01/06/2014

Pregame: BCS Championship Game -- FSU vs. Auburn

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It's here. Kickoff is in just a few hours and the Auburn Tigers and Florida State Seminoles are set to play for the last BCS Championship that will ever awarded. 

FSU is lead by their Heisman trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston and the top defense in the country. Early on this season it was all about Winston's prolific passing numbers and eye-popping highlights. As the year progressed though, Jeremy Pruitt's defense started to steal the show. By the time FSU had put away the ACC title game against Duke, there was little doubt that the '13 FSU defense belongs with the best in the program's history.

If it can stop Auburn tonight, it will stake its claim as THE best (with plenty of good debate to follow).

Florida State needs just 28 points tonight to set a new NCAA record for points in a season. They also have a chance to join the ranks of the elite if they can win by a couple of scores.

Only three teams have ever won all their games by 14 or more points. 1995 Nebraska -- considered by many to be the greatest college team of all-time -- and 2004 Utah. The Utes' accomplishment, though still noteworthy, is a bit less impressive when you consider the best team they faced that season was an 8-3 Pittsburgh team in the Fiesta Bowl. If FSU can win by more than 14 tonight, they will join Nebaraska in the conversation as one of the greatest teams in college football history. 

That's still a tall order for the 'Noles though. Auburn brings a fierce rushing attack and a defensive front that can cause problems. FSU may be favored, but the Tigers are more than capable of the upset if the Seminoles' minds aren't right.

How will things play out? We will see shortly...

Keep checking back throughout the night for coverage of the BCS Championship Game.

Here's your game capsule:

Previewing the Opponent
Five Things to Watch For
Injury List

Governor Scott Picks FSU
Florida State's Practices Often Harder Than Their Games

 

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Florida Governor Rick Scott: FSU Will Win 47-10

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Just had a chance to talk with Florida's governor, Rick Scott, about the BCS Championship game. The governor is on-hand to take in the game tonight and was gracious enough to share some of his perspective.

“Its been exciting, how many times do you get to be the governor where Florida State’s in the national championship?" joked Scott. "We’re going to have a big win and I’m going to be drinking some nice Lemonade from Alabama, we’re going to have a big win, I think Jameis is going to have a great game.”

The lemonade Scott alluded to is a part of his bet with Alabama governor Robert Bentley. As is custom, the two governors have made a small side-bet -- featuring products their states are famous for -- on the results of tonight's game.

“It will never happen, but if FSU lost then we would give them a Key Lime pie from Kermit’s down in Key West," said Scott. "And when we win, which we will, he’s going to give me a gallon of Toomer’s lemonade.”

Scott also took time to praise the way Jimbo Fisher runs his program. As a businessman who has experienced considerable success in his own life, Scott sees more than a few parallels between himself and Fisher.

“We had lunch earlier this year and he was explaining how he runs the team and it was like how a business-person would do it," said the governor. "He’s very process-oriented, he knows exactly what he wants to get out of it, listening to him you could see that he was going to have a great season.”

As for Scott's prediction, he isn't hedging his bets. He was bold in predicting a Florida State win.

“It’s going to be a big win, so I assume something in the high 40’s, and hopefully [Auburn will] score not more than 10 points," Scott said.

"So I’ll say 47-10.”

 

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Five Things to Watch For: BCS Championship Game

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Here are five things to watch for when Florida State and Auburn square off for the final BCS Championship later tonight.

1.) Paging Lamarcus Joyner

No player has played a bigger role in the resurgence of Florida State over the past four years than Lamarcus Joyner. He helped cobble together one of the top recruiting classes in FSU history when he was still a senior at Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, after starting for two seasons he made the decision to return to school after last year's Orange Bowl and he has been one of the defensive leaders as the Seminoles transitioned into a new system under Jeremy Pruitt.

If FSU wins a national title tonight no player will have been more directly responsible for it than Joyner. That's why it's probably appropriate that should FSU win tonight, Joyner will have to stand and deliver one last time for the Seminoles. Auburn's rushing attack oftentime comes out of a multi-receiver set to try to exploit the defense having extra defensive backs on the field -- the nickel corner usually being a key target.

If FSU is to stop Auburn's vaunted rushing assault, Joyner is going to need to be assignment-sound and extremely physical -- just as he has done all year. If the senior DB is up to the task, Auburn will struggle to establish itself like it wants to in the early going. That could make all the difference.

2.) Nick Marshall

If Auburn is going to beat Florida State is has to prove it can win the battle in the air early on. FSU knows what Auburn's bread and butter is and the Seminoles will be hell-bent on trying to stop it. That means FSU is likely to leave its corners and safeties in a lot of single coverage to try to free up extra men to go play in the box. That is, if Nick Marshall can't prove early on that he can beat that coverage and throw on the Florida State secondary.

If FSU can't afford to load the box that will loosen things up for Tre Mason and the Auburn run game. If FSU can afford to load the box, Marshall and the Auburn offense will struggle all day. Marshall will also be called upon to shoulder the load should the Tigers fall behind. Auburn is not built to come from behind. If it has to, the Tigers could be in trouble.

3.) Jameis Winston

How amped is Jameis Winston at the start of this one? He came out over-hyped against Duke and threw two early picks. He also came out too excited to play Miami and he threw two early interceptions. This is the biggest night of Winston's life, how does the redshirt freshman handle this game?

A lot has changed for Jameis in the past month. The ugly allegations against him were lifted, he won a slew of awards including the Heisman trophy and his national profile is flying higher than it's ever been. Did he read his own press clippings? Will he fall victim to the Heisman curse? Or will this be the same Jameis Winston fans were used to all year?

4.) Mario Edwards

Here's something nobody ever mentions: Mario Edwards was hurt the day Boston College ran all over FSU. As in, he didn't play a snap. Since then Edwards has been healthy and the Seminoles haven't trailed again all year. Edwards was asked a lot about that BC game in the weeks leading up to tonight. He answered all the questions graciously, but it wasn't hard to tell he was irritated answering for mistakes he didn't actually make.

Tonight, he'll have a chance to show how much of a difference maker he really is. Edwards is more of a bull-rusher when it comes to getting after quarterbacks, some have even questioned whether he is an elite pass rusher. What nobody questions is how he stacks up against the run -- in that regard he's one of the nation's best. If Edwards has a big night stuffing the Auburn rushing attack, then you should look for him atop draft boards come the start of next season.

5.) Jimbo, Jimbo, Jimbo

It's come up all aces this year for Florida State and Jimbo Fisher. Fisher replaced 11 draft picks and half of his coaching staff last season and seemingly every move he made paid off huge. Jeremy Pruitt took over for defensive coordinator Mark Stoops and installed a monster of a defense, bringing along late recruiting flips Jalen Ramsey and Demarcus Walker -- both impact freshmen -- on the way. Jameis Winston replaced EJ Manuel to the tune of a school record for touchdown passes and a Heisman trophy.

And after getting over the proverbial hump and winning all the games he was supposed to (and a couple the Seminoles weren't expected to) Fisher himself received a hefty contract extension from FSU.

Now all he has to do is beat Auburn, and that means calling a good game tonight.

In the past Fisher has shown a tendency to get a little wide-eyed at key moments and the play-calling has suffered. If this year is any indication though, that trend is a thing of the past. Take for example the Duke game when FSU's offense was struggling against a very well-prepared Duke defense. In the past Fisher may have kept hammering that square peg into the round hole. Instead, he broke tendency and ran an option look for the first time all year. It worked. It put Duke on its heels and FSU broke the game wide open. 

Fisher will need to show the ingenuity tonight too. If he does, FSU should be in a good position to claim their third national title.

 

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Previewing the Opponent: Auburn Tigers

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Auburn Tigers
Head Coach: Gus Malzahn
Record: 12-1

Overview: Auburn is by far the best offensive attack that Florida State will have faced -- on the ground, anyway. Anybody that thinks the Seminoles can just completely stuff the Tigers' rushing attack is being foolish. Auburn does too many things well on the ground to be completely stopped. Whether it's play-calling or just their players making the right reads and cuts, it's difficult for any defense to key on what the Tigers do for an entire game and stop it.

That being said, Auburn is not the most balanced offense that FSU has faced and that lack of balance could be the Tigers' achilles heel.

Auburn doesn't have to rely on the pass often -- although they have proven they can throw it when they need to -- and their defense is not one of the better units that has made it to a BCS title game in recent memory.

Both of those facts seem to be getting overlooked in favor of that rushing attack and the Tigers' SEC ties.

Keep in mind one very important -- and understated -- fact from Auburn's miraculous last-second win over Alabama. The Tide were without both of their starting safeties. That's a pretty glaring omission to make when people are so quick to tout the rushing totals that the Tigers rolled up in that game. Why would safeties matter in run support? Well against option packages that use multiple receivers a physical safety actually has quite a bit to do with the run. Missing two starters? That hurts.

Technically Florida State IS missing one of its starting safeties -- Tyler Hunter has been out most of the season with a neck injury. Fortunately, several years of good recruiting have helped cover up that loss. True freshman Jalen Ramsey moved from corner to safety and freshman Nick Andrews ended up leading the team in the interceptions. 

On the other side of the ball Auburn is going to give up points. They have done that all year. That being said, Auburn's defense is best described as opportunistic. The Tigers can get after the passer on third and long, they tighten up in the red zone and they always seem to do just enough to keep their offense in position to win come late in the game.

How FSU Stacks Up: There are two key areas that FSU has to exploit if they want to win this game. First of all, the Seminole offense has to start fast and score often. Given Auburn's defense, as long as the Seminoles can be productive on early downs and maintain balance that shouldn't be a problem. On the other side of the ball the defense will need to get a few early stops.

If the Seminoles can put a little bit of distance between themselves and the Tigers they can break Auburn's tendencies and force Nick Marshall to beat them in the air. That's not an ideal situation for Marshall or the Tigers -- typicaly Auburn's offense likes to throw between 10-15 times per game. On a good day that would take FSU's talented secondary out of the equation on most downs. Fortunately for the Seminoles, that's where physical safety play comes in. 

Between Terrence Brooks and Ramsey at the safety spots, and with Lamarcus Joyner lining up at the nickel, FSU will have three very talented tacklers helping out in run support when Auburn keeps it on the ground. Provided FSU's front does its job and takes up blockers and running lanes, that trio of DB's -- along with linebackers Telvin Smith and Terrance Smith -- should end up with plenty of tackles near the line of scrimmage.

If FSU's offense does its part and the defense can shut down the Auburn run early, FSU could force the Tigers into a very uncomfortable position where they need to throw to keep up. That is not how Auburn's offense is built.

The flipside of that though is what happens if Auburn can run successfully on FSU and keep this game tight all the way through? In that case, all bets are off given how battle-tested the Tigers are and how little the Seminoles have even had to play in the fourth quarter this season. Auburn will carry with it the confidence that comes from having won two games on the final play. That confidence will only grow if this game is tight coming down to the wire. 

FSU might be fine in that situation too, the problem is nobody can know because as of yet the Seminoles have not been tested that way. We have no information on that. That's why Auburn's best bet is if the Tigers can keep it close late, they are not well-equipped to come from more than a couple scores behind.

Three to Watch:

1.) Nick Marshall, QB -- If Auburn beats FSU it will need a huge game from its quarterback.

2.) Tre Mason, RB -- The Heisman finalist will be the Seminoles' chief concern come kickoff.

3.) Sammie Coates, WR -- Auburn's biggest receiving threat ranks amongst the most talented WR's FSU has had to cover all year.

Quote of the Week: "My life hasn't changed at all because our goal as a team, it still isn't over yet. At Florida State, we began the season as everybody was looking at us as, like okay, they've got a freshman quarterback. Nobody is going to pay any attention, now we're in the National Championship." 

- Jameis Winston

 

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01/05/2014

Florida State's Practices Often More Challenging Than Their Games

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Florida State is confident about Monday’s BCS National Championship game against Auburn. The Seminoles will tell you that much.

That confidence isn’t borne out of what the Seminoles have done to their opponents this year on Saturdays, either. Though that would be a compelling reason in and of itself.

FSU is 28 points from setting an NCAA record for the most points scored in a single season. The Seminoles have beat their opponents by an average score of 42 points per game. They boast the number one ranked scoring offense and scoring defense in the country.

Detractors will say that FSU played a soft schedule -- they did -- but the Seminoles obliterated that schedule, soft or not..

That, however, is not why Florida State feels good about their chances come Monday night. No, it hasn’t been what’s happened on Saturdays this season that has the Seminoles so confident, it’s what they do every day in practice -- during the week -- that has the Seminoles feeling good as they prepare to face Auburn in Pasadena.

“We go ‘good-on-good’ every day in practice,” said head coach Jimbo Fisher, speaking of his practice of having the Seminole’s starting offense and starting defense practice against each other on a daily basis.

That means on any given day in Tallahassee this season a casual spectator could see the nation’s top scoring offense scrimmaging against the nation’s top scoring defense on the fields of the Albert Dunlap practice facility.

“It is a blessing to be a part of it,” said junior defensive tackle Tim Jernigan. “To play with so many other talented guys. That’s what makes you better, being able to practice with those guys week-in, week-out, just pushing each other.”

Sure, Florida State still does all the usual scout team stuff to prepare for their opponents. And yes, other teams go ‘good-on-good’ in their practices too. The difference between those schools and FSU though? The talent level.

Florida State lead the nation with 11 players selected in last year’s NFL Draft. This year should see plenty more Seminoles hear their name called by the NFL too. Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage called FSU -- along with Alabama -- the most loaded roster in the country before the start of the season.

By the year’s end, the results matched the hype.

For instance, FSU’s trio of receivers have garnered plenty of NFL attention this season. Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin all had over 900 yards receiving while they helped carry quarterback, Jameis Winston, to a Heisman trophy.

But as much as Winston benefited from the trio’s highlight reel catches and the prolific numbers they put up, nobody benefited more than the Seminole secondary -- the group that has to practice against them daily.

“Going against that offense, that helps us get better every day, those receivers are just phenomenal, the line is great, the running backs are really good. Getting to go against them every day just gets us that much better," said senior safety Terrence Brooks. "I think it’s a standard that we hold when we practice in everything that we do and that’s why we’re able to do so good.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, FSU’s defense lead the nation in interceptions this season.

It’s been like that all over the Florida State roster this season. Strength battles strength in practice during the week and both are better for it come Saturday. Still, the Seminoles know on Monday they will face a tougher challenge than they have faced in a game all year.

“This team will definitely be the most athletic team,” said defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. “We’ll have to be technique-sound.”

But will the Tigers be better than the opponent Florida State battles against every day in its own practice?

So far the Seminoles haven’t faced a tougher opponent come game-day all season.

“There has not been, and I, well…,” said senior left tackle Cam Erving, a confident smile spreading across his face. “No, there hasn’t been.”

 

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01/04/2014

FSU Injury Report: BCS Championship Game

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Florida State enters the BCS Championship game healthy and in good shape. Not that FSU really needed the month off to rest -- the Seminole starters rarely play past the third quarter -- but the few nagging bumps and bruises that were an issue have mostly worked themselves out. WR Isaiah Jones has been back at practice after missing a couple of months, Devonta Freeman was banged up following the ACC Championship game but was rested and will be fine come Monday night. The Seminoles are in good shape from a health standpoint.

Out for Game

DB      Colin Blake (hamstring)

 

Out for Season

QB      Jacob Coker (knee)
OL      Ira Denson (shoulder) 
WR     Jarred Haggins (knee)
TE      Kevin Haplea (knee)
DB      Tyler Hunter (neck) 
LB      Matthew Thomas (shoulder)

 

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12/31/2013

Jimbo Fisher Officially Signs Extension with Florida State

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A little over three weeks after it was first reported by the Palm Beach Post's Tom D'Angelo, head coach Jimbo Fisher has finalized his contract extension with Florida State University. 

Fisher will now be at FSU through 2019.

"We are extremely pleased with the direction of our program and believe that this new contract will assure that Coach Fisher is in place to lead the Seminoles for a long time to come," said athletic director Stan Wilcox in a statement released earlier today. 

"Coach Fisher enjoys the full support of the leadership of the university and we look forward to the continued success of our football program on the field and in the classroom."

There had been rumors linking FSU's fourth year head coach to the vacancy at Texas. It appears -- barring an absurd offer from the Longhorns -- that those rumors will now be put to rest.

Fisher's deal is reported to be in the ballpark of about 4.1 million dollars per year -- making him one of the nation's highest paid coaches. Despite being reported on during the ACC Championship game, it took several weeks before the terms could be agreed upon by both sides. One of the potential hold-ups could have been compensation for assistant coaches. Fisher had to replace half his staff following last season and may have wanted to try to avoid repeating the process again at the start of 2014 too.

Per FSU: "A copy of the contract will not be available for release until later this week, but will include a raise in annual compensation for Fisher."

 

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12/16/2013

Video Rewind: Jameis Winston's Whirlwind Weekend in NYC

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Jameis Winston is the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner. The 19 year old redshirt freshman became the youngest winner in the award's history last Saturday when he won in a landslide over five other finalists.

Winston finished the season with a Florida State record 38 touchdown passes -- also tops among freshman quarterbacks all-time in NCAA history -- and lead the Seminoles to the first 13-win season in school history. 

After going out on the Heisman media circuit the first few days, Sunday and Monday saw Winston do a wide range of appearances from Dan Patrik and Mike and Mike to CBS' NFL Today and Dave Letterman. 

Check below for a video rewind of Winston's entire weekend:

 

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12/14/2013

Jameis Winston Wins the Heisman Trophy

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Jameis Winston has become the youngest player in college football history to win the Heisman trophy.

Back in August -- aside from those playing on the Playstation or the XBox -- few could have possibly seen Florida State's redshirt freshman quarterback exploding on to the scene the way he did and capturing a Heisman trophy in just his first season of college football.

He threw 38 touchdown passes. That's more than any quarterback that had ever played at FSU threw for in a single season. That's more than any freshman in college football history had ever thrown for. His 3,820 yards was also an NCAA FBS freshman record.

By the end of the season Winston had written his name all over the Florida State record books, the Atlantic Coast Conference record books and the NCAA record books. It has been a season for the ages for Winston - and he did it without playing past the third quarter of most of Florida State's blowout wins this year. 

“I’m so overwhelmed right now,” Winston said shortly after winning the Heisman trophy on Saturday night. “It feels great to be part of the (Heisman) family. I just thank everyone with the Heisman Trust that allowed me to be in it. It feels great. I cannot explain the feeling that I have inside right now. I’m so overwhelmed. Like I said, it’s just awesome.”

Despite his historic season, Winston wasn't without his share of distractions and obstacles. A month long sexual assault investigation stemming from a December 7, 2012 incident likely cost Winston the Maxwell award (AJ McCarron took home the honor on Thursday night) and 13% of Heisman voters left Winston off their ballot entirely.

"Everyone has their own opinion," Winston said of the snubs. "It's basically a numbers game, and I was blessed to have the majority vote."

Added Winston's head coach, Jimbo Fisher: “When you watch someone work so hard for something and be so team-oriented – not individual, it reinforces that the good things happen to the good guys.

“To know what he went through to get up there on that stage, sometimes it hits you. To me – of all the things – that’s why you coach, watching them grow and achieve the things you know they are capable of even when the odds are against them.”

Winston's ability to flourish in Fisher's complicated offense has been what's set him apart from previous Florida State quarterbacks under Fisher. Winston and Fisher are wired similary, they clash on the sidelines and on the practice fields but are able to separate the message from how it's being delivered and have thrived together with the understanding that they have mutual goals.

The results have been unmistakable. 

Winston runs Fisher's offense nearly flawlessly, checking effortlessly between plays and trusting in his receivers, backs and tight ends to be where they need to be when they need to be there. 

Tight End Nick O'Leary has developed into the most prolific tight end in Florida State history with Winston finding him this season. Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw and Rashad Greene have all had career years and the Florida State offense is on pace to set a new all-time NCAA scoring record.

"I can't explain how truly intelligent he is," Fisher said. "He always wanted to know why he had success or why he had failure so he could either repeat it or fix it."

Added Winston: "I really believe that people actually just trusted me. People obviously saw us play. But that comes from my team, too."

Winston is now the youngest Heisman trophy winner in the award's history. He is just the second freshman to ever win it and the third Florida State Seminole. Even with nearly one in every seven voters leaving him entirely off their ballot he still won by the seventh largest margin in the award's history.

On January 6th Winston and his Florida State teammates will play for the BCS Championship against Auburn in Pasadena.

 

For all the latest Florida State news and updates, follow Patrik Nohe on Twitter...

12/13/2013

Winston Accuser's Attorney Requests State Investigation, Florida's Governor Says 'No'

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Friday provided perhaps the final -- and most bizarre -- chapter in the Jameis Winston sexual assault investigation when the attorney of Winston's accuser held a press conference in Zephyrhills, Florida.

Patricia Carroll, representing the complainant's family, requested that Attorney General Pam Bondi investigate the investigation conducted by the Tallahassee Police Department and the State Attorney's Office into an alleged rape committed by FSU's starting quarterback, Jameis Winston.

"There is no other choice than to call upon the attorney general of the state of Florida to conduct an independent investigation into this case and the Tallahassee Police Department," said Patricia Carroll, the attorney for the complainant.

That's not going to happen though.

Per a statement released by Florida governor Rick Scott's spokeswoman Jackie Schutz: “The state attorney’s office and FDLE did a thorough investigation of this case and they concluded that no further action on this matter is required.”

The Florida Attorney General serves on the cabinet of Florida's governor, any investigation into the Winston situation would be at Governor Scott's discretion. He isn't giving it. 

Carroll was asked if there would be a civil suit against Winston and told reporters that was "premature." That was before the statement from the governor's office though. 

"I knew I did nothing wrong," Jameis Winston said from New York on Friday. "I knew I could respect the process and I'd eventually be vindicated. It was more about me being silent for my family because I didn't want to put my family in those situations.

"We had so much respect for Mr. [Tim] Jansen and everything going around, and knew I did nothing wrong and everything would be OK."

Meanwhile, down in Zephyrhills Caroll listed off dozens of complaints over the investigation. 

Most notably, the family doesn't believe the labwork. 

"[The accuser] couldn't remember what happened, intermittent memories, immobility. Completely consistent with a date rape or rape drug," said Carroll. 

Carroll claims her client was drugged via a shot she took before leaving the bar. Per the victim's own written statement she arrived at the bar with friends "Marcus and Monique." The accuser could not legally drink at the bar, but her friend Marcus (also underaged) had a way to procure drinks and she shared five or six with him. 

"We were hanging mostly with Marcus' friends, one of them gave me a shot," said the written statement from the accuser.

The labwork -- blood, urine and DNA tests -- do not support that set of events though. Results showed that there were no drugs and minimal levels of alcohol in her system at the time of the incident.

"I specifically spoke to Mr. Meggs and said I don't have confidence in the validity of these tests," Carroll said. 

Carroll also said she believes Winston and teammates Chris Casher and Ronald Darby were given special treatment because they are football players.

"Do I believe that complete failure of a rape case was related to the fact that this gentleman was on the football team? I do," she said. 

Carroll added that she believes Casher and Darby made statements that were 'patently false' and would like to see Casher retroactively charged with video voyeurism.

As for her own client's underage drinking and the role her client's friend played in purchasing her alcohol illegally, Carroll chalked that up to normal college behavior.

Jameis Winston is in New York for the Heisman trophy presentation this weekend. On January 6th, Florida State will play for the BCS Championship in Pasadena.

 

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