‘Famous’ Jameis Winston is doing some unreal things at Florida State, and not just in that 25-of-27 debut against Pittsburgh embedded above (that Pitt team is only 4-4; no one’s confusing them with these guys). Consider what FSU is doing this year: they’re 9-0, and their closest game so far, they won by two touchdowns. They beat two top ten teams (Clemson and Miami) by a combined 64 points. Since their remaining three regular-season games are Syracuse, Idaho, and Florida, it appears likely they’ll enter the ACC Championship Game undefeated (the Florida game could be tricky, but their offense hasn’t looked like anything this year). Put this in context: in 2012, with a first-round NFL QB running the show (E.J. Manuel) for most of the year, the ‘Noles still lost two games: one to NC State, and one to Florida. (They did reach a BCS bowl, though.) In 2011, they lost four games, including two they never should have: Wake and UVA. There’s a whole different spirit around this FSU team.
It goes back to Winston in many ways (there are other factors, yes); when being recruited, ESPN had him No. 14 nationally, Yahoo had him No. 10, and Scout.com had him No. 12. Most will narrow his list down to something like this: FSU, Alabama, Florida, LSU, Auburn, UCLA, Stanford, Miami, Nebraska, Baylor, and Clemson. He actually wanted to go to Texas; they didn’t call him. While there are disputed elements to that story, and some people it may have more to do with a lot of coaching turnover at UT-Austin during his recruitment period, his HS coach claims it’s the ‘only place he wanted to go’ at one point. That’s a gigantic whiff by Mack Brown, who just got a new boss.
For pretty much everything you’d ever want to know about Winston’s background, read this piece from David Hale; the big story here is that, pending other results, Winston could be the opposing QB for Nick Saban and Alabama in a BCS Championship Game. Saban recruited Winston, although Sal Sunseri (ironically, now the DE coach at FSU) did most of the talking (Winston’s father also notes that he ‘loved it’ when Les Miles entered the house and turned the TV down). In the Hale piece, you can see a quick anecdote about Winston reducing his 4o-time from 4.8 to 4.6 in a matter of three weeks, just by working with a running specialist; Saban didn’t believe that was possible and forced Winston to run it three more times that day.
He debuted by completing almost every pass he threw; with Marcus Mariota having a sub-par game Thursday night in the loss to Stanford, you’d probably have to argue Winston is the Heisman Trophy front-runner now. That would be the second straight year that a frosh grabbed the ultimate individual hardware in CFB, and the Manziel-Winston relationship might already be a bit fraught.
Then, er, consider this:
Here’s the broader point here: for the last couple of years, FSU has been one of those teams just reeking of five-star recruiting talent, but still losing 2-3-4 games a year (Florida is a team like that this year; they have been injured, though). Now they’re a legit national championship contender; although the odds could always shift, some Vegas bookmakers believe Bama-FSU would even be a pick ’em. There are other differences: Jimbo Fisher has grown as a coach, the younger guys have gotten more experience, the receivers are tall as all hell, things are clicking broadly, etc. But at the center of all that is Jameis.
Mack, over at Texas, has missed a couple of big names of late: RG3, Andrew Luck, Johnny Manziel, and Jameis. In that group? Three (potentially) Heisman winners and a pro QB who’s led his team to wins over the Broncos, 49ers and Seahawks this year. Recruiting isn’t often controlled by the head coach — that is true — but if Winston and company are raising a crystal football this year, it might be the ultimate sign that it’s time for Mack to ride off into the sunset. You’ve had a great run. In fact, a dual-threat QB beating an iconic program that seemingly never loses, as Winston would need to do to help beat Bama, kinda makes you think about…