1. This team, unlike its predecessor, is at times more lucky than good.
2. The Seminoles are still pretty darn good, even with all their injuries.
3. Jameis Winston is an excellent crunch-time quarterback.
4. FSU likely has too many warts to repeat as national champion.
5. Jimbo Fisher is an unquestionably brilliant coach.
Let's focus on the last item. Fisher's coaching acumen often gets overlooked, often because of what Fisher says and does away from the sideline.
He out-coached Louisville's Bobby Petrino in the second half Thursday, pushing the right buttons, especially on a third-and-6 from Louisville's 35-yard line late in the fourth quarter. Winston found a wide-open Freddie Stevenson, who scooted in for an easy, euthanizing touchdown. It's another reminder that Fisher is at the top of his game.
Fisher's clout as a recruiter also showed up as three freshmen, led by running back Dalvin Cook, reached the end zone. And his Seminoles team, despite myriad mistakes and continuing controversy, won its 24th straight game.
So why is it so hard to celebrate Fisher? Because of the other stuff.
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The freshman signal caller broke a bone in his finger on his right hand Oct. 11 against Louisville and had surgery two days later. The initial diagnosis was that Watson would need a month of recovery time, and that very well may still be the case.
The Tigers have a bye this weekend before traveling to Wake Forest on Thursday. They close their ACC schedule the following Saturday at 6-2 Georgia Tech, which would probably make more sense for a return.
"I think it's still too early to tell that right now. Probably doubtful [at Wake]," Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said, according to the (Charleston) Post and Courier's Aaron Brenner. "Obviously you don't want to rush someone back. He looks good throwing the ball right now, he's gaining the strength back in his hand, but he hasn't been tackled either. When the training and medical staffs feel confident enough, they'll let us know."
Watson led the nation in Total QBR before his injury. Clemson has struggled offensively without him, totaling just 33 points in its last two games, a pair of close wins over Boston College and Syracuse.
Here are the rest of your ACC links:
- Jonathan Hilliman is coming on strong for BC, Jack McCluskey writes on ESPNBoston.com.
- Yahoo's Dan Wetzel looks at Jimbo Fisher's climb to the FSU post, and how he's become disliked this season.
- SI.com's Ted Keith sits down with UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham in light of the Wainstein Report.
- The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Sam Werner previews the Pitt-Duke game with the (Raleigh) News & Observer's Laura Keeley.
- Scott Shafer was in Chicago on Thursday for a hearing to determine whether the school committed NCAA violations, Chris Carlson writes in the (Syracuse) Post-Standard.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Florida State is eight games into this season, and its identity is fairly clear. The Seminoles thrive when the situation appears bleakest.
They have dealt with so many distractions off the field, it almost feels as if they want distractions on the field, a strange psychology that has actually worked for them. Because once again, the Seminoles overcame a second-half deficit to save their season, this time in a 42-31 win over Louisville on Thursday night.
Four times this season, Florida State has needed second-half comebacks to win. But it faced its largest deficit against the Cardinals, down 21-0 in the second quarter against the No. 1 rated defense in America. Momentum shifted to the home Cards, but Florida State just shrugged.
"Been there before," quarterback Jameis Winston said.
Florida State scored just before halftime. Coach Jimbo Fisher remained calm in the locker room. Halftime adjustments worked before; they would work again. The Noles had rallied before; they would rally again.
So they did, blitzing Louisville for 35 second-half points behind Winston and the talented freshman trio of Dalvin Cook, Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph. Florida State trailed 31-28 with 9:20 remaining, then scored the final two touchdowns of the game. There should never be any doubt, not with Winston calling the shots.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- In a game that ended just before the start of Halloween, the No. 2 team in the country got a major scare on the road.
But Florida State isn’t easily spooked -- and it’s even harder to kill. The Seminoles bounced back from a 21-point deficit at No. 25 Louisville to win 42-31 and keep their College Football Playoff hopes very much alive.
Here’s a quick look at how it went down:
How the game was won: After falling behind 21-0 in the first half and trailing 24-7 in the third quarter, the Seminoles' offense finally got going. But Florida State really showed its true championship mettle on the downs that mattered most. Louisville finished 1-for-11 on third downs, missing on its first 10, and was 0-for-2 on a pair of fourth downs -- the first on the FSU goal line during the game’s first series; the second on a dropped pass with the game on the line. Meanwhile, the Seminoles went 9-for-16 on third down, and those conversions included three long touchdowns.
Game ball goes to: While Florida State running back Karlos Williams was in the news all week for the wrong reasons, his backup -- true freshman Dalvin Cook -- made the headlines Thursday night. He gave the Seminoles a spark in the third quarter, catching balls out of the backfield and scoring on a 40-yard run. Then he provided the game-winning score on a 38-yard run down the right sideline, one play after Florida State forced a Louisville three-and-out. Cook finished with 110 rushing yards on just nine carries and added four receptions for 40 yards.
What it means: Florida State won its 24th straight game and further strengthened its playoff position. This looked like the Seminoles’ toughest remaining game, as they finish the regular season with Virginia, at Miami, Boston College and Florida before a likely ACC championship game appearance. It now will take a major upset to keep Jimbo Fisher’s team from going undefeated for a second straight season.
Playoff implication: Several teams from other conferences were pulling for Louisville, including those from the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12. But now the Seminoles have three quality wins (Clemson, Notre Dame and Louisville) and will be a heavy favorite to claim one of the four playoff spots.
Best play: While Florida State got plenty of big plays from true freshmen on Thursday, Cook's second touchdown run was the biggest. Right after the Seminoles forced Louisville into a three-and-out deep in Cardinals territory, the freshman running back sprinted off tackle to the right and streaked to the end zone to put FSU up for good with 3:46 left.
What's next: The Seminoles host Virginia next Saturday, while Louisville heads to Boston College.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Jameis Winston threw three touchdowns to offset a three-interception start and Dalvin Cook had two long scoring runs to help second-ranked Florida State rally for a 42-31 victory over Louisville on Thursday night.
Florida State overcame a 21-0 deficit for its 24th straight victory, with Cook giving the Seminoles the lead with a 38-yard run with 3:46 remaining.
Out of sorts and on the verge of having its College Football Playoff prospects damaged, the Seminoles (8-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference, No. 2 CFP) recovered behind their Heisman Trophy quarterback and Cook, who had a 40-yard touchdown run in the third quarterback.
Winston was 25 of 48 for 401 yards to beat Louisville (6-3, 4-3, No. 25 CFP).
12:00 PM ET 24 Duke Pittsburgh 12:30 PM ET Boston College Virginia Tech 12:30 PM ET North Carolina Miami (FL) 3:00 PM ET North Carolina State Syracuse 3:30 PM ET Virginia Georgia Tech