Florida State v Pittsburgh

FSU freshman QB Jameis Winston lights it up against Pitt

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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.

AP poll: Alabama runs the wire at No. 1, Penn State moves past Michigan

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates with his team after their 54 to 16 win over the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome on December 3, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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The Alabama Crimson Tide have run the gauntlet of the regular season and conference championship weekend without losing an edge at the top of the Associated Press top 25 poll. The defending national champions started the season as the overwhelming favorite as the preseason No. 1 and they will enter the College Football Playoff as the top-ranked team in the AP Top 25. With not a whole lot going on outside a number of conference championship games, there was not much to change with the final AP Top 25 of the regular season, but Big Ten champion Penn State has moved ahead of Michigan.

The top four remained unchanged with Ohio State, Clemson and Washington holding form behind Alabama, respectively. Alabama, Clemson and Washington won their respective conference championships this weekend. Penn State moved up on the strength of a Big Ten championship game victory over No. 8 Wisconsin (down two spots). Michigan moved down one spot in the reshuffling despite a blowout victory over Penn State earlier in the season. Big 12 champion Oklahoma held on to the seventh spot in the AP poll, with No. 9 USC (up one) and No. 10 Florida State (up two) moving up this week.

There was one newcomer to the AP poll this week. No. 23 Temple moved into the poll in the final week of the season after upsetting Navy in the American Athletic Conference championship. The Owls and No. 25 USF are the two representatives from the conference this week, but each are well behind undefeated MAC champion Western Michigan. The 13-0 Broncos are No. 12 this week and are likely heading to the Cotton Bowl.

Here is the most recent AP Top 25, with Alabama receiving all 61 first-place votes.

  1. Alabama (61)
  2. Ohio State
  3. Clemson
  4. Washington
  5. Penn State
  6. Michigan
  7. Oklahoma
  8. Wisconsin
  9. USC
  10. Florida State
  11. Colorado
  12. Western Michigan
  13. Oklahoma State
  14. West Virginia
  15. Louisville
  16. Stanford
  17. Auburn
  18. Virginia Tech
  19. LSU
  20. Florida
  21. Iowa
  22. Pittsburgh
  23. Temple
  24. Nebraska
  25. USF

Final 2016 College Football Bowl Projections

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 03: James Franklin, head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, celebrates with the Big Ten Championship trophy after Penn State beat the Wisconsin Badgers 38-31 at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 3, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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What a wild championship weekend that was. While it was fun to watch Penn State pull of a thriller against Wisconsin and see Virginia Tech threaten Clemson, the results of the final week of the regular season caused a few headaches for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. How will everything shake out? Outside of Alabama claiming the No. 1 seed in the playoff and Western Michigan securing the Group of Five bid, things seem up in the air until the committee announces their final set of rankings on Sunday afternoon.

With all that in mind, CFTalk decided to peer into our crystal ball and see which teams wind up in certain bowl games prior to the official announcement. Running through all the scenarios, here’s how the bowl picture could play out from the final four to the very first one on December 17:

College Football Playoff

Bowl Teams
Peach Bowl No. 1 Alabama No. 4 Washington
Fiesta Bowl No. 2 Clemson No. 3 Ohio State

New Year’s Six

Bowl Teams
Rose Bowl Penn State USC
Sugar Bowl Oklahoma Auburn
Orange Bowl Florida State Michigan
Cotton Bowl Wisconsin Western Michigan

2016 FBS Bowl Games

Bowl Teams
New Mexico Bowl UTSA New Mexico
Las Vegas Bowl Houston San Diego State
Cure Bowl Appalachian State UCF
Camellia Bowl Arkansas State Central Michigan
New Orleans Bowl Southern Miss UL-Lafayette
Miami Beach Bowl South Florida Toledo
Boca Raton Bowl Western Kentucky Memphis
Poinsettia Bowl BYU* Wyoming
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Colorado State Idaho
Bahamas Bowl Old Dominion* Eastern Michigan*
Armed Forces Bowl Navy* North Texas+
Dollar General Bowl Troy Ohio
Hawaii Bowl Middle Tenn. State Hawaii
St. Petersburg Bowl Mississippi State+ Miami (OH)
Quick Lane Bowl Maryland Boston College
Independence Bowl Vanderbilt N.C. State
Heart of Dallas Bowl Louisiana Tech Army
Military Bowl Wake Forest Temple
Holiday Bowl Iowa Washington State
Cactus Bowl Baylor Boise State
Pinstripe Bowl Northwestern Pitt
Russell Athletic Bowl Virginia Tech West Virginia
Foster Farms Bowl Indiana Utah
Texas Bowl Texas A&M Kansas State
Birmingham Bowl South Carolina Tulsa
Belk Bowl Georgia Tech Arkansas
Alamo Bowl Oklahoma State Colorado
Liberty Bowl Georgia TCU
Sun Bowl North Carolina Stanford
Music City Bowl Minnesota Tennessee
TaxSlayer Bowl Miami (FL) Kentucky
Outback Bowl Nebraska Florida
Citrus Bowl Louisville LSU
Arizona Bowl South Alabama Air Force

*Accepted bowl invite
+ 5-7 team selected based on APR

No. 3 Clemson punches playoff ticket with ACC championship win over Virginia Tech

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 03:  The Clemson Tigers take the field during the ACC Championship against the Virginia Tech Hokies on December 3, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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For the second straight season, Clemson can say they punched their ticket to the College Football Playoff with yet another close ACC championship game victory.

The third-ranked Tigers jumped out to a big lead, led throughout and ultimately prevailed over Virginia Tech in a 42-35 win that was a tad closer than the final score indicated.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson continued his stellar play down the stretch this season, throwing for 288 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The signal-caller added another two scores on the ground to go with his team-high 85 yards rushing as well on a night where he made some clutch throws down the stretch to keep the team in front of a stingy Bud Foster defense.

Tailback Wayne Gallman also found the end zone in Orlando but was still relatively limited with just 59 yards on 17 carries.

The Hokies did make sure Clemson sweated out things by threatening in the second and third quarters. Quarterback Jerod Evans threw for 264 yards and a touchdown but couldn’t get any help from Virginia Tech’s normally reliable ground game and threw an interception with 71 seconds left to end a comeback. Evans also led the team in rushing and scored twice while running back Travon McMillian did the same but managed to do so on only 37 yards rushing.

With a second straight ACC title in the bag for Dabo Swinney and company, the only question left for Clemson is where will they stand on Sunday afternoon and what semifinal site they will head to. Alabama appears locked into the No. 1 seed in the Peach Bowl but could the close result against Virginia Tech — combined with Washington’s emphatic win in the Pac-12 title game — force a national title game rematch in Atlanta?

That’s probably not on the minds of the Tigers on Saturday night as they rightfully celebrate yet another league championship and look like a dangerous team to face at the end of the month.

No. 7 Penn State completes comeback for the ages to claim B1G title

Penn State's Saquon Barkley (26) makes an 18-yard touchdown catch against Wisconsin's T.J. Watt (42) during the second half of the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
AP
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On Sept. 24, Penn State was 2-2 on the season, 0-1 in Big Ten play after a 49-10 undressing by Michigan in Ann Arbor. Their Big Ten title hopes were left for dead. As we know, they managed to rally and win the Big Ten East.

And then, with 5:15 left in the second quarter, the Nittany Lions trailed 28-7 and their chances of actually winning the game were again left for dead.

But the Cardiac Cats rallied. Again. The seventh-ranked Lions closed the game on a 31-3 run to race past No. 6 Wisconsin for a 38-31 Big Ten Championship victory.

Of course, this win means much more than that. At 11-2 on the season, winners of nine in a row and winners of college football’s best conference, the question now becomes whether the College Football Playoff selection committee chooses the Lions over 11-1 Ohio State or Pac-12 champion Washington on Sunday.

But first, the comeback.

Penn State simply could not get out of its own way — or get Wisconsin out of its way… or get in Wisconsin’s way, for that matter — over the game’s first 25 minutes. The Badgers opened by forcing two three-and-outs and launching two long touchdown drives to grab a 14-0 lead a dozen minutes into the game. After a McSorley touchdown pass put Penn State on the board, the Nittany Lions allowed an errant snap to be returned for a touchdown early in the second quarter.

James Franklin elected to go for a fourth-and-short in his own territory on the ensuing possession and was rebuffed. Wisconsin again capitalized on the mistake to grab a 28-7 lead with 5:15 remaining in the first half. Penn State again failed on a fourth-and-short near midfield on the next possession, but this time the Badgers failed to cash in. And that proved costly.

Because that failure to land the death blow allowed Penn State’s Cardiac Cats persona to awaken.

The Lions’ comeback started when McSorley hit Saeed Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown catch with 58 seconds left in the half to pull within  a more manageable 28-14 deficit at the break.

After Wisconsin missed a field goal to open the second half, McSorley answered by finding Blacknall for a 70-yard scoring strike on the very next play. Then Penn State tied the game on its next touch as Saquon Barkley punched in a 1-yard score at the 4:22 mark of the third quarter.

Wisconsin re-gained the lead with a 23-yard Andrew Endicott chip shot, but only after Bart Houston missed what would have been a walk-in touchdown to tight end Troy Fumagalli on 2nd-and-8 from the 10-yard line.

Given the opportunity to take the lead, Penn State took full advantage, marching 81 yards in only four plays as Barkley hauled in an 18-yard wheel route from McSorley.

McSorley finished the game hitting 22-of-31 passes for 384 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions — against a defense that came in allowing eight touchdowns while swiping 21 interceptions. Compared to Houston’s numbers — 16-of-21 for 174 yards — quarterback play proved to be the difference in the game. McSorley’s play allowed Penn State to win a game in which it was out-rushed 241-51.

Wisconsin punted on its next touch, and Penn State missed its chance to deliver a knockout punch, instead settling for a 24-yard Tyler Davis field goal with 5:14 to play in the game.

Wisconsin would need a touchdown to force overtime, while Penn State would need a stop to complete its 21-point comeback. The Badgers moved to the Penn State 24, but, facing a 4th-and-1, Corey Clement was stuffed for no gain.

Penn State expired the final 58 seconds and secured the largest comeback ever in a Power 5 conference championship game.