ACC: Jordan Lynch

Johnson, BGSU ready for shot at Pitt

December, 23, 2013
The story that best encapsulates Matt Johnson's emergence as perhaps the latest Mid-American Conference quarterback prodigy is told by one of his high school coaches.

Throughout Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt's 2010 season, head coach Jeff Weachter and assistant Dick Shiner had spoken about the resilience of Shiner's friend Frank Reich, who, like Shiner, was a Maryland product who went on to the NFL. With the Terrapins, Reich engineered a 31-point comeback win over Miami, then an NCAA record. Later with the Bills, the quarterback helped Buffalo dig out of a 32-point hole in a playoff game to top the Houston Oilers, an NFL record.

With this in mind, and with Bishop McDevitt trailing Erie (Pa.) Cathedral 21-3 as it left the locker room for the second half of the state semifinals, a knowing smile flashed across Johnson's face as he returned to the sideline.

"Hey Coach," Weachter recalled Johnson saying, "Frank Reich."

[+] EnlargeMatt Johnson
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsBowling Green's Matt Johnson was considered too short to be a big-time quarterback, a slight he hopes to remind home-state Pittsburgh about in the Little Caesars Bowl.
Two quarters and 21 unanswered points later, Johnson had authored a Reich moment of his own, a 24-21 victory that helped cement his prep legend. That tale tapped out, as most eventual MAC sagas do, with the quarterback lacking the physical measurements to wow most college suitors. Johnson's height (6 feet) scared away many bigger schools, including Pitt. It left him down to Temple and Bowling Green, with the Harrisburg native choosing the Falcons.

It now has the redshirt sophomore set to square off against the state school that passed on him, as Bowling Green will face Pitt in Thursday's Little Caesars Bowl. Johnson hid little with that matchup on the horizon, tweeting his hopes to play Pitt in the hours before the game became official.

Johnson has no ill will toward the current Pitt staff, which is in its second year there. He counts several Panthers players as friends and high school peers. But this game is a chance for him to deliver another signature performance against a BCS-conference opponent, and it just happens to be in Detroit, where he left a huge impression earlier this month.

"Hey, right up the road, not too bad, especially the way that we ended our season," Johnson said with a laugh. "Definitely good memories up there, and it'll be nice to [try to] add another good memory on the 26th."

On Dec. 6, Johnson completed 21 of 27 passes and tallied 426 total yards and five touchdowns in a 47-27 rout over undefeated Northern Illinois, ruining the Huskies' BCS hopes and delivering Bowling Green its first MAC title in 21 years. Johnson has drawn plenty of attention after outdueling NIU's Jordan Lynch, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

If there were such a thing as an overlooked player within his overlooked league, Johnson was just that entering Ford Field more than two weeks ago.

"Jordan deserved all the credit that he was getting and all the publicity, and I personally thought he deserved to be in New York," Johnson said. "But I did have a little chip on my shoulder because it was like Bowling Green was the team that Northern Illinois was playing. It wasn't really like we have a chance to win a MAC championship. If we won, it was going to be a huge upset and everybody was just really talking about how Northern Illinois was going to bust the BCS for the second year in a row."

Weachter said college coaches several years ago uttered the phrase, "if he were just two inches taller" so often that he considered printing Johnson a T-shirt to wear to every college camp he would attend, simply stating: "I Know." Weachter said he has since heard from several college coaches who are sorry they passed on Johnson, whom he calls the best leader he's ever coached. (That list of pupils includes NFL leading rusher LeSean McCoy.)

Johnson went to junior high with Pitt center Artie Rowell, playing little league baseball and basketball with him before Rowell went to rival Central Dauphin. Johnson played in the Big 33 Classic, a Pennsylvania all-star game, with current Panthers cornerback Lafayette Pitts and defensive lineman Ejuan Price.

"I'm very happy for him," Rowell said. "I'm glad he's doing what he's doing. His high school has a proud tradition of putting guys in a position to be successful, as do many other high schools in our area. Personally, I couldn't wish him more success."

Pitts, describing how to defend Johnson, said: "Get pressure on him, first and foremost. And just contain to keep him inside the pocket because he can move with his legs, but he also has a strong arm, too. So coverage-wise we're going to have to be tight as well."

Special teams coordinator Adam Scheier is serving as interim coach for Bowling Green, as Dave Clawson left to become head coach at Wake Forest. To replace Clawson, Bowling Green hired Dino Babers last week from Eastern Illinois. There, Babers tutored FCS player of the year Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. Before that, he helped coach Robert Griffin III as a Baylor assistant during Griffin's Heisman Trophy season.

All of that could very well indicate that #MACtion could already have its marquee quarterback and program lined up to carry the conference's torch in 2014. But for now, Johnson and his Falcons are champing at the bit for their latest chance to play the role of "that other team" on the day after Christmas.

"It'll be a nice opportunity because there's guys on the team that are actually from Pittsburgh, and they didn't receive an offer from Pitt, either," Johnson said. "It kind of hurts a little bit when you're coming out of high school and you don't receive an offer from your home state. But we are happy with where we're at, and we wouldn't change it for the world. But it will be nice to play against your home state and kind of show them, I could've been here, but I didn't get that opportunity, but I'm going to make the most of playing against you guys."

Florida State, Hundley among best of week

November, 5, 2013

Getty ImagesBrett Hundley (left), Jordan Lynch (middle) and Taylor Kelly (right) all starred last week.

Week 10 featured an impressive offensive performance by Florida State, a dominant defensive outing by Michigan State and a Hail-Mary touchdown as time expired for Nebraska.

With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information takes a look back at the best individual and team performances of Week 10.

Best Individual Performances
Brett Hundley posted a Week 10-high 97.0 opponent-adjusted QBR in UCLA’s 45-23 win against Colorado. He completed 19-of-24 passes (79 percent) and was responsible for four touchdowns. In his previous two games combined, both losses, Hundley completed 64 percent of his passes and had more turnovers (4) than touchdowns (3).

Jordan Lynch had a 96.0 opponent-adjusted QBR in Northern Illinois’ blowout victory over Massachusetts. He had 279 yards of total offense and was responsible for five touchdowns in the win. In the last three weeks, Lynch leads the FBS in rush yards (534), 15-yard rushes (15) and expected points added (31.1 EPA) by a quarterback.

Taylor Kelly posted a 95.6 opponent-adjusted QBR in Arizona State’s 55-21 win at Washington State on Thursday. He was responsible for seven touchdowns in the win, tied for the most by a player this season. In addition to his scoring, Kelly converted 6-of-11 third-down chances.

Jameis Winston had a 94.6 opponent-adjusted QBR in Florida State’s 41-14 win against Miami (FL). He converted 6-of-8 on third-down plays and had seven completions of 20 yards or longer. In his three games against top-25 opponents, Winston has a 95.6 opponent-adjusted QBR and has led Florida State to three wins by an average margin of 42.3 points per game.

Explaining Connor Shaw’s Total QBR:
Connor Shaw threw for four touchdowns and had no interceptions in South Carolina’s 34-16 win against Mississippi State but had an opponent-adjusted QBR of only 44.0. Why? Shaw did not convert any of his seven third-down pass attempts and took a 13-yard sack when the game was tied. He also completed only 1-of-7 passes in the second quarter when the game was still close.

Best Team Performances
Offense-- Florida State added 23 expected points on offense towards its 27-point victory over Miami (FL).

The Seminoles gained 517 total yards of offense and scored 41 points against a Miami defense that ranked in the top 12 in scoring defense entering the game. Florida State converted 11-of-15 third downs, including 9-of-10 chances in the first three quarters.

Defense-- Michigan State added 23 expected points towards its 23-point victory over Michigan on defense.

That means that if the Spartans had an average defense (EPA of 0), and all else remained the same, the two teams would have been equal. The Spartans held the Wolverines to -48 rushing yards, their fewest in school history, and had seven sacks in the game.

Special Teams--UCLA added seven expected points on special teams by controlling field position and recovering an on-side kick.

UCLA kick returner Devin Fuller had three kickoff returns that gained least 30 yards. As a result, the Bruins’ average drive started on their own 41, 16 yards closer to the goal line than Colorado’s average drive started.

For a look at the teams with the best EPAs in 2013, check our Football Power Index page here

Looking at Nebraska’s Hail-Mary TD
Nebraska QB Ron Kellogg III threw a 49-yard Hail-Mary touchdown to Jordan Westerkamp as time expired to give Nebraska a 27-24 victory over Northwestern on Saturday.

According to ESPN’s win probability model, Nebraska had a 2.8 percent chance of winning before the touchdown, meaning that the play increased Nebraska's win probability by 97.2 percentage points. That is the largest increase in win probability for any play this season.

The chart below shows the massive jump in win probability from that play.

Next week features three matchups of top 15 opponents as No. 10 Oklahoma heads to No. 6 Baylor on Thursday, No. 5 Stanford hosts No. 3 Oregon (9 ET, ESPN) on Thursday and No. 13 LSU travels to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. There's the potential for more last-second finishes, as all three of these matchups finished within eight points last season.

Instant analysis: FSU 31, NIU 10

January, 2, 2013

It wasn't exactly the easy win so many predicted, but Florida State's size and speed advantage helped the Seminoles outlast upstart Northern Illinois 31-10 to win their first Orange Bowl since 1996.

Record-setting NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch found no room to work, and Florida State's dominant defense showed few flaws in its first game without departed coordinator Mark Stoops, while EJ Manuel accounted for 321 yards of offense and two touchdowns to lead the Seminoles.

It was over when: Xavier Rhodes forced a fumble from Da'Ron Brown on a second-down run with 11:15 left to play in the game. Northern Illinois had just converted a fourth-and-1 and was driving in hopes of cutting FSU's lead to seven, but the fumble was the dagger that ended any hopes of an upset. The play was reviewed, but officials ruled the ball was coming out of Brown's grip before his knee hit the ground, and the Seminoles quickly capitalized on the turnover with a Lonnie Pryor touchdown.

Game ball goes to: Pryor. The senior fullback has toiled in the shadows for four years at Florida State, earning immense respect within the locker room but relatively little fanfare outside it. Tuesday's game was different. While the rest of the FSU running game struggled, Pryor was brilliant. He opened the scoring with a 60-yard touchdown run -- the longest of his career -- and put the icing on the cake with his 37-yard touchdown after NIU's fourth-quarter fumble.

Turning point: There were plenty, but NIU's two turnovers were killer. The fumble by Brown was the last straw, but a third-quarter interception by Terrence Brooks squelched another promising Huskies drive. Brooks picked off Lynch at the FSU 13-yard line to protect a slim seven-point lead.

Stat of the game: Lynch entered the game as one of the most dynamic offensive players in college football, but he found out yards are far tougher to come by against Florida State. Coming into the game, Lynch had racked up 1,771 rushing yards -- fourth most in the nation -- and was averaging 6.5 yards per carry. But Christian Jones, Telvin Smith, Vince Williams and the FSU linebacking corps was exceptional, hitting him repeatedly and giving him nowhere to run. Lynch had bragged earlier in the week that NIU planned to wear FSU down late, but the opposite was true, and the junior quarterback finished with just 44 yards rushing on 23 carries, while completing just 36 percent of his throws.

Unsung hero: It's tough to call Manuel an unsung hero, but in a season in which he's earned just as much criticism as praise -- and maybe more -- he wrapped up a five-year career at Florida State with a solid performance. Manuel completed 27 of 39 passes for 296 yards through the air and added another 26 rushing with a touchdown. He missed a few passes -- something his critics will be happy to note -- but he connected on far more. When the FSU offense needed him, he made the throws he had to make. Manuel never lived up to his immense promise at FSU, but he was surely a very good quarterback, and he ends his career as an Orange Bowl champion and winner of four straight bowl games.

What it means: Northern Illinois shrugged off the legions of doubters and proved an unexpectedly competitive opponent, but in the end, Lynch and the Huskies simply didn't have enough to make a late charge. For Florida State, it was yet another inconsistent performance in a season that has been filled with them. But it was also the school's first BCS win in 12 years, and it marked just the second time in program history that FSU has won 12 games in a season.

Discover Orange Bowl keys

January, 1, 2013
Here are three keys for Florida State against Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl:

1. Don’t forget Mark Stoops. Florida State’s defensive coordinator left to become head coach at Kentucky, but the Seminoles can’t forget everything he taught them. They’ve got to continue to do what has made them so successful all season, and that’s win up front. Unfortunately for FSU, the Noles also have to do that without defensive line coach D.J. Eliot, who followed Stoops to Kentucky as his defensive coordinator. Florida State’s defensive line has got to put pressure on NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch and fluster him into mistakes. Lynch leads the nation in total yards (4,733) and ranks third in total yards per game (364.08).

2. Win the quarterback battle. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel has hardly been a flop this season, but he has been inconsistent. He looked like a Heisman contender against Clemson, but struggled through an emotional game in a loss to rival Florida. The Noles tend to go as Manuel goes, and he is going to have to make good decisions in order to overshadow and outplay Lynch. Lynch has the more impressive numbers, but Manuel has the better supporting cast and big-game experience.

3. Play disciplined. This is not the time for a mistake-laden game filled with turnovers and penalties. One of the reasons NIU won the MAC is because it has been a disciplined team that takes care of the ball. FSU is No. 96 in the country in turnover margin while Northern Illinois is tied for No. 29. FSU has lost the ball 26 times this year -- 16 fumbles and 10 interceptions.

Pregame: Discover Orange Bowl

January, 1, 2013
Northern Illinois (12-1, 8-0 MAC) vs. Florida State (11-2, 7-1 ACC)

WHO TO WATCH: The quarterbacks. Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch leads the nation in total yards (4,733) and ranks third in total yards per game (364.08) behind Baylor’s Nick Florence and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel could become just the second quarterback to win four straight bowl games, joining former West Virginia quarterback Pat White. In just his second season as a full-time starter, Manuel is FSU’s career leader for completion percentage at 66.8 percent -- which is significantly ahead of No. 2 Charlie Ward (62.3).

WHAT TO WATCH: Florida State’s defensive line vs. NIU’s offensive line. Florida State defensive line coach D.J. Eliot was hired at Kentucky as Mark Stoops’ defensive coordinator, but Eliot stayed in Tallahassee to help the Noles prepare for Lynch. FSU’s defensive line has been one of the best in the country, despite season-ending injuries to star defensive ends Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine, who tore his ACL in the loss to Florida. FSU is No. 26 in the country with 2.54 sacks per game. NIU is tied for No. 16 in the country in sacks allowed with 1.08 per game, a total of 14 all season. FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner leads the ACC and ranks seventh nationally with 13 sacks this season.

WHY TO WATCH: Because No. 13 FSU might actually lose. The Noles are the more talented team, but the No. 15 Huskies will be playing to prove they belong in a BCS bowl. This will be the first BCS bowl game for a member of the Mid-American Conference. It is also the first bowl game between the ACC and MAC. NIU is the only program in the country to win 21 of its past 22 games, and joins Oregon as the only schools with three straight 11-win seasons. The Huskies' seniors are the winningest class in school history with 41 victories. FSU is 1-5 all-time in BCS bowls since playing in the first-ever BCS national championship game (1999 Fiesta Bowl).

PREDICTION: Florida State 31, Northern Illinois 17: The Huskies will come out fired up and ready to prove they deserved their title as BCS Busters, and they’ll keep it uncomfortably close in the first half. FSU fans will prematurely panic, an upset watch will look possible, but then reality will set in. Florida State has too much talent and speed, and the gap will continue to widen in the third quarter. The Noles will win the battle up front, and the defense will fare well in its first game without former coordinator Mark Stoops. The Noles will finish with 12 wins, including an ACC title and a BCS bowl win -- not a bad consolation prize for a team that had hoped to win a national title.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 28, 2012
Can Virginia Tech save the ACC from posting a losing record against the Big East this year?

Best case/worst case: ACC bowls

December, 13, 2012
The ACC is looking for its first winning bowl record since 2005 and will have six opportunities this season to help its cause. is taking a look at the best- and worst-case scenario for each team going bowling. Here’s a look at what could happen in the ACC:


Best case: Duke wins. Look, getting to a bowl game for the first time since 1994 was huge, but it has been even longer since the program has actually won a bowl game. A win against Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl would give Duke its first bowl win since 1961, when Duke beat Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.

Worst case: Duke’s defense allows its fifth straight opponent more than 40 points, and the ACC Coach of the Year goes 6-7.

Virginia Tech

Best case: Quarterback Logan Thomas plays an interception-free game, the Hokies get their running game going, Virginia Tech beats Rutgers for its first win of the season against a Big East team, and coach Frank Beamer announces he will hire a new offensive coordinator.

Worst case: The Hokies’ offense continues to look as anemic as it has all season, the program suffers its first losing season since 1992, and Beamer decides not to make any changes to his staff after an 0-3 finish against Big East teams.

NC State

Best case: Quarterback Mike Glennon plays four quarters like he did the final drive against Florida State, and the Pack has something positive to build on heading into the offseason with first-year coach Dave Doeren.

Worst case: The Pack’s mediocre rushing defense has no answer for All-SEC running back Zac Stacy, interim coach Dana Bible loses his first game as a head coach, and the ACC takes another punch in the gut from the SEC.

Georgia Tech

Best case: Paul Johnson has a reason to celebrate. The Jackets coach has lost all four bowls he has coached with the program. He could win his first if Georgia Tech’s defense looks like it had a month to prepare for Matt Barkley, the offense controls the clock with sustained drives, and the team wins the turnover battle.

Worst case: The Jackets secondary gets burned repeatedly by USC All-American receiver Marqise Lee, Johnson drops to 0-5 in bowl games, and Georgia Tech decides to follow Maryland to the Big Ten.


Best case: ACC 1, SEC 0. Clemson beating LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl would do wonders for both the program and the ACC. The offensive line wins the battle up front and keeps LSU at bay in time for quarterback Tajh Boyd to work his magic.

Worst case: The Tigers lose the game and their offensive coordinator and their quarterback. Chad Morris goes to Texas Tech, Boyd leaves early for the NFL draft, and receiver DeAndre Hopkins follows.

Florida State

Best case: Florida State cruises, quarterback EJ Manuel looks like he did against Clemson -- not Florida -- and the defense stifles highly touted quarterback Jordan Lynch.

Worst case: The Noles lose to Northern Illinois. Nuff said. Well, that and Jimbo Fisher's entire staff leaves for the SEC.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said he isn’t sure yet who he’s going to hire as his next defensive coordinator -- or defensive ends coach for that matter -- but he is absolutely certain the defense is going to face one of the nation’s better quarterbacks when the Noles line up against Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch in the Discover Orange Bowl.

FSU will face the MAC’s Offensive Player of the Year while in the midst of a major defensive transition. Not only will FSU’s defense need a game plan for Lynch, the staff is also trying to figure one out for itself. Fisher said a defensive coordinator might not be hired until after the Orange Bowl, and the Noles also have to replace defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot, who followed Mark Stoops to Kentucky as his defensive coordinator.

[+] EnlargeJordan Lynch
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireNorthern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch, who leads the nation in total offensive yards, certainly has the attention of FSU's Jimbo Fisher.
“We aren’t sure who we are going to get, but some of the coaches will come back and coach in the game. I know D.J. Eliot will, and Mark may even come back and help in preparation,” Fisher said. “We have had great talks and when the dead period starts we’ve even talked about having him come back and helping us prepare, so we may not fill the position until after the Orange Bowl. So we’ll have to wait and see, but D.J. will definitely come back in that game and help coach in that game also. He’s going to be the defensive coordinator at Kentucky, that’s a great opportunity for him. We’re very happy for him, so those guys will all come back and help us prepare and coach, and we’ll address that after.”

Right now, they have to address Lynch.

Lynch has rushed for over 100 yards in each of NIU’s past 11 games, an NCAA record. He leads the nation in both total offensive yards (4,733) and total rushing yards (1,771). NIU ranks ninth nationally in both scoring offense (40.8 ppg) and rushing offense (250.2 ypg). The Huskies topped the MAC in rushing offense, total offense, scoring offense and passing efficiency.

Fisher said it’s going to take the entire defense to slow Lynch down. Not that FSU’s defense hasn’t risen to the occasion before. The Seminoles rank second in the nation in total defense, allowing just 253.8 yards per game, and rank 14th nationally in scoring offense with 39.9 points per game.

That was with Stoops on the sideline, though.

“You’re going to have to do it as a group,” Fisher said. “We’re going to have to have a great team effort. The guy can throw it, he can run it, he has weapons around him and we’re going to have to be very sound in everything we do and we’ll have to mix things up, give him multiple looks and do different things. But we’ll get into that as we go, but we know he’s a great player and they’ve done a tremendous job not only as an offense but as a football team.”

The Huskies are the first MAC school to play in a BCS bowl or the Orange Bowl. It is the first time a MAC school has faced an ACC school in any bowl game. First-year NIU coach Rod Carey said he doesn’t expect playing on the big stage to affect Lynch’s ability to perform.

“I think he’s the same player he was a week ago when we were playing, I don’t think that’s going to change,” Carey said. “It better not, he’s been pretty good. He’s a tough kid, we run him, but he can throw it, too. But that doesn’t define Jordan. What defines Jordan is how he leads and being the good teammate and above all, the good person he is. So I sure hope it doesn’t change.”

Discover Orange Bowl

December, 2, 2012
Northern Illinois Huskies (12-1) vs. Florida State Seminoles (11-2)

Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET, Miami (ESPN)

Northern Illinois take from ACC blogger Heather Dinich: In a matter of hours Sunday, Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey was named head coach and found out by watching ESPN that his first game in that capacity would be against No. 12 Florida State in the Discover Orange Bowl. Carey was hired to replace Dave Doeren, who left to become head coach at NC State.

Carey, who was previously the team’s offensive coordinator, said he had no idea the program would be this year’s BCS buster. Northern Illinois earned its 12th straight win with a 44-37 double overtime victory against No. 17 Kent State in the MAC championship game in Detroit on Friday. The win catapulted the program into BCS consideration for the first time in school history.

“Things happen for a reason, and here we are,” said Carey, a first-time head coach. “It’s a tribute to our kids and our players.”

The Huskies’ offense is led by quarterback Jordan Lynch, who leads the country in rushing yards (1,771) and total offense yards (4,733).

Northern Illinois enters the Orange Bowl riding a school-record 12-game winning streak. The program’s first BCS bid comes on the heels of back-to-back 11-win seasons in 2010 and 2011. NIU is the only program in the country to win 21 of its past 22 games and joins Oregon as the only two schools with three straight 11-win seasons. The seniors are the winningest class in school history with 41 victories. The Huskies haven’t lost since their season opener against Iowa.

“It’s the biggest game NIU has been in because it’s the biggest stage,” Carey said. “It’s an earned thing, too.”

Florida State take from NoleNation's David Hale: After 11 wins, a conference championship and a bevy of dominant performances, Florida State has made its case to be lumped in with the best teams in the country. But as the Seminoles look for only the second BCS bowl win in their history, the reviews from fans are definitively mixed.

Has FSU turned a corner, marching back to national relevance after its first ACC championship in seven years? Or have the Seminoles padded their résumé in a weak conference without the weekly challenges faced by teams in the SEC or Big 12?

Is this the offense that hit 50 with ease early in the season behind what looked like a Heisman-caliber quarterback or is it the unit that couldn't crack 30 in three of its past four games as EJ Manuel struggled through mistakes?

Is this the dominant defense that ranked among the best in the country or is it a unit in turmoil after losing one of its leading tacklers (Tank Carradine) and its defensive coordinator (Mark Stoops)?

The Orange Bowl may not answer all or, perhaps, any of these questions, but that seems to be of little concern for Jimbo Fisher and his Seminoles, who are far happier to simply paint an optimistic portrait of 2012 rather than worry about any perceived shortcomings.

After all, when was the last time a Florida State team came close to such heights -- even during some other dismal years for the ACC? Sure, the season began with hopes of a national championship -- hopes that were derailed by losses to NC State and Florida -- but FSU has moved on.

"We've been trying to get here for a long time," defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. "Get back into the national title conversations, winning ACC championships and Orange Bowls and those types of games. We're Florida State. That's what we're supposed to do."

For these Seminoles, it was about reestablishing those standards and putting a decade of mediocrity behind them by any means necessary. Some weeks, that meant Manuel and an explosive running game carried the load. Some weeks, Bjoern Werner, Lamarcus Joyner and a stout defense were at the forefront. And with 11 wins already secured, the final piece to the puzzle will be burying that 1-5 BCS bowl record, too, with an Orange Bowl victory that FSU hasn't enjoyed since the 1995 season.