The hype started in spring and built up over the summer.
It grew in the preseason and reached a crescendo this past week.
Then Florida State and Pittsburgh kicked off on Monday night and Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston calmly walked out onto the field and lived up to the hype.
All of it.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound redshirt freshman completed 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns (with no interceptions) and added another 25 yards rushing (with a score) in FSU’s 41-13 win over the Panthers.
Winston made it look easy against the hapless Pitt defense, hitting open targets and setting the school single-game completion percentage record while running the Seminoles’ attack with the poise of a seasoned veteran. The excellence he displayed in his debut overwhelmed a good early showing by the Panther offense and spurred the Seminoles to their fourth-straight season-opening win. On this night, at least, the ‘Noles looked like a national title contender.
Before the hype gets too out of control, though, consider that Pitt is not really a good barometer for where FSU stands as a team. The Panthers just didn’t have the talent to contain the ‘Noles. But other teams coming up on the schedule will be more familiar with the tendencies of Jimbo Fisher’s offense and that is when Winston will truly be tested. Last year’s FSU team was loaded with talent, but it still found a way to lose to North Carolina State.
But forget about that for now. FSU fans have a valid reason to feel good after tonight. After all, they’ve got at least two full years to watch this elite talent lead their team. It should be a fun ride. The challenge for Fisher will be to manage the expectations and not put too much on his young freshman, especially when it comes to the playbook. The challenge for Winston is to stay resilient when the inevitable drop-off from tonight’s otherworldly production takes place.
Is Winston a legit Heisman candidate? I’d say that’s a bit premature. Yes, voters gave the Heisman to a freshman last season, but based on the perception of how that’s played out, they might think twice before doing it again.
Earlier this month, former Hawaii head coach June Jones would indeed apply for the opening with the Rainbow Warriors. Three weeks later, not surprisingly, Jones is decidedly in the mix.
Citing sources familiar with the process, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser is reporting that Jones is one of five coaches who have interviewed for the job. In addition to Jones, the others who were given one-hour interviews were former Army head coach Rich Ellerson, current UH football analyst Rich Miano, Tulsa co-defensive coordinator Brian Norwood and current Nevada offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich. All four of those candidates, as well as Jones, played their college football for the Rainbow Warriors.
The Star-Advertiser writes that “[b]arring a late addition, they would be the only finalists interviewed by athletic director David Matlin and his advisory panel.”
The 62-year-old Jones, of course, was the head coach at Hawaii for nearly a decade and led the Rainbow Warriors to its winningest stretch in the program’s history.
From 1999-2007, UH went 76-41 under Jones. Prior to Jones’ arrival, the Rainbow Warriors won nine or more games four times and 10-plus once the previous 28 years; in Jones’ nine seasons, they won nine-plus six times and 10-plus in three seasons. The pinnacle of his career at the island school was his last season as he led UH to a 12-1 record and a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2007.
He left for SMU in January of the following year and went 36-43 with the Mustangs before abruptly resigning two games into his seventh season at the school in 2014.
Weather could have an impact on one key Big 12 game Saturday. It’s already having an impact on one Saturday.
The game between No. 7 Baylor and No. 19 TCU in Fort Worth had been scheduled to kick off around 7:30 ET this evening. However, lightning in the area has caused the start time to be pushed back.
As of this posting, kickoff is scheduled for 8:20 ET.
While TCU has already been eliminated from the Big 12 chase, Baylor remains very much alive. If BU beats TCU and Oklahoma State defeats Oklahoma in Bedlam tomorrow, the Bears will be the Big 12 champion for College Football Playoff committee accounting purposes.
If the Sooners win this weekend, they would be the conference champs regardless of what the Bears do tonight and next weekend. The Cowboys can make its claim if it wins Bedlam and the Bears lose at least one of its last two games.
“Oh what could’ve been.”
That has to be the mantra — well, that and “that escalated quickly” — of the Oregon football program and its fan base this evening after watching the Ducks jump out to a huge lead and then hang on against in-state rival Oregon State in a wild 52-42 Civil War win Saturday. The Ducks had sprinted to what appeared to be a comfortable 31-7 halftime lead before the Beavers scored 35 of the next 45 points to pull within three points at 45-42 with 7:05 remaining.
A Vernon Adams touchdown pass two and a half minutes later, his third of the game, essentially iced the game for the Ducks.
And, speaking of Adams, that’s where the what-ifs come in.
The FCS All-American transfer from Eastern Washington was viewed as a more-than-capable replacement for Heisman winner Marcus Mariota entering the season. However, he was injured early on as the Ducks stumbled to a 3-3 start that included a three-point loss to Michigan State and seven-point loss to Washington State, both on the road. Adams finally overcame the health issues in mid-October and the Ducks have rolled ever since, ripping off six straight wins to close out the regular season.
During this six-game streak, Adams has thrown 21 touchdown passes; in the first six games of the season, three of which he missed, Adams threw four. Throw in the fact that he’s completed nearly 80 percent of his passes the past three weeks — 77.3 to be precise — Adams is one of the hottest quarterbacks in the country entering the final weeks of his one and only season in Eugene.
If Adams had been healthy the first-half of the season, could it have changed the direction of the season? It’s hard to say with any degree of certainty, although the odds seem pretty good that UO wouldn’t be sitting at 9-3 and looking at a middle(ish)-tier bowl bid if he had been his late-season self.
Washington State came into Saturday’s Apple Cup without prolific quarterback Luke Falk because of injury. They’ve now exited it without Falk’s top target because of the same issue.
Late in the fourth quarter of No. 20 Wazzu’s 45-10 loss to Washington, Gabe Marks was on the receiving end of a five-yard pass from first-time starter Peyton Bender. The wide receiver was also on the receiving end of an awkward tackle that bent his ankle in a way that God never intended and left him with what could very well be broken bones in the leg.
Marks was carted off the field and did not return. There has been no update on the specific nature of the injury, although it appears that it may be serious enough to keep the junior from playing in the Cougars’ bowl game.
Coming into Week 13, Marks was fourth in the nation with 92 receptions and, with 1,067, is one of 19 players who have gone past 1,000 yards receiving.
And, to add scoreboard insult to literal injury, Marks’ fumble was returned by the Huskies for a touchdown. That was the second of three defensive touchdowns for UW, with the third coming on Wazzu’s very next play from scrimmage on a pick-six.
The win pushed the Huskies to 6-6 and into a bowl in the second season under Chris Petersen. The head coach just yesterday was awarded a two-year contract extension.