seminoles. It's much more than that.
Florida State's 41-14 win against Miami showcased just how absurdly talented this team is in so many places.
For the first time in his college career, Winston looked human. He missed badly on a few throws in the first half, delivering his first two-interception game of his career. He wasn’t awful, just not superhuman, which is a change given just how wonderful he has looked in such a limited sample size.
Winston still delivered, though. Even on a night where he didn’t have his best stuff, he completed 21 of 29 passes for 325 yards. He also ran for 27 yards, including a few key first downs, and looked in complete control of the offense and on the sideline as team leader.
Just how good has Winston been? With his latest 300-yard performance, he passed two familiar Florida State quarterbacks in only eight games. That didn't take long.
Winston now has more career 300-yard passing games than Christian Ponder. And as many as EJ Manuel.— Corey Clark/TDO.com (@Corey_Clark) November 3, 2013
He wasn’t the star, however. There were a lot of those.
The two-headed running attack for Florida State was sensational. Devonta Freeman—one of the most underrated players in the country—ran for 78 yards, caught six passes for 98 yards and finished with three total touchdowns.
Freeman’s 48-yard touchdown on a screen pass in the first half was a casual thing of a beauty.
Fellow running back James Wilder Jr., the team’s short-yardage bruiser (but really so much more), also found the end zone twice, picking up key yards and finishing with 42 yards on the ground. Karlos Williams, the team’s third back, totaled 46 yards on the ground, doing most of his damage late with the game decided. Having Williams as a third option is almost unfair.
The FSU wideouts were also solid, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more dangerous group of wide receivers in the country.
Rashad Greene caught six passes for 83 yards, following up his three consecutive 100-yard receiving performances. Sophomore Kelvin Benjamin—the freakish target with incredible ability—caught two passes for 46 yards. Benjamin is an absolute star in the making, a rare combination of size and speed.
Senior Kenny Shaw, another reliable target, hauled in 44 yards, while tight end Nick O’Leary added 45 yards on three catches.
A stable of offensive weapons and a quarterback capable of leading the offense with incredible skill and poise—this is what the opposition is up against. Florida State spread the production around, as it has throughout the year, which makes it incredibly difficult to defend.
As good as the offense was, however, the defense matched the effort.
For the sixth time in eight games, the Seminoles held their opponent to 14 points or less. It held Clemson and Miami—two of the conference’s most potent offenses—to 28 combined points and has given up just 45 points in the past four games.
Defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. was everywhere against Miami, causing havoc in the backfield and forcing quarterback Stephen Morris to move around often.
Cornerback Lamarcus Joyner was a captain for Saturday’s game, and he followed that up with a solid performance. The team picked off Morris twice and also limited what Miami could do on the ground. The Hurricanes averaged just 2.9 yards per carry.
Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan—another star on this side of the ball—was asked about the "we want 'Bama" chants that rang through the stadium at the end of the game. He didn’t shy away from an answer, giving a glimpse into the Florida State mindset with the top of the BCS on the minds of many:
Asked Tim Jernigan what he thought about the "We want Bama" chant. His answer: "We do."— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) November 3, 2013
With NFL players at every level, the Florida State defense has somewhat quietly become one of the country’s best units. It’s not discussed enough, although the production and sheer athleticism was on display in the team’s second major showcase of the season.
Perhaps this theme of quiet, unappreciated production isn’t a bad thing.
For the Seminoles, it's gotten them this far and is poised to take them much further. Jameis Winston has embraced the enormous pressure that has been placed on his shoulders, and he hasn’t shown any effects of it being too much to handle.
Florida State proved itself again on the national spotlight, doing so without a jaw-dropping performance from its best player.
Having a quarterback with unthinkable ability is a luxury. Surrounding that star with superb talent at seemingly every position creates a dream scenario for a team, one that still has no ceiling in sight.