Winston shines in debut; could be Heisman darkhorse

jameiswinston

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston had a fantastic debut against Pittsburgh, totaling five touchdowns in a 41-13 Seminoles victory. (Photo: CBSSports.com)

I may have written my Heisman Watch for week one a day too early. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, a redshirt freshman with high expectations before even taking his first collegiate snap, made Pittsburgh’s defense look powerless to stop him Monday night.

Some may say it is premature to call a quarterback a real Heisman Trophy contender after just one start and it probably is, but it isn’t every day that a freshman quarterback only throws two incompletions and totals five touchdowns in his first start.

Many people are too stuck in their preseason predictions when it comes to football. For instance, most Heisman discussions will only include Johnny Manziel and Jadaveon Clowney for the next few weeks as writers try to stay true to their preseason predictions. The only problem with that is, only what happens on the field matters.

Here’s an example: Ohio State’s Braxton Miller is a great quarterback, but he didn’t have an incredible game Saturday against Buffalo. He scored two touchdowns. Yawn. Why talk about him, when more than likely he will get back into the race with a big game later on? Let’s credit someone, like Winston, who had a big game, on a big stage, in his team’s opener. Why can’t he win the Heisman?

Winston shredded a Panthers defense that is expected to improve this season, starting 11 of 11 and finishing 25 of 27. He totaled five touchdowns on the night. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd was the only player I can think of who had an equal performance this weekend, albeit on a bigger stage.

The most impressive thing about the freshman was his decision making. Aside from a fumble that quickly skipped out of bounds on a quarterback keeper, Winston never put the ball in danger.

He was able to find open receivers, like Rashad Greene and Nick O’ Leary, all night for four touchdown passes. Although he showed that he may not be the fastest or most efficient runner — totaling just 25 yards on eight carries –he managed to score on the ground as well.

All night long he seemed to keep his poise. Only once did he seem to get frustrated and that was after a penalty caused the Seminoles to get the play in too late, which turned into a delay of game penalty on Winston. Head coach Jimbo Fisher quickly apologized to his young quarterback. The coach’s lips seemed to say “That’s on me” and Winston immediately refocused. The Seminoles not only got the first down (on 1s & 30), but they also scored on the drive to put the game away before halftime.

Looking ahead, the Seminoles shouldn’t be in serious danger of dropping a game until they go to Clemson Oct. 19, which would help his Heisman campaign.

Can Nevada, Bethune-Cookman, Boston College, or Maryland really beat the ‘Noles? Probably not. Winston should have good numbers going into that game, which could be a showdown of top 10 teams with Heisman contenders squaring off at quarterback.

It isn’t uncommon for a young player to garner Heisman attention anymore. Remember when people said Tim Tebow couldn’t win the Heisman Trophy because he was a sophomore? Well, he did. Last season, Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the award. Heisman voters aren’t as stuck in their old ways as they once were, so it is possible for Winston to be a contender this year.

Will he be as poised and patient on the road at Clemson or at Florida as he was at Pittsburgh Monday night? The answer to that question will affect Florida State’s national title hopes and ACC title hopes, along with any hopes Winston has of shocking the nation to win the Heisman Trophy.

Trickett’s Transfer Makes it Official: Winston is the Man at FSU

Clint Trickett is on his way out of Tallahassee. Trickett was expected to battle Jameis Winston for the starting quarterback spot in 2013, but now it appears the job is Winston’s to lose. Since he is on track to graduate this spring, Trickett will not have to sit out a year and can play right away in 2013. He will be a redshirt junior, with two years of eligibility left.

Trickett is expected to play at West Virginia or South Florida.

The highly touted Winston will now get a chance to shine. Many expect the Alabama native to have a better career than the graduated E. J. Manuel, who will be selected at some point during the 2013 NFL Draft.

Big Board: Geno Smith Quickly Rising On Draft Boards

Below is Daniel Evans big board for the 2012 NFL Draft. Matt Barkley is still No. 1, but the story is West Virginia’s Geno Smith. Smith has jumped from off the board in the preseason to nearly the top of it.

1. QB Matt Barkley

Barkley has not had the senior season that many expected thus far, but he still makes NFL scouts drool. He has a big arm, has played in a NFL offense, and is going to be taken early in the 2013 NFL Draft.

2. QB Geno Smith

Geno Smith isn’t this high on most draft boards yet, but he is clearly a big arm guy that is starting to entice scouts. He may end up winning the Heisman Trophy and then going in the top ten of the NFL Draft (or higher).

3. LB Jarvis Jones

Jones has been so impressive early in this college football season that many publications are listing him as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

 4. CB DeMarcus Milliner

Alabama’s top cornerback is flying up draft boards right now. He was very impressive against Ole Miss on Saturday night.

5. DE Barkevious Mingo

Mingo has not done anything to slide down draft boards this season. Right now he looks like the top defensive end prospect for the 2013 NFL Draft.

6. LB Manti Te’o

T’eo has had a tough season off the field, but has been instrumental for the Irish defense. 

7. DT Johnathan Hankins

Hankins is a gigantic defensive tackle that could become the run stopper that NFL scouts dream about finding in the draft.        

8. CB Johnathan Banks

I think at this point Banks is the player that most NFL scouts are underrating. He makes big plays when he gets his hands on the football and he seems to always be near the ball. 

9. DE Bjoern Werner

Werner is leading the nation in sacks five weeks in. He has been one of the most impressive players in the country and is flying up draft boards.

10. DT Johnathan Jenkins

Like his counterpart, Hankins from Ohio State, Jenkins is a massive body that can shut down an opponent’s entire running game.

11. DE Sam Montgomery

LSU’s other defensive end is rated slightly lower than Mingo, but still figures to be a top 15 pick in the draft. Teams see him as a guy that can work in any defense.

12. DT Star Lotulelei

Scouts rave about Lotulelei because he is super impressive on video tape. His biggest challenge might be the other three defensive tackles in this draft. All have the talent to be top five picks.

13. OT Luke Joeckel

Joeckel is the first offensive tackle on the big board, although this position is typically where you see quick risers. Joeckel is described by most as a guy with great technique.        

14. C/G Barrett Jones

I feel like eventually scouts will wake up and realize that Jones’ versatility to play three offensive line positions with hardly any issues is a huge plus. NFL lineman are moved around constantly due to injuries.          

15. WR Justin Hunter

Before the season, I had Hunter on my big board. He isn’t 100% back from his ACL injury, but his potential is through the roof.

16. CB David Amerson

Amerson was picked on by Tyler Bray in N. C. State’s opening game, but his talent shines through one underwhelming performance.

17. G Chance Warmack

Warmack is one of the best offensive lineman in the country. He is looking more and more like a first round pick.

18. WR Keenan Allen

Some scouts believe Allen is the top receiver prospect in the draft. I’ll take Hunter, who has bigger upside, although Allen has better collegiate production so far.

19. DE Corey Lemonier

Auburn has been terrible this season, but Corey Lemonier has been one of the bright spots. He is a fantastic speed rusher that has a skillset that translates well at the NFL level.         

20. DE Alex Okafor

Okafor already has four sacks this season on a Texas defense that has been relatively underwhelming thus far.

21. DT Kawaan Short

Short has looked like a first round pick since midway through 2011 and he has continued to impress this year. He played really well against Notre Dame.

22. WR Robert Woods

Woods has all the talent in the world, although his teammate Marquise Lee is the better pro prospect.

23. S Eric Reid

Reid continues to look like the top safety prospect for the draft.

24. RB Marcus Lattimore

The South Carolina running back is fully back from his ACL injury. No other running back available runs with the power he does. He can truly carry a workload.

25. RB Le’Veon Bell

Bell is a lot like Lattimore, except he is carrying an entire offense right now. Bell does not have a passing game to take pressure off of him like Lattimore does at times with Connor Shaw.

 

Power 16: Week 5 Rankings Show Little Movement at the Top

RANK COMMENT
1 Although the Crimson Tide did not dominate Ole Miss, Nick Saban’s team did feel what it was like to trail in a game for the first time all season (for 15 whole seconds).
2 Just like last week, Oregon struggled for a half. Washington State played well but the Ducks are on a mission. One thing to watch: DeAnthony Thomas has to touch the ball more early in games for Oregon.
3 The ‘Noles did not roll South Florida, but they did end up with a double digit win. Florida State’s defense was impressive, but we should all remember that the Bulls fell to Ball State last week. 
4 Kansas State was idle this week after knocking off Oklahoma in Norman last weekend. The Wildcats take on Kansas next week. Their in state rivals probably will not provide much competition for Collin Klein & Co.
5 LSU always seems to fool around with teams the Tigers should destroy. Auburn and Towson are great examples of that, but knowing that should we punish Les Miles’ team for doing what they always seem to do? A trip to Florida emerges as gigantic this weekend.
6 Georgia was lucky to survive a game Tennessee team in Athens on Saturday. If not for Tyler Bray’s late fumble, the Bulldogs could have been in overtime. Instead, Georgia is 4-0 and ready to face 4-0 South Carolina in Columbia.
7 The first half wasn’t pretty (trailed 17-7 at halftime) but eventually Steve Spurrier’s offense woke up against Kentucky. If the Gamecocks were busy looking ahead to Georgia, I don’t blame them. Kentucky is one of the most inept offenses ever.
8 Florida was off this week after beating Kentucky 38-0 last week. The Gators take on LSU in Gainesville on Saturday afternoon. A Florida win would change expectations for this team that seemed to be forgotten about by most preseason publications.
9 Notre Dame was off this weekend after back to back wins over Michigan State and Michigan. Although the Irish’s wins do not look as good as they might have in the preseason, Notre Dame is at least beating good teams. This weekend the Irish take on Miami, who is surprisingly 4-1.
10 Geno Smith is clearly the Heisman frontrunner with 20 touchdown passes and 0 interceptions, but I refuse to move up a team that gave up 63 points to Baylor. 
11 Texas showed toughness that it has lacked in recent years with a big come from behind victory in Stillwater on Saturday night. Now, David Ash and the Longhorns host West Virginia in a huge Big 12 battle.
12   Oregon State’s three wins: UCLA, Wisconsin, and Arizona are among the best three wins any team in the country has this season. 
13   It is a shame that Urban Meyer’s team cannot play for a Big Ten championship, because five weeks into the season it is pretty clear the Buckeyes are the conference’s best team.
 14   Clemson struggled for a while at Boston College, but eventually the offense took over and pulled away from the pesky Eagles. Next week, the Tigers take on a Georgia Tech team that just fell to Middle Tennessee.
 15   I don’t want to move Stanford down too low for its loss to Washington, but the offense looked terrible. It makes it almost hard to believe that this team was able to beat USC.
 16   The Trojans might be in for a tough battle on Thursday at Utah, who will have a fiesty crowd on hand for the primetime battle with the Trojans. All of a sudden games against Washington, UCLA, and Notre Dame look tougher than they did three weeks ago.

Bowl Projections Week 5: Louisiana Tech in a BCS Game?

I know what you’re thinking: This guy must be a little crazy.

Maybe I am.

I have Louisiana Tech going to a BCS bowl in my week five college football bowl projections. I know, it sounds stupid, but I can explain.  The official BCS rules state that a non-BCS team like Boise State or Louisiana Tech  will receive an automatic berth into a BCS game if:

  • It is ranked in the top 12, or
  • Ranked in the top 16 and higher than at least one BCS conference champion.

Well, the BCS standings aren’t out yet, but Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com is already projecting the BCS standings and he is usually pretty good at it. He has Louisiana Tech at No. 32, meaning the Bulldogs need to cut their position in half by the end of the season to get into the spot it needs to even be considered. I understand that, but look at where Palm has each BCS conference’s highest rated team:

Is it a realistic possibility for Louisiana Tech to play in a BCS game?

1. SEC (Alabama)
2. Pac 12 (Oregon)
4. ACC (Florida State)
8. Big 12 (Kansas State)
17. Big Ten (Michigan State)
19. Big East (Louisville)

The Big Ten and Big East are terrible. The ACC isn’t much better. After Florida State in the ACC, Clemson is the highest rated ACC team at No. 15. Virginia Tech, the team most likely to win the other division is at No. 35. It’s not inconceivable to think the Hokies could win the ACC, considering they do it most years. Virginia Tech would certainly rise if that happened, but would they be above a 12-0 Louisiana Tech team? Remember, Virginia Tech just lost to Pittsburgh, who lost badly to Youngstown State (a FCS school). Meanwhile, Louisville is the highest ranked team in the Big East.  Rutgers is right behind at No. 22. What happens if neither one of those teams wins that conference? That is very likely because the Big East is full of mediocre teams. Flip a coin to pick a winner there. The Big Ten’s best team cannot play in the postseason (Ohio State) and plays its best qualifying team (Michigan State) this weekend. In other words, the Buckeyes can really hurt the conference’s BCS appearance with a win this weekend because the Buckeyes do not qualify for the poll. A loss by Michigan State would drop the Spartans and lower the Big Ten’s already abysmal rankings in the BCS, increasing Louisiana Tech’s chances of earning a BCS spot.

To sum this all up, if Louisiana Tech finishes 12-0, I think the Bulldogs have a fantastic shot at being ranked in the top 16. They would have to win at Texas A&M in that span and this team already has a 52-24 win over Illinois of the Big Ten on its resume. I also believe they will be ranked above the Big East or Big Ten champions, making them eligible. Ohio could screw this up by running the table and being impressive and qualifying the same way or the Bulldogs could lose due to playing a tough schedule, but the team that causes the biggest threat to messing this up is Boise State. The Broncos have a loss, but still could qualify by being in the top 16 and being the highest ranked non-automatic qualifying team ahead of a BCS champion.

For now, I’ll go with the bold prediction and put Louisiana Tech in a BCS game. Remember, the WAC is dissolving after this year. The Bulldogs could sent it out with a bang that absolutely nobody sees coming.

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