Auburn vs FSU: Jameis Winston Builds NFL Value with BCS Championship Performance

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IJanuary 7, 2014

Jan 6, 2014; Pasadena, CA, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) celebrates after winning the 2014 BCS National Championship game against Auburn Tigers 34-31 at the Rose Bowl.  Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Jameis Winston isn't allowed to enter the 2014 NFL draft, and he is going to be hard-pressed to increase his NFL value any more than what it already is for the 2015 draft. 

The Heisman Trophy winner survived an abysmal first half to lead his Florida State Seminoles to a comeback, 34-31, victory in the BCS title game. 

It wasn't just any comeback either. It was the biggest comeback in the history of the BCS title game:

The Seminoles trailed 21-10 entering halftime, and their title chances looked bleak. The biggest reason for the dismal outlook was the play of Winston. The freshman quarterback had been nearly flawless all season, but he was erratic and sloppy in the first half. 

He finished the half by going 6-of-15 passing for 62 yards and no touchdowns. 

Facing a constant stream of pressure from Auburn's pass rush, Winston didn't get a lot better early in the second. Florida State's defense began to play better, though, which gave Winston and the offense a chance. 

Florida State battled and finally took the lead in the fourth quarter on a kickoff-return touchdown by Levonte Whitfield with 4:31 left to go in the game. That lead didn't last long. Auburn's Tre Mason went for a 37-yard touchdown run with 1:19 left in the game. 

That set the stage for Winston, and he was phenomenal under the bright lights and intense pressure of leading a two-minute drill in the BCS title game. 

On the final drive, Winston went 6-of-7 passing for 77 yards and hit the lengthy Kelvin Benjamin with a perfectly placed high ball with just 13 seconds left. 

GIF Credit: Bleacher Report

Not a bad birthday present for the quarterback who turned 20 on the day of the BCS title game: 

Winston finished the game going 20-of-35 for 237 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. That was good for a quarterback rating of 132.9. That is his second-lowest rating of the season, so obviously, this was far from his most flawless game from start to finish. 

Don't tell Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher that: 

As we discussed, based solely on stats, this wasn't even close to Winston's best game. Also just going on a throw-by-throw basis, it was far from his best game. 

His accuracy was off early, and he was not going through his progressions. 

Entering the locker room at halftime and even well into the third quarter, it would've been easy to say this was Winston's worst game of the season, and that is exactly what made this performance so special. 

Winston shrugged off the struggles and remained undaunted as the leader of his football team, and soon, his play turned around. 

When the pressure was at its highest, the game seemed to slow down for Winston. Not only did his accuracy increase, but he was also doing a better job of going through his progressions and making the right read. 

This kind of ability to handle pressure and rise above the moment in the clutch is invaluable in quarterbacks. It is also difficult to gauge unless given a setting like this. 

It was really hard with Winston since Florida State went through the season undefeated and barely trailed or played a close game. 

This was the only question mark hanging over Winston heading into this game. The 6'4", 228-pound quarterback had demonstrated the arm strength, accuracy and mechanics that it takes to make it in the NFL, and now he has proven he will make plays when the game is on the line. 

Barring anything but a disastrous season, injury or off-the-field issues, I have no doubt Winston will be the No. 1 selection in the 2015 draft should he decide to go pro.