It's been a festive holiday season for Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, as his Seminoles are No. 1 in the country and will lace 'em up Jan. 6 in the BCS National Championship against Auburn.
So far in December, not only did Fisher receive a healthy contract extension around the time of a 45-7 drubbing of overmatched Duke in the ACC Championship Game, but a week later his gifted redshirt freshman quarterback, Jameis Winston, was awarded the Heisman Trophy.
Even if the rumors are true and Texas is indeed thinking about making a run at him for its coaching vacancy, it's hard to imagine Fisher departing before a once-in-a-decade signee like Winston declares early for the NFL draft.
UT can throw more money at Fisher than FSU ever could, but after inheriting a broken program from Bobby Bowden in 2010 and now finally returning it to among the nation's elite, the 'Noles are in much better position than the Longhorns to go on a sustained run of excellence.
One way or another, the Fisher family Christmas tree currently resides in Tallahassee, not Austin, and there are presents aplenty that have been opened already: an All-American QB, a stable of skill-position talent, a healthy offensive line, a deep defensive front, a play-making corps of linebackers, an embarrassment of riches in the secondary and a cannon-legged kicker.
Not to mention the fact that another star-studded recruiting class is being fitted for garnet and gold come National Signing Day in February.
Nevertheless, Fisher still has a few items on his wishlist, and Florida State fans are happy to remind Santa Claus that their fourth-year coach has no business being classified as naughty.
Negative press for Winston in Pasadena
If anything, the sexual-assault investigation that hung like a dark cloud over Winston's head for a few tabloid-friendly weeks proved to be a source of motivation, not a reason to be distracted.
While the wheels of justice turned slowly in the State Attorney's office, Winston completed 52-of-77 passes for 829 yards with nine touchdowns and only one interception against Syracuse, Idaho and rival Florida—a trio of blowouts the 'Noles won by a combined score of 176-24.
Once the 6'4", 228-pounder learned that charges would not be filed against him prior to the ACC title game, he looked relatively un-Heisman-like at times vs. Duke and was picked off twice.
Because Winston has shown to be almost immune to pressure this season, perhaps Fisher wouldn't mind seeing a few salacious stories about his prized passer written by national-columnist types in the days leading up to the title game.
Get out to an early lead on offense
Just like most of the experts believe Auburn's rushing attack can't be contained, the same can be said for Florida State's passing attack.
If Winston and his enviable arsenal of pass-catching weapons can score a couple of touchdowns early and build a double-digit advantage, then it will be that much more difficult for the Tigers to stick to the ground assault and grind it out—especially in the second half.
Now coach Gus Malzahn's version of the running game is far from conventional, as the pure speed at which it operates can save some much-needed time on the clock, but the Seminoles are less likely to give up chunk plays on D if protecting a sizable lead.
Should FSU's biggest strength (throwing the ball) be able to nullify Auburn's biggest strength (running the ball) even by the slimmest of margins, chalk up a game-within-the-game victory for Fisher.
Win first and second down on defense
Auburn's version of the read-option offense was borderline unstoppable in the upset of two-time defending national champion Alabama and again seven days later in the SEC Championship Game against Missouri, mostly due to junior tailback Tre Mason keeping the Tigers consistently ahead of the chains.
Junior quarterback Nick Marshall is not an accomplished thrower, as his efficiency rating (144.0) was only 34th nationally, but he can kill enemy defenses with long completions if his run-pass options are in play.
When Mason is a threat from a down-and-distance perspective to be given the ball between the tackles, Marshall can burn overly aggressive corners and safeties with easy throws over the top to wide-open receivers.
But Marshall and Co. aren't going to play pitch and catch with a whole bunch of success if they're constantly in third-and-long, especially facing this particular tribe of Seminoles—Fisher's defensive backfield is littered with future pros.
Continued health for the kicking game
If not for some infamous field-goal mishaps during the peak of the Bowden era, FSU might have four or five crystal footballs in its trophy case, not just two.
Fast forward a generation, and a convincing case can be made that Florida State is the new Kicker U, as former Seminoles Sebastian Janikowski, Graham Gano and Dustin Hopkins are currently earning NFL paychecks.
Roberto Aguayo could end up being the best of that decorated bunch, as the redshirt freshman has split the uprights on 19-of-20 field-goal attempts—including a 53-yarder vs. Syracuse—and all 90 extra-point tries en route to a Lou Groza Award-winning campaign.
Meanwhile, Auburn kicker Cody Parkey is only 9-of-14 from beyond 30 yards, plus he missed a point-after at Tennessee, so Fisher should feel supremely confident if the contest comes down to the specialists.
"California dreamin' on such a winter's day"
The average January day in Pasadena weather-wise is highs in the 60s and rain nowhere to be found, which is exactly what Fisher should hope for when toe meets leather for all the marbles.
While the Seminoles feature a three-headed monster carrying the ball and one of the more experienced lines in college football, their bread and butter offensively is a Winston-led passing game. Auburn's 103rd-ranked pass defense is going to have its hands full with Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw, Kelvin Benjamin and Nick O'Leary in coverage, especially if Mother Nature cooperates in the Golden State.
Also, Mason and Marshall would be that much tougher for FSU defenders to tackle in the mud and muck should the heavens open up and dump a few inches of rain at Rose Bowl Stadium, however unlikely that may be.