Pregame: ACC Championship -- FSU vs. Duke


Florida State and Duke are just a little under two hours from squaring off in the ACC Championship Game.

Conventional wisdom says this should be a coronation for the Seminoles. FSU is the top-ranked team in the country, it is loaded with NFL talent and the Seminoles are 18-0 all-time against the Blue Devils.

That being said, Duke isn't going to just roll over for Florida State tonight. The Blue Devils are scrappy too.

This could be a very good game. 

Or it could be completely lop-sided.

Should be fun to find out. Keep checking back throughout the game for rapid reaction and analysis from Charlotte.

Here's your game capsule:

FSU-Duke Preview [From Print]
Previewing the Opponent: Duke Blue Devils
Five Things to Watch
Injury Report


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Five Things to Watch For: ACC Championship Game


Here are five things to watch for when Duke and Florida State meet in tonight's ACC Championship Game. 

1.) Can Duke Hang Tight Early?

If Florida State comes out early and hangs a couple of easy scores this one could get out of hand before the half. That's not a shot at Duke, either. FSU had the game well in hand on the road against Clemson by halftime too. If the Seminoles get hot early look out.

The key for Duke will be to hang tight early and try to frustrate Florida State into some costly errors. Again, no disrespect to Duke but the Blue Devils just cannot afford to get into a slugfest with a team that out-classes them in terms of talent. They need to play smart, make FSU drive the whole field for points, limit big plays and take advantage of their opportunities. If they can hang in the game until late, they will have a chance. If FSU jumps ahead early though, this one could be finished quickly. 

2.) Does FSU Come Out With Their Foot on the Gas?

The Seminoles have the talent advantage on both sides of the ball. Whether or not they attempt to push that advantage early could determine a lot. If FSU comes out early and can take a few deep shots and hit on a big play or two it could serve to demean a very gritty Duke team. The Blue Devils will likely attempt to keep everything in front of them, give their secondary help and force the Seminoles to dink and dunk them. If FSU can blow that strategy up early, their offense could wreak havoc. 

3.) Will the Weather Have an Impact?

It's overcast and cold in Charlotte. It's only going to get colder as the game continues too. Will that have any impact on FSU -- normally a warm weather team -- in the greater scheme of things?

"That’s just a mindset – you have to go play and it’s like that every year we play up there," said Jimbo Fisher. "It was like that way three years ago when we played Virginia Tech and we played pretty well. It was cool last year too, it wasn’t warm at all either and it’s just that time of year.”

4.) 1,000 Yards?

Several players have a chance to go over 1,000 yards on the season today. Rashad Greene is the closest, needing just 86 yards to reach the mark. Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin are both in the 800's and would need a huge day to reach the milestone. Meanwhile Devonta Freeman remains FSU's last best hope to be the first 1,000 yard rusher since Warrick Dunn. Freeman has 852 rushing yards, he needs 148 to hit 1,000. That being said, Freeman has only had more than 20 carries twice this season.

5.) Pasadena-bound?

Florida State is 60 minutes from playing for a BCS title -- the last BCS title -- in Pasadena. It's been a long time coming for Seminoles fan. FSU hasn't played for a national title since 2000 and hasn't won one since 1999. Four short years ago the Seminoles started 2-4 -- including a loss to USF -- and had to scratch and claw just to finish over .500. WIth a good game tonight they could be 13-0 for the first time in school history.


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Previewing the Opponent: Duke Blue Devils


Duke Blue Devils
Record: 10-2 (6-2 ACC)
Head Coach: David Cutcliffe
All-Time: FSU Leads 18-0

Overview: Be honest, not many people outside of Durham gave Duke much of a chance to be in Charlotte playing for an ACC title. The Blue Devils have been on the rise in the past few years under head coach David Cutcliffe, but few expected Duke to end their season 10-2 with a chance to play for a conference championship.

"Duke has done one heck of a job this year," said Jimbo Fisher. "Very fun to watch on film. Extremely well coached and played extremely hard and make plays, and David has done a tremendous job there and we know we're going to have to play our "A" game to be able to compete with them and play with them, but our kids are looking forward to it."

Duke doesn't blow you away when you glance at the stat sheet. They're 53rd in rushing offense, 55th in passing offense. They win their games by an average score of 34-23. 

But they're gritty. And they're accutely aware that nobody is giving them a shot on Saturday. 

That could make them dangerous.

"As long as it's not the people on our team predicting that [we'll be fine]," said Cutcliffe. "That's the key to that, and I don't think any of our guys are putting us down as 29-point underdogs.

"We have smart guys, as you might imagine, and they're very aware of the challenge. What they see is the quality of the team on tape. It's not unrealistic to say that we've got to play
extremely well. The week started off on Sunday with me telling them the truth. I had seen a lot of Florida State by then. I told them the obvious, but I also told them now the only thing we can do is the quality of our preparation has to match what the quality of our play needs to be to compete with a team of this magnitude.

"They've done all year what we've asked them to do. I thought our preparation each day
this week was special. Hopefully we can follow that up with playing at a high level."

How FSU Stacks Up: Florida State has the edge when it comes to talent. There's really not much debating over that, either.

The biggest obstacle facing Florida State may just be complacency. FSU hasn't faltered as a result of the Jameis Winston situation yet, but now that it has been more or less resolved will there be a let up? In years past FSU has played down to competition. That has yet to happen this year though, and Duke would be wise not to expect it on Saturday.

Offensively the Seminoles will test the Blue Devils unlike any other team they have faced this year. Duke skipped Clemson in ACC scheduling this year and aside from Georgia Tech -- who runs a dramatically different offense than FSU -- there wasn't a whole lot of offensive firepower on the Duke schedule. 

Defensively for FSU, Duke uses two quarterbacks -- and does it effectively -- which is something Florida State has really not encountered this year. The Blue Devils can run from the QB position or throw it. Unfortunately, FSU has the better players when the units match up and by the end of the night that will likely be more impactful than Duke's ability to keep the Seminoles on their toes. 

Three Players to Watch:

1.) Jamison Crowder, WR -- Duke's most dynamic weapon has 88 receptions and 1131 yards.

2.) Brandon Connette, QB -- The more mobile of Duke's two QB's has accounted for 26 touchdowns this year.

3.) Anthony Boone, QB -- For Duke to win, Boone likely needs to have a big day throwing the ball.

Quote of the Week: “It’s the same preparation. It’s the first championship (goal) that we set as a team goal that we have to accomplish. We accomplished our regular season goal of being undefeated and becoming state champions, now it’s time to become conference champions and then, Lord willing, the big one on top.” 

-Jameis Winston


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FSU Injury Report: ACC Championship Game (Duke)


“The guys are getting very excited going up and playing in this game and we’re looking forward to it,” Jimbo Fisher said on Thursday. “That’s one of our main goals every year is to get back to Charlotte and take advantage of the opportunity. We’ve practiced well, prepared well and hopefully we carry it to the game field like we have all year and play well on Saturday. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. Duke has played well all year.”

Fortunately, the Seminoles are fairly healthy heading into the Championship game. Jacob Coker's injury doesn't seem nearly as damaging with Jameis Winston now assured of being in the lineup -- his legal issues were cleared up this week from a football standpoint -- and there are no new additions to this week's injury report.

That could all change in Charlotte, but for now the Seminoles are in good shape.

FSU Injury Report for ACC Championship Game


Out for Game
WR     Isaiah Jones (foot)  

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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No Charges Coming for Jameis Winston


Jameis Winston will not be charged with sexual assault, state attorney Willie Meggs said earlier today at a press conference at his office in Tallahassee.

The Winston investigation has dragged on for nearly a year. The incident -- which occurred on December 7, 2012 -- was allegedly closed back in February, only to reopen in mid-November after a media inquiry pushed it to the State Attorney's Office. 

"We've carefully examined all the evidence in this case and have concluded that no charges will be filed against anyone," Meggs said on Tuesday.

The Tallahassee Police Department also released an 86-page report outlining their findings in the investigation

Winston's attorney, Tim Jansen, also gave a press conference in front of the Leon County courthouse after Meggs spoke. In it, Jansen continued to assert Winston's innocence, calling the female an "accuser," but not a victim.

"She's not a victim until a jury decides she is," said Jansen in response to a question about the damage that had been done to his client's reputation.

"I want to thank my family, friends, coaches and teammates for standing by me during a difficult time," said Winston via a statement released through Jansen. "I also want to thank the state attorney's office for examining all of the facts and reaching a decision in a conclusive manner.

"It's been difficult to stay silent through this process, but I never lost faith in the truth and in who I am. I'm very relieved I'll be able to continue my education at Florida State and I'm excited I can now get back to helping our team achieve its goals."

Patricia Carroll, the victim's attorney also issued a statement.

"The victim and her family appreciate the state attorney's efforts in attempting to conduct a proper investigation after an inordinate delay by the Tallahassee Police Department," Carroll said in the statement. "The victim in this case had the courage to immediately report her rape to the police and she relied upon them to seek justice. The victim has grave concerns that her experience, as it unfolded in the public eye and through social media, will discourage other victims of rape from coming forward and reporting."

While Meggs said that this case had been closed and was -- in his eyes -- over, the victim's brother took to Twitter following the announcement with a different take. 

"Better be-****ING-lieve this isn't over," he tweeted.

Winston, meanwhile, was at practice on Thursday.

“As you might imagine, I was pleased to hear that the State Attorney’s Office exonerated Jameis in the matter," said head coach Jimbo Fisher in a statement. "I’m not going to answer any questions about the situation, but I would like to point out that our community and our university are blessed to have really good people in place to review matters like this. I know Jameis is pleased he can focus on being a student at a great university and he’s excited about helping our team achieve its goals this year. Right now, we’re all looking forward to what we have in front of us on Saturday.”

Florida State will depart for Charlotte to play Duke in the ACC Championship Game on Thursday night.


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17 Seminoles Named All-ACC, Five More Earn Honorable Mention


The All-Atlantic Coast Conference teams were announced today. The regular season concluded this past weekend, Florida State won the Atlantic Division, Duke won the Coastal -- the two schools will meet in Charlotte next Saturday.

For their 12-0 season -- one which saw them set a new conference record for points in a year -- the Seminoles had 17 players named to the All-ACC squads. 

Seven players were named All-ACC first team, including six on offense.

QB Jameis Winston, RB Devonta Freeman, WR Rashad Greene, LT Cam Erving, G Tre Jackson and C Bryan Stork were all named to the first team offense. Lamarcus Joyner was named to the first team defense.

Six more Seminoles were named second team.

TE Nick O'Leary on offense and LB's Telvin Smith and Christian Jones, DT Tim Jernigan and S Terrence Brooks made the second team defense. Roberto Aguayo was the second team kicker.

WR Kelvin Benjamin and G Josue Matias were named third team All-ACC on offense, Mario Edwards and Nate Andrews were named third team on defense and five others -- CB PJ Williams, LB Terrance Smith, RB James Wilder Jr., WR Kenny Shaw and RT Bobby Hart -- were named honorable mention.

In all 17 were named all-ACC and five more were given an honorable mention. 

That's a very high number too, but still, many Florida State fans are bound to feel as though there was a snub or two.

FSU has one of the top defenses in the nation. The Seminoles give up the fewest points and create the most interceptions. What the defense does not do, however, is generate eye-popping stats. 

That's probably why the Florida State defense has been absolutely stifling this season but still saw only one player voted first team all-conference. 

Another potential snub is Roberto Aguayo. Aguayo has missed one kick all season, has set an NCAA record for consecutive extra points without a miss and has out-scored all of FSU's opponents combined this year. For his efforts Aguayo was named a Groza semifinalist. He was not however named first team all-conference though.

Apparently a good majority of the the writers felt Nate Freese at BC was better. Freese hasn't missed a field goal all season -- that's one better than Aguayo -- and edged FSU's redshirt freshman kicker for the honor.

Offensively FSU was well represented though. Winston dominated the weekly ACC awards and was practically a shoo-in at QB. Freeman is a bit surprising, but likely earned the honor for being the best back on the best offense in the conference. The other four, Greene, Erving, Jackson and Stork aren't surprising at all.

Florida State fans aren't the only ones complaining either. Virginia Tech has the third ranked defense in the country and didn't have a single player recognized.

Clemson fans aren't happy. Miami fans aren't happy. Nobody's happy.


2013 All-ACC Football Team

First Team


QB – Jameis Winston, Florida State, 6-4, 225, Fr.-R, Bessemer, Ala. (191)
RB – Andre Williams, Boston College, 6-0, 220, Sr., Schnecksville, Pa. (195)
RB – Devonta Freeman, Florida State, 5-9, 203, Jr., Miami, Fla. (126)
WR – Sammy Watkins, Clemson, 6-1, 205, Jr., Fort Myers, Fla. (191)
WR - Jamison Crowder, Duke, 5-9, 175, Jr., Monroe, N.C. (172)
WR – Rashad Greene, Florida State, 6-0, 180, Jr., Albany, Ga. (126)
TE - Eric Ebron, North Carolina, 6-4, 245, Jr., Greensboro, N.C. (178)
T- Cameron Erving, Florida State, 6-6, 320, Jr.-R, Moultrie, Ga. (148)
T- James Hurst, North Carolina, 6-7, 305, Sr., Plainfield, Ind. (118)
G- Tre’ Jackson, Florida State, 6-4, 330, Jr., Jesup, Ga., (160)
G-Shaq Mason, Georgia Tech. 6-1. 305, Columbia, Tenn.  (96)
C- Bryan Stork, Florida State, 6-4, 298, Sr.-R, Vero Beach, Fla. (181)


DE - Vic Beasley, Clemson, 6-3, 225, Adairsville, Ga. (161)
DE - Kareem Martin, North Carolina,  6-6, 265, Roanoke Rapids, N.C. (159)
DT -  Aaron Donald, Pitt, 6-0, 275, Pittsburgh, Pa. (171)
DT – Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest, 5-11, 250, Sr.-R, Wylie, Texas (156)
LB - Kelby Brown, Duke, 6-2, 220, Matthews, N.C. (146)
LB – Denzel Perryman, Miami, 6-0, 236, Coral Gables, Fla. (124)
LB – Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College, 6-1, 215, Sr., Norwalk, Conn. (123)
CB – Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State, 5-8, 190, Sr., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (172)
CB – Russ Cockrell, Duke, 6-0, 180, Sr.-R, Waxhaw, N.C. (145)
S – Anthony Harris, Virginia, 6-1, 185, Jr., Chesterfield, Va. (142)
S – Jeremy Cash, Duke, 6-2, 210, So.-R, Plantation, Fla. (129)

Special Teams

PK - Nate Freese, Boston College, 6-0, 185, Sr., Strongsville, Ohio (124)
P - Pat O’Donnell, Miami, 6-5, 222, Gr., Lake Worth, Fla. (135)
SP - Ryan Switzer, North Carolina, 5-10, 175, Fr., Charleston, W.Va. (155) 


Second Team


QB - Tajh Boyd, Clemson, 6-1, 225, Sr.-R, Hampton, Va. (132)
RB – Kevin Parks, Virginia, 5-8, 200, Jr.-R,  Salisbury, N.C. (117)
RB - Duke Johnson, Miami, 5-9, 194, So., Miami, Fla. (104)
WR – Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest, 5-11, 190, Sr.-R, Clarksville, Md. (102)
WR - Alex Hurns, Miami, 6-3, 195, Sr., Miami, Fla. (102) 
WR – Tyler Boyd, Pitt, 6-2, 185, Fr., Alexandria, Va. (100)
TE - Nick O’Leary, Florida State, 6-3, 246, Jr., Palm Beach, Fla. (126)
T- Brandon Thomas, Clemson, 6-3, 305, Gr.-R, Spartanburg, S.C. (104)
T- Matt Patchan, Boston College, 6-6, 304, Sr., Tampa, Fla. (92)
G- Laken Tomlinson, Duke, 6-3, 320, Jr.-R, Chicago, Ill. (90)
G- Brandon Linder, Miami, 6-6, 317, Sr., Southwest Ranches, Fla. (80)
C- Macky MacPherson, Syracuse, 6-2, 280, Sr., Syracuse, N.Y. (61)


DE – Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech, 6-3, 242, Sr. Washington, D.C. (121)
DE – Kenny Anunike, Duke, 6-5, 260, Sr.-R, Galena, Ohio (98)
DT – Timmy Jernigan, Florida State, 6-2, 294, Jr., Lake City, Fla. (124)
DT – Derrick Hopkins, Virginia Tech, 6-0, 306, Sr., Highland Springs, Va. (73)
LB – Telvin Smith, Florida State, 6-3, 218, Sr., Valdosta, Ga. (105)
LB - Jack Tyler, Virginia Tech, 6-1, 236, Sr.-R, Oakton, Va. (93)
LB – Christian Jones, Florida State, 6-4, 232, Sr., Winter Park, Fla. (83)
CB – Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech, 5-11, 180, Fr., Baltimore, Md. (91)
CB – Bashaud Breeland, Clemson, 6-0, 195, Jr.-R, Allendale, S.C. (69)
S – Terrence Brooks, Florida State, 5-11, 200, Sr., Dunnellon, Fla. (97)
S – Tre Boston, North Carolina, 6-1, 205, Sr., Fort Myers, Fla. (86)

Special Teams

PK - Roberto Aguayo, Florida State, 6-1, 208, Fr.-R, Mascotte, Fla. (123)
P – A.J. Hughes, Virginia Tech, 6-1, 190, So., Terre Haute, Ind. (79)
SP - Jamison Crowder, Duke, 5-9, 175, Jr., Monroe, N.C. (80)


Third Team


QB – Stephen Morris, Miami, 6-2, 214, Sr., Miami, Fla. (24)
RB – Roderick McDowell, Clemson, 5-9, 195, Gr.-R, Sumter, S.C. (85)
RB –Jerome Smith, Syracuse, 6-0, 217, Sr., Bear, Del. (53)
WR – Devin Street, Pitt, 6-4, 190, Sr.-R, Bethlehem, Pa. (80)
WR – Alex Amidon, Boston College, 5-11, 186, Sr., Greenfield, Mass. (70)
WR - Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State, 6-5, 238. So.-R, Belle Glade, Fla. (68)
TE – Braxton Deaver, Duke, 6-5, 240, Jr.-R, Charlotte, N.C. (51)
T- Perry Simmons,  Duke, 6-5, 300, Sr.-R, Raleigh, N.C. (80)
T- Morgan Moses, Virginia, 6-6, 325, Sr., Richmond, Va. (76)
G – Tyler Shatley, Clemson, 6-3, 295, Sr.-R, Icard, S.C. (65)
G- Josue Matias, Florida State, 6-6, 322, Jr. , Union City, N.J. (57)
C- Andy Gallik, Boston College, 6-3, 300, Jr.-R, Evergreen Park, Ill. (52)


DE – Kasim Edebali, Boston College, 6-2, 258, Sr.-R, Hamburg, Germany (65)
DE – Mario Edwards Jr., Florida State, 6-3, 285, So., Gautier, Miss. (56)
DT – Jay Bromley, Syracuse, 6-4, 293, Sr., Jamaica, N.Y. (68)
DT – Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech, 6-1, 288, Jr., Delray Beach, Fla. (56)
LB - Steele Divittto, Boston College, 6-3, 238, Sr., Ridgefield, Conn. (78)
LB - Stephone Anthony, Clemson, 6-3, 235, Jr., Polkton, N.C. (73)
LB – Spencer Shuey, Clemson, 6-3, 230, Gr.-R, Charlotte, N.C. (57)
CB – Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech, 6-0, 193, Sr., Baltimore, Md. (58)
CB – Brandon Facyson, Virginia Tech, 6-2, 173, Fr., Newnan, Ga. (53)
S – Durell Eskridge, Syracuse, 6-3, 202, So., Miami, Fla. (53)
S - Nate Andrews, Florida State, 6-0, 208, Fr., Fairhope, Ala. (44)

Special Teams

PK- Chandler Cantnazaro, Clemson 6-2, 195, Gr.-R, Greenville, S.C. (69)
P - Will Monday, Duke, 6-4, 210, So.-R, Flowery Branch, Ga. (73)
SP - DeVon Edwards, Duke, 5-9, 185, Fr.-R, Covington, Ga. (57)


Honorable Mention

(20 or more points)


Robert Godhigh, RB, Georgia Tech (39)
David Sims, RB, Georgia Tech (29)
James Wilder, Jr., RB, Florida State (23)


Kenny Shaw, WR, Florida State (46)
Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson (34)
Quinshad Davis, WR, North Carolina (33)
Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland (21)


Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami (34)
Bobby Hart, OT, Florida State (30)
Sean Hickey, OT, Syracuse (29)
Ian White, OT, Boston College (27)


Andrew Miller, OG, Virginia Tech, (53)
Will Jackson, OG, Georgia Tech, (35)
Matt Rotheram, OG, Pitt (22)
Jon Feliciano, OG, Miami (20)


Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina (28)
David Wang, C, Virginia Tech (21)


James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech (42)


Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson (39)
Brent Urban, DT, Virginia (21)


Robert Caldwell, LB, NC State (51)
Marcus Whitfield, LB, Maryland (45)
Marquis Spruill, LB, Syracuse (31)
Terrance Smith, LB, Florida State  (26)
Norkeithus Otis, LB, North Carolina (22)
Cole Farrand, LB, Maryland (22)


Tracy Howard, CB, Miami (30)
P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State (25)
Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest (22)
Jabari Price, CB, North Carolina (20)


Ray Vinopal, S, Pitt (30)
Jason Hendricks, S, Pitt (29)
Ryan Janvion, S, Wake Forest (28)
Kyshoen Jarrett, S, Virginia Tech (23)
Deon Bush, S, Miami (20)


Niklas Sade, PK, NC State (37)
Ross Martin, PK, Duke (26)


Tommy Hibbard, P, North Carolina (26)


Stacy Coley, SP, Miami (22)


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It's Time for Florida State to Extend Jimbo Fisher


It’s decision time.

All around the country programs are taking stock. Some schools are letting coaches go, others are locking coaches down.

It seems Will Muschamp will survive at Florida. Kevin Sumlin was extended six years at Texas A&M. Art Briles got ten more years at Baylor.

With several big schools -- USC and Texas, for example -- potentially shopping for head coaches this offseason, it would be foolish not to hold on to a good one.

That’s why Florida State University needs to lock up Jimbo Fisher long-term. And it needs to be done now. It won't be cheap, but FSU would be crazy not to.

When asked a couple of week ago if Florida State had opened discussions with its fourth year head coach, Athletic Director Stan Wilcox declined to comment.

If Wilcox hasn’t already started that discussion, he needs to.

Last season -- after FSU went 12-2 and won the Orange Bowl -- several teams made overtures at Fisher. This year the interest will likely be even stronger. FSU needs to lock down its fourth year head coach for the long haul. It has to give him the big money.

He’s earned it.

Through his first four season seasons, Fisher is 43-10. He’s 7-1 against in-state rivals -- 3-1 against Florida, 4-0 against Miami. He’s won his last 14 straight. He’s reloaded FSU’s coffers.

Now Florida State needs to load his.

When Fisher took over at Florida State he inherited a team that had just gone 7-6 -- a mark they had to scratch and claw for after starting 2-4 -- and he was tasked with bringing a once proud program back to relevance.

Four years later the Seminoles are the top-ranked team in the country.

The AP Poll, the Coaches’ Poll, the BCS -- they all have FSU at number one. Florida State has won their games by an average score of 54-11 this season. The Seminoles are ranked first nationally in scoring defense and second in scoring offense. Their kicker has outscored all of their opponents combined.

FSU is back.

And though Fisher won’t win it, he deserves consideration for national coach of the year.

Florida State lost 11 players to the NFL draft last season. Fisher had to replace his entire defensive line, his leading rusher and his starting quarterback. Fisher also lost half his coaching staff including both coordinators. He replaced them all and Florida State actually got better this year.

2013 has seen the Seminoles set a new ACC record for points in a single season and the ‘Noles are just 72 away from the NCAA record -- they have two games left to break it. FSU has won every game by at least 14 points, has scored at least 37 in every contest and hasn’t trailed since September 28th.

Several years worth of top recruiting classes have made Florida State one of the most talented programs in the country. Good coaching hires have helped FSU develop its talent into productive players. The NFL has noticed, 11 Seminoles were picked in last year’s draft and several more signed as free agents. This year, week in and week out the sidelines of the Dunlap Practice Fields and the press box at Doak Campbell Stadium have been filled with pro scouts.

There is no denying that the program is back.

And the growth as a head coach on Fisher’s part is undeniable too.

Early in the year it was Fisher’s ability to admit when he was wrong -- he told reporters he needed to do a better job of trusting his young quarterback, Jameis Winston, after they had argued following an interception in the Miami game -- that showed his evolution as a coach.

Lately it has been his ability to focus his team in spite of off-field distractions that has distinguished him. As the Jameis Winston situation drags on Fisher has had to keep his team’s focus on the task at hand, on their next opponent -- and not on the pending investigation.

Since the news broke FSU has won 59-3 over Syracuse, set a school record for points in a game against Idaho and crushed rival Florida 37-7 in the Swamp.

Soon FSU will likely play for a national title.

But if Florida State is smart they’ll have their head coach signed to a big extension long before then.


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Kelvin Benjamin Arrives


Kelvin Benjamin has become one of the most dynamic receivers in the country. It's been happening gradually all season but it came to a head yesterday in Gainesville.

KB destroyed Florida's attempt to cover him man-to-man to the tune of nine catches, 212 yards and three touchdowns in the Seminoles 37-7 win. 

Benjamin now has 12 TD receptions on the year and is over 800 yards on the season. What's more remarkable than Benjamin's physical abilities however, is the transformation he has made in the past 12 months.

“I mean it’s quite funny, the kid is amazing. He can be so much more I feel like that was just the tip of the iceberg," said S Terrence Brooks. "He works very hard, I’m glad to see where he’s come from to the point where he is now. He’s definitely changed his whole mindset toward the game and just life in general, it’s just amazing. It’s crazy to see guys try to guard him.”

Last year in the hours after the Orange Bowl Benjamin tweeted his displeasure with how his redshirt freshman season had played out. He would later delete those tweets and apologize, but clearly something clicked in the days and weeks following the end of the 2012 season.

After a season of inconsistency, this year Benjamin seems to finally be putting it all together.

"KB has some real advantages with his size and speed and athleticism he can be a very, very special player and he’s starting to really develop into that guy," Jimbo Fisher said after yesterday's game.

"[He's] worked, and understands the details of things. And I’m going to tell you thing about KB that’s one of the greatest, we know his size, we know his speed, good focus, learning to be an every down player, being physical, giving effort on every play, but the thing that about him that makes him very unique… he’s very intelligent."

Added Benjamin: "I think it's just doing the little things to be a great receiver, basically. Get in there and watch the film real early, just studying your opponent. I kind of felt like I knew the team [today], like I've played with them all my life."

Part of what's clicked for the 6-5 230-pound receiver may be that he's fallen in love with the game again. At times last season his passion for the game may have strained a bit, but this season he's found it again.

“I’m more excited this year, I feel like I fell in love with the game all over again, you know?" Benjamin said a few weeks ago. "So, I mean that’s why I really love practice now, I really like practicing now, because the practices are fun. They try to make it seem like it’s always Jimbo going off and stuff like that, but we actually have fun in practice sometimes.”

The difference is noticable. While his teammates have always been confident in him -- for two years reporters have heard about his considerable talents and abilities -- now it seems as though Benjamin is starting to believe the talk himself.

"Before this week we had a special meeting where the team got together and I told him, I told KB -- I called him out, we call that catfishing each other where players call each other out  -- I called KB out and I said 'KB you are an unstoppable force,'" said Jameis Winston. "If you go out there and do what you’ve got to do you will be unstoppable and no one will be able to cover you. I told him in front of the whole team, ‘no one will be able to cover you.’

"For KB it’s always big with his confidence, because when he has his confidence, when he has his touches, when he has his touchdowns he gets rolling and like I said he becomes an unstoppable force.”

After an early drop on Saturday, KB got his confidence and took the game over for Florida State. 

"[I told him] just look it in your hands -- he was trying to run before he [caught] it," said Fisher. "Just make sure you put your nose on the ball and put your eyes into it and catch it before you run with it and we’ll throw it right back to him."

FSU did throw it right back to him. By the end of the day Benjamin had scored three times and torched a Florida secondary laden with NFL talent.

“I feel like the team just trusts me more, they know I’m going to go out there and I’m going to go all out, I’m going to do my best, I’m not going to take any plays off," said Benjamin. "I just have fun, really.”


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Florida State Ranked Number One in Both Polls


The Florida State Seminoles are ranked number one in the nation for the first time since 2000.

FSU finished a 12-0 regular season yesterday with a 37-7 win over rival Florida. It marked just the third 12-win season in school history and the first undefeated regular season in 13 years. The Seminoles currently boast the number two-ranked scoring offense in the country and the number one scoring defense. They are winning their games by an average score of 54-11 this year.

Behind FSU in the AP poll are Ohio State, Auburn, Alabama and Missouri. Clemson drops to 13th after losing to South Carolina and Duke climbs to 20th.

The coaches poll has the same top five as the AP. Clemson is 11, Duke is 20th.

Florida State and Duke will play for the Atlantic Coast Conference title next weekend in Charlotte. Barring an upset FSU will play for a national title in Pasadena on January 6th.


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Thoughts From the Morning After: FSU 37 Florida 7


Yesterday Florida State capped its first perfect regular season since 2000 with a 37-7 win over rival Florida in Gainesville.

"I’m very proud of this group of seniors and this whole team," said Jimbo Fisher after the game. "And this team, why it was able to do that was because it played one game at a time. It never looked ahead, it doesn’t worry about the results, it doesn’t worry about the outcomes, it doesn’t worry about what it has in front of us, it’s a very mature group that buys into our philosophy of one game at a time and the process of how we do things.”

Florida State abides by a faceless opponent philosophy. They take the logos and colors off the helmets and just focus on playing well. That comes down to a good week of practice, good film study and trust in their teammates and coaches. 

There was no better evidence of how much Fisher's team has bought into his philosophy than how they handled questions about achieving just the third 12-win season in school history yesterday.

“It’s big, but we can’t get too high with the highs, too low with the lows, we can celebrate a little bit but know that we’re trying to get beyond that, we still have to go to the ACC and beat Duke, so we can’t sleep on them either," Mario Edwards said.

Added Kelvin Benjamin: “It was a great victory, we’re 12-0 we really happy, it’s the third time it’s happened in school history. But next week we have Duke so we have to forget about it and move on."

Up and down the roster the Seminoles were already beginning to focus on the next game, their biggest game -- the next is always the biggest in Fisher's opinion.

“You never want to get satisfied, always want to stay hungry, never want to get complacent," said DT Tim Jernigan. "Duke is next on the schedule and we’re going to enjoy this win tonight, then tomorrow and Monday we’re going to start focusing on Duke.”

Added Jameis Winston: "One thing we discussed after the game is it’s not over yet guys. We don’t care who we play, it’s a faceless opponent. Just because we’re playing Duke doesn’t mean that we let up, doesn’t mean that we think less of them, I mean they deserve it. In the ACC they won their side of the division so this is going to be a hard fought game. Obviously they’ve got a lot to prove. Florida State? We don’t have anything to prove we just have to keep getting better every single week and I promise you if we keep getting better and doing what we’ve got to do it’s going to be hard to beat us.”

Defense Stands Tall

Florida's offense wasn't able to muster a whole lot against the Florida State defense. The Seminoles surrendered just 193 total yards and seven points. 

While FSU wasn't going to talk about it in the build-up to the game, this was a statement game for their defense after UF essentially called them soft in the aftermath of last year's loss in Tallahassee.

“They had a few quotes last year, the coach was saying that they ran against better defenses or something like that," said Terrence Brooks after the game. "I mean we really took that to heart because that’s our pride, our defense, we don’t ever want to be disrespected and we don’t ever want to show weaknesses or stuff like that. So we really took that to heart this week and we remembered that at the same time on the field too, I mean that was just our motivation the whole time.”

The Seminoles printed those quotes and put them in every player's lockers. Not just for this week either. Through 4th quarter drills, Spring practice, Summer camp and every week this Fall the 'Noles have seen the Gators' words every time they went into their lockers. 

“We see it every day so we remember that, like ‘hey we never arrived.’ There are still people out there who think we’re not as good as we are," Brooks said.

On Saturday the Seminoles got their chance for a rebuttal. They used it well. Skyler Morhninweg averaged just 4.6 yards per attempt and the Gators managed just 78 rushing yards -- 50 of which came on one Trey Burton run.

"We kick ourselves in the butt for that one, we didn’t get lined up before the snap right," said DE Mario Edwards. "So it wasn’t something that they did so spectacular it was just something that we didn’t line up right and play the assignment.”

Beyond that run UF averaged just 1.2 yards per carry. 

“We definitely took it personally that they thought we were soft, so we just wanted to go out there and prove it," said Edwards. "We didn’t want to talk or any of that we just wanted to prove that we were tougher than what we thought they were.”

Practice Makes Perfect

The UF secondary had planned to press and play a lot of man coverage against Florida State's receivers. That wasn't a terrible idea given how gifted Florida's secondary is.

One thing that gets discounted though is that UF's secondary hasn't had to play against receivers the caliber of FSU's all year. Especially not in practice. While UF has a fairly depleted wide receiving corps right now, FSU's is loaded and their secondary -- which is already quite talented in its own right -- practices agaisnt them every day when the team goes ones vs. ones in practice.

“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 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.”

FSU's secondary leads the country with 23 interceptions. The players they practice against every day are likely a big part of that.

Winston Breaking Records

Jameis Winston has now thrown for more touchdown passes in a season than any quarterback in Florida State history.

Winston -- who finished 19/31 for 327 yards, three touchdowns and a pick -- entered the game tied with Danny Kanell (32 TD’s in 1995) for second in the program’s history. By the time FSU’s redshirt freshman QB had hooked up with wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for two first half touchdown passes, he was in sole possession of first. The previous record holder, Chris Weinke, threw 33 back in 2000.

Winston is still technically one TD pass behind Kanell in the unofficial tally though.

Whereas Winston threw his 35 touchdown passes in 12 regular season games, Weinke and Kanell threw theirs in 11. Weinke was held without a scoring pass during his 12th game, the 2000 Orange Bowl (bowl statistics didn’t count towards season stats until 2002), and Kanell threw for four in an Orange Bowl win against Notre Dame in 1995.

That gives Kanell -- unofficially -- 36 in 1995.

Despite playing in an extra game than his two predecessors though, Winston has attempted far fewer passes. Weinke threw 431 times in 2000, Kanell threw 402 times in 1995. Winston -- who seldom plays past the middle of the third quarter -- has attempted just 317 passes this season.

The 6-4 225-pound signal caller needs just one TD pass next week in the ACC Championship game against Duke to tie the unofficial mark, two to break it.

Jimbo and Jameis "Talk"

Many fans saw the first half interaction between Jameis Winston and Jimbo Fisher where Fisher pulled Winston by the facemask and yelled at him. Here's what the two had to say about it after the game.

“That’s how we communicate, obviously I was just so amped up in the moment, I thought we were about to score a touchdown and I was like, ‘my fault, man, I mean I got the play, you know what I’m saying...’" said Winston. "And coach Fisher was like, ‘BOYS! You do it! You take control, it’s not on me!’ And I was like ‘yeah, you right coach.’

Said Fisher: “I just pulled him to me so I could talk to him, because I couldn’t hear him. He was trying to talk back and tell what was going on and I said, ‘no, come here, let’s talk.’ He knows when we do that it’s time.”

Winston admitted he can't let himself get so emotional after the game, but that's also part of Fisher and Winston's relationship. They'll argue, they'll yell at one another and they'll even get heated at points. But Winston can see the message for the message -- not how it's delivered -- and Fisher has grown enough as a coach to admit when he's wrong and Winston is right (as he did following the Miami game this year).

“That’s just the way he and I communicate," said Fisher. "That’s normal.”

Aguayo Making His Groza Case

Roberto Aguayo is a finalist for the Groza award -- given annually to the nation’s top kicker -- and he kicked like it on Saturday. The redshirt freshman hit three field goals and four extra points to send his point total to 138 points this season. Aguayo is 84/84 on extra points and 18/19 on field goals.

In total he is 102/103 on his kicks this season and has outscored FSU’s opponents by a combined score of 138-132 this year.

More Thoughts From the Morning After:

##- Jameis Winston on the 96-yard drive that got the offense started:

“Before that 90 yard drive I got the team together and I was like, ‘look, listen, guys, this is going to define this game right here. If we can just shove it down their throat this drive, 96 yards, we will win this football game and they looked in my eyes and said ‘I got you’ and I said Ok, let’s do it, then we broke it and got the roll," said Winston.

##- When FSU faced a 3rd and 26 on that drive:

“I’m just thinking like, that’s how you hurt teams," said Winston. "They’re just like ‘how do they convert on third and 27, third and 26?!’ And I was like, ‘that’s what we do.’ At that’s when we got crunk, instantly.”

##- FSU had some protection issues early on, they got them ironed out but Fisher attributed them to UF being well coached.

“They were hitting us with some stunts, they were blitzing and getting on the edges, you know pulling the guys through and getting a loop through and we started getting our depth back and getting on the edges and keeping our shoulder squares -- it was good technique by them on the pass rush, they’re just very well coached.”

##- Jimbo Fisher is now 7-1 against in-state rivals. He is 3-1 against Florida and 4-0 against Miami.

##- Jameis Winston has thrown for at least 200 yards in the first half of a game eight times this year. He has thrown for over 300 in a game six times.

##- FSU failed to score a touchdown in the first quarter for the first time in the last 8 games on Saturday.

##- Rashad Greene now has a reception in 27 straight games.

##- Florida State hasn’t trailed in a game since September 28th against Boston College.


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