What Makes the Seminoles Go
By BJ Bennett
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin. Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page
While it has taken a complete team effort to get Florida State back amongst the elite, here are five reasons why FSU is playing their best football since 1999.
After a 51-14 dismantling of Clemson in Death Valley, the most points ever scored on the Tigers' home turf, it appears quite obvious that Florida State is now one of the national championship favorites. Halfway through their schedule, the Seminoles are now 6-0. Only Boston College has played Florida State within 28 points; the 'Noles have scored over 40 in every single game this season. While it has taken a complete team effort to get Florida State back amongst the elite, here are five reasons why FSU is playing their best football since last winning a national championship in 1999.
1. The Poise of Jameis Winston -- Florida State's freshman quarterback continues to dazzle, but also bring a steady, stabilizing hand to the Seminoles. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year with Winston replacing first round NFL Draft pick E.J. Manuel, Winston has completed over 71% of his passes for 1,885 yards, 20 touchdowns and three interceptions. He is averaging nearly 377 yards passing in FSU's three road games. In two games against ranked foes, Winston has completed 45-of-66 throws for 837 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception. Most impressive has been Winston's performance against the blitz. He threw for 293 yards in such situations against 3rd ranked Clemson Saturday night, the most by a BCS Conference quarterback the last three years.
2. The Growth of the Offensive Line -- Wit five upperclassmen starters, Florida State's offensive line has become one of the nation's best. The unit, most notably tackle Cameron Irving, did a tremendous job over the weekend against Vic Beasley and the vaunted Clemson front four. Rick Trickett's offensive line has excelled in pass protection despite facing two of the top three and three of the top seven sack artists in college football. The Seminoles are also averaging over 210 yards rushing per game at over 5.5 yards per carry. Experience at the line of scrimmage has helped an offense with a freshman quarterback and a recently-converted safety in the offensive backfield become one of just three in the country to average over 50 points scored per game.
3. Studs in the Secondary -- Florida State led all of college football in pass defense last season and boasted a first round NFL Draft pick in cornerback Xavier Rhodes. This year, they may be even better. The Seminoles, to date, have allowed the fewest passing yards in college football. They recently held Clemson's Tajh Boyd to just 156 yards through the air, the second lowest total of his career. Cornerback Lamarcus Joyner set the tone in Death Valley, compiling an interception and two forced fumbles. Florida State has three former Rivals.com five-star recruits in their defensive backfield.
4. The Rise of Rashad -- The last 1,000-yard receiver in Tallahassee was Anquan Boldin in 2002. Florida State junior Rashad Greene may soon break the streak. Right on cue, he has developed into one of the premier playmakers in the nation and has given Jameis Winston a bonafide go-to option downfield. Greene currently has 31 catches for 553 yards and an ACC-best seven touchdowns. He has topped the 100-yard mark and scored in each of the Seminoles' biggest games this season: Pittsburgh, Maryland and Clemson. His production has been made possible by that of those beside him, the remarkably-consistent Kenny Shaw and big-play threat Kelvin Benjamin.
5. Swagger -- As Florida State prepares to welcome back Bobby Bowden to Doak Campbell Stadium this Saturday against North Carolina State, head coach Jimbo Fisher seems to have his team playing with a level of confidence that resembles the Seminoles of the Bowden era. Simpy put, this Florida State team takes the field believing they should win. And they play like it. The Seminoles aren't brash and cocky; instead, they are composed and determined. Florida State has been able to maintain that focus while playing with the patented aggressiveness and attitude that sparked their famed rise in the 1980s