Ranked sixth in the country in both major polls, Florida State is 5-0 for a second straight season with perhaps its toughest test looming in less than two weeks at Clemson. The Seminoles are coming off of their most impressive victory of the season, a 63-0 victory over Maryland, thanks not only to a stellar defensive effort, but to a freshman quarterback that is turning heads from across the country.
At a media event prior to the season, Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston made a joke about getting “Johnny Manziel Disease” referring to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s off-the-field antics this summer that got the reigning Heisman Trophy winner kicked out of the Manning camp, out of a University of Texas frat party and nearly ruled ineligible by the NCAA. While nothing that Winston has done off the field has been able to draw much scrutiny, Winston may still have “Johnny Manziel Disease” after all as the FSU signal-caller looks to become the second freshman to win the Heisman Trophy in as many years.
Whether or not Winston is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate is no longer in question. In Saturday’s 63-0 pounding of Maryland, Winston finished 23-for-32 passing for 393 yards and five touchdowns, his second performance with at least five total touchdowns this season and third with at least four.
In each of the last three weeks, Florida State’s talented freshman has thrown a touchdown of the highlight reel variety. Three weeks ago against Bethune-Cookman, Winston escaped multiple defenders before firing a touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin while slipping to the grass. Last week against Boston College, Winston broke free from two potential sacks to find Kenny Shaw in the end zone for a 55-yard touchdown on the final play of the first half. And on Saturday, Winston once again eluded pressure, breaking tackles and rolling right to throw a perfect strike to tight end Nick O’Leary in the corner of the end zone.
Winston however, is more than just the plays that make highlight shows. In fact, Winston has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the country week in and week out. Winston is also the only player in the country to rank in the top five nationally in touchdown passes, completion percentage, yards-per-attempt and passer rating. On the season, Winston has 17 touchdown passes and 19 total touchdowns compared to just two interceptions.
Winston ranks just 21st in the country in passing yards, but that is largely due to Florida State’s lopsided victories. The Seminoles’ five wins have come by nearly 42 points-per-game. When Winston plays into the fourth quarter however, the Florida State freshman is averaging 360 passing yards-per-game which would rank fifth in the country.
The biggest knock on Winston’s Heisman campaign will be the competition that he has seen thus far, but Florida State’s biggest tests lie in the final half of the season. With games against undefeated teams in Clemson and Miami upcoming not to mention the regular season finale against a Florida team that seems to be finding its identity and perhaps even an ACC title game, the freshman from Alabama will certainly have the platform to make his case for the most coveted individual award in sports. But while the Seminoles have not yet faced the stiffest of competition, it is worth noting that four of the five teams that FSU has faced thus far have winning records and the other is a 3-3 Nevada squad.
Big expectations have followed Jameis Winston since his commitment to Florida State, but through five games, Winston has even exceeded those. But while high completion percentages, multiple touchdown performances and highlight reel passes have become routine for Winston, Florida State’s toughest contests are ahead. Legendary Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes once said, “anything easy ain’t worth a damn” and the same will be true if Winston is to become the third Florida State quarterback to take home the Heisman Trophy.