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Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Midseason report: Florida State

By David M. Hale

It almost seems absurd now to think that the story of fall camp was a battle for the starting quarterback job. It's not that the overwhelming majority of fans had questions about Jameis Winston's potential back then, but coach Jimbo Fisher played it safe, let the battle rage on throughout camp, and while he was happy to endorse Winston's potential, he did his best to dampen the hype.

All that went out the window when Winston finally took the field, turning in a debut for the ages against Pitt in the opener. From there, it has been nothing but smooth sailing for Florida State, with five wins by an average of 42 points per game. Winston has been superb, throwing for at least 300 yards and four touchdowns in each of his three ACC games, and the defense, which had its own set of questions to answer, appears headed in the right direction after a shutout against Maryland.

Of course, the biggest tests for Florida State still await, headlined by this week's showdown against Clemson. The Seminoles haven't won in Death Valley since 2001, but if they end the streak behind Winston on Saturday, the path toward a national championship game appearance will be clear.

Offensive MVP: Winston. Who else? The redshirt freshman has the luxury of an exceptional offensive line and a multitude of weapons, but he has been the leader of this offense throughout the first half of the season. Through five games, Winston is among the nation's best in completion percentage (73.2 percent), passing touchdowns (17), yards per attempt (11.7) and Total QBR (91.6).

Defensive MVP: Telvin Smith. This hasn't been the same Florida State defense that manhandled offensive lines and shut down the opposition's ground game a season ago, but it's a unit that is making progress and learning on the fly, and Smith has been at the forefront. The senior linebacker has been the vocal leader on and off the field, and he has backed up his talk by leading the Seminoles with 32 tackles (seven more than anyone else on the team), including four for a loss.