1. If Jim Harbaugh goes to Michigan, as is expected to happen, it would be the first time the university has hired a head coach with such a high profile since it swiped Fritz Crisler from Princeton in 1938. All Crisler did in 10 seasons in Ann Arbor was slap the wings on the Wolverines’ helmet, invent platoon football, win 80 percent of his games (71-16-3) and finish with a 10-0 record in 1947. Harbaugh might not change the way everyone plays, but if he took Stanford from the brink of dropping down to FCS to making a BCS bowl, he can turn around his alma mater. The Wolverines would have much less road to travel.

2. Florida State co-offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, on Jameis Winston and the team going hot and cold: “The thing that separates Jameis from a lot of guys is [he is] unbelievably competitive. The tougher the situation, the more competitive the game, the better he plays. We’ve talked all year about starting fast and finishing strong. That proves the team has half-listened to us because we’ve finished strong. We haven’t always started fast. We’ve been in the situation where we’ve had to come back … and the guy always plays well.” And then he said, “It scares you to death as a coach to live that way.”

3. Kentucky went 2-10 in 2012 and fired its coaching staff, including Sanders. Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher hired him. Sanders hasn’t lost a game since. “Sometimes, the best thing in the world to happen to you is to get fired,” Sanders said. “I had a great time at Kentucky. I told my wife several times, 'It’s time to move. It’s time to go.' I knew it was. But yet I had daughters in high school. It’s hard to leave. ... Sometimes God has to step in and say, ‘OK, you won’t go? I’m going to make you go.’ … The fact that I ended up at Florida State and won 27 straight games, getting to coach Jameis, proves that there was a higher power in control of this thing than me.”

Jameis Winston: 'I'm a good guy'

December, 28, 2014
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LOS ANGELES -- Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston said he wants to show he's a "good guy" and wants to prove the public perception of him is untrue.

"People always can bring up old things but now I'm doing what I do," Winston said. "I'm a loving person -- I'm loving my teammates. I'm dependable. I'm accountable. I can't show out to the world that I'm that guy because you're not in the locker room and a lot of people don't know me for who I am.

"Perception is reality but perceptions can also be false."

Winston's comments came Sunday in his first news conference since he was cleared of violating Florida State's student code of conduct in connection to rape allegations.

"I can't worry about the past, I can't worry about the future," Winston said. "I've got to be where my feet are and keep working every day to become a better person and a better football player and a better teammate."

Winston also echoed sentiments he's made before that he is fully focused on his teammates and not allowing any off-the-field drama to be a distraction as the third-ranked Seminoles prepare to face No. 2 Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual in what could be the final game of his collegiate career.

The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner remains undefeated in his two seasons as FSU's quarterback, but has been in and out of the news for non-football related issues since last season.


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ORLANDO, Fla. — Five-star defensive end Byron Cowart, with only a few months until signing day, is torn between three schools — Florida, Florida State and Auburn.

The No. 2-ranked prospect in the country plans to visit all three of those schools along with a Pac-12 school in January, if time allows.

Florida making run at FSU QB commit 

December, 28, 2014
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- ESPN 300 quarterback commit Deondre Francois is one of three Florida State quarterback commits playing in the 2015 Under Armour All-America game -- even though Kai Locksley will be in the game as a wide receiver. The logjam at quarterback has another in-state program trying to sneak in and possibly steal away a quarterback at the last minute.


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Only one thing missing for Mariota

December, 28, 2014
Dec 28
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Marcus MariotaJed Jacobsohn for ESPNMarcus Mariota will lead Oregon in its semifinal matchup against Florida State in the Rose Bowl.

EUGENE, Ore. -- It all started in the fall of 2010 when Mark Helfrich, then Oregon's offensive coordinator, found himself curiously captivated by game film of the backup quarterback for the Saint Louis School in Honolulu. He had been scouting starter Jeremy Higgins, but it was a corner route from the skinny, nameless substitute that most arched his evaluative eyebrow.

That pass -- "A rope," Helfrich effused -- was impressive, and Helfrich liked the way the guy moved around. Reminded him of Jake Plummer. So Helfrich called then-Ducks receivers coach Scott Frost into his office and asked him to watch the small handful of plays they had of this youngster. Helfrich wanted a second opinion because junior backup quarterbacks aren't typically pursued by Oregon. Frost confirmed to Helfrich that no, he wasn't crazy. The skinny kid looked as if he could run around and hurl the rock.

So a few months later, as the 2010 recruiting season seamlessly turned into the 2011 recruiting season, Helfrich found himself standing in the shadow of Diamond Head, Hawaii's iconic volcano, watching that skinny quarterback named Marcus Mariota, a nonentity among recruiting services, in spring practices. He was the fastest guy on the field, and the ball flew from his hand in that lively way that makes QB coaches swoon.

"I remember it like yesterday," said Helfrich, savoring a favorite and often-told story that doesn't seem to get old to him. "It was like a movie ...


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Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota discusses being able to enjoy some time at Disneyland before Oregon's playoff game against Florida State.
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Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston discusses his team's mindset heading into its game against Oregon and going up against fellow Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

Does defense still win titles?

December, 27, 2014
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[+] EnlargeNick Saban
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesAlabama coach Nick Saban notes that it's still important to be able to stop people at key times, despite the emergence of high-scoring offenses across college football.

A week into the 2014 season, one that would prove memorable on a multitude of fronts, Alabama coach Nick Saban mused that college football had changed more in these past couple of years than he could ever remember since he started coaching.

It was his way of saying the offensive revolution had taken hold of the sport like never before, which was only magnified by 55 FBS teams averaging more than 30 points per game, and hurry-up, spread offenses spitting out the kind of numbers that would make even the most rabid Xbox gamers blush.

Look around. It's an offensive world right now in college football. Even Saban's Crimson Tide spread it out some this season under first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and dared to join the "fastball" ranks, as Saban was fond of calling the hurry-up offenses in the past.

The four teams in the first-ever College Football Playoff all average more than 34 points per game. Oregon has won eight straight games and scored more than 40 points in all eight contests. Ohio State exploded for 59 points in its 59-0 destruction of Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, and like Oregon, is in the top five nationally in scoring offense. Both are averaging more than 45 points per game.


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Dalvin Cook named in police report

December, 24, 2014
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[+] EnlargeDalvin Cook
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesIt is not known if Dalvin Cook, Florida State's leading rusher, is involved in an alleged aggravated assault, police said.

Florida State tailback Dalvin Cook, the third-ranked Seminoles' leading rusher this season, has been named as an associate in an ongoing investigation of an alleged aggravated assault, according to a news release issued by the Tallahassee Police Department on Wednesday.

Tallahassee police are investigating whether two men brandished a firearm at a neighbor on July 17, according to the release. Cook's involvement, if any, in the alleged incident isn't known. He was not named as a suspect in the report, according to Tallahassee police.

The details of the investigation including Cook's name was part of a news release regarding a Freedom of Information request sent to Tallahassee police by ESPN's "Outside The Lines". Police sent that report to ESPN, but had redacted all details, including his name. ESPN did not know that Cook's name was part of the report until police issued the statement Wednesday.

Cook, a freshman from Miami, leads the Seminoles with 905 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He is expected to play when FSU faces No. 2 Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual on New Year's Day, one of the two semifinals games of the inaugural College Football Playoff.


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Much of the focus leading up to the Rose Bowl will be on the two most recent Heisman Trophy winners, Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. However, those two aren't ever going to be competing head-to-head on the field at the same time.

Both No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Florida State made it this far because of the talent littered throughout the rosters. While Mariota and Winston have both shown they have the ability to win games on their own, the Rose Bowl could be decided by a player who has been flying a bit under the radar but is poised to make a big splash on Jan. 1.

Here are a few players that haven't been discussed much that could have a big impact on the game.

Defensive players

Oregon: Chris Seisay. First and foremost, he's going to surpass expectations simply because so much more will be asked of him this game than has ever been asked of him. He'll be stepping into the spot vacated by Jim Thorpe Award finalist Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who suffered a career ending injury last week. Seisay, a redshirt freshman, has only accounted for 20 tackles this season due to the fact that he just really hasn't seen the field a ton. Because of this, Jameis Winston and the Florida State offense are certainly going to throw at him quite a bit more. The rest of the secondary is pretty solid -- Troy Hill, Erick Dargan, Reggie Daniels -- so why not take shots at the youngest, most inexperienced guy?

But that's where I think it'll get interesting. I feel like Seisay could have a huge game for the Ducks. Because he'll be targeted more, he'll have a chance to make some big plays (though, he'll also have chances to make some big mistakes), but I think he's going to pull through for the Ducks. Last week, Oregon defensive coordinator Don Pellum said that the game plan wouldn't change for the Ducks. “We lost a great leader, great player, great spiritual leader and everyone has got to -- it's like a hit -- everyone's got to pick it up a little more,” Pellum said. I think Seisay picks up a lot more.

Florida State: Nile Lawrence-Stample. He likely won't receive a ton of snaps, but any contribution from the defensive tackle could prove major for the Seminoles. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher felt the senior lineman was poised for a big season before tearing a pectoral muscle against Clemson in September. He played through the injury during the game, but the tear was bad enough that Fisher said Lawrence-Stample would miss the remainder of the season. So it was a bit of a surprise when Fisher said last week that Lawrence-Stample was ready to practice and should play against the Ducks. Florida State has been thin at defensive tackle all season, and the loss of Lawrence-Stample was a tough blow. Fisher said Oregon's tempo wouldn't give Lawrence-Stample any trouble as he works back into game shape, but the 6-foot-1, 314-pound tackle is likely not going to be able to play a significant number of snaps. Still, even 20 snaps in a reserve role could be pivotal for a defensive line that will need fresh legs deep into the fourth quarter if the Seminoles plan to pull off the upset.

Offensive player

Oregon: Royce Freeman. Yes, I know he's already a player that so many people know. But I think he's going to exceed expectations by having his best game of the season. The Seminoles haven't faced a rushing attack quite like Oregon's. Not only do they have to worry about the rushing attack out of the tailback (Freeman), they have to worry about it out of the quarterback (Mariota) and a slot receiver (Byron Marshall, former running back). There's so much to focus on that I think Freeman might get lost in the shuffle just enough times to really crank off some huge runs.

Florida State has given up 3.9 yards per rush this season, but the Seminoles have also given up 69 rushes of 10 or more yards -- that's one in every seven or eight rushes. And they've shown out when they needed to. FSU held Miami's Duke Johnson to right around his season average in rushing yards per game, while keeping him to just one touchdown run and two rushes of 10 or more yards. But Johnson doesn't have the weapons around him like Freeman has. Freeman is playing his best football right now and has averaged 6.1 yards per rush over the past four games. With each game and practice he, along with Mariota and a constantly reshuffling offensive line, are finding better ways to collectively attack defensive fronts and I think with the extra two weeks of practice we're going to see a huge performance -- his biggest of the year -- out of Freeman. Put me down for it: 180 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns (and one receiving touchdown) at 6.0 yards per carry.

Florida State: Travis Rudolph. The freshman receiver has been brilliant at times this season, dazzling with his footwork and speed. He's also made a few rookie mistakes that have led to Florida State turnovers. Rudolph's talent is undeniable, and the Florida State offense has often looked its best when Rudolph is having a productive game. The Seminoles could use a secondary receiving threat on the outside to complement Rashad Greene, who defensive backs target before every play. Florida State's young receivers have been inconsistent providing help for the senior Greene, who is the most productive receiver in school history. With Greene on the outside and Nick O'Leary on the inside at tight end, there will not be any shortage of opportunities for Rudolph to make a play. Winston has shown he isn't afraid to throw the ball in Rudolph's direction and is not lacking confidence in the freshman. With Oregon's top cornerback out, Rudolph isn't going to have the same caliber of defender standing opposite him either. Even a few catches for 60 or so yards would be a strong contribution from Rudolph and enough to shift some attention from Greene and O'Leary.

Tale of the tape

December, 24, 2014
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As the inaugural College Football Playoff looms, it's time to start the overanalysis ... er, I mean, analysis ... of the four combatants. Time to begin the process of measuring the four would-be national champions, head-to-head-to-head-to-head.

Exactly what factors rank most important when it comes to these comparisons is up to the person who is doing the comparing. Some might want to talk straight X's and O's. Others might want to talk game control and QBR. But when our eyes glaze over during that, it might cause us to refocus elsewhere, to the nooks and crannies of each program that will eventually add up to create the true advantages to win a team's final two games of the season.

What am I talking about? I'm not entirely sure. I'm writing this with one hand on the keyboard and the other hand on a ladle of eggnog. But as with eggnog, no one is entirely sure what will add up to the correct mixture of a College Football Playoff champion.

Here's our best guess in a too-early CFP Tale of the Tape.

Offense

Anyone who paid any attention to Alabama over the last two seasons knows that its ability to move the football received a supercharge this season, as the Tide averaged 490.5 YPG, good for a 1.3-yard advantage over high-powered archrival Auburn. Ohio State averaged an even more impressive 507.6 YPG and was one of four FBS schools to average 7-plus yards per play with 7.04. By comparison, Florida State posted 434.7 YPG, ranked 40th in the nation. So ... where's Oregon? Out ahead like the Road Runner leaving Wile E. Coyote, averaging 546.2 YPG (third in FBS), 46.3 points per game (third in FBS), and scoring 80 touchdowns (first in FBS). In fairness, Ohio State ranks just behind the Ducks in those two last categories, but Oregon's complete body of offensive work is undeniable.

Advantage: Oregon


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The victories have been dismissed. The opponents, too.

But going on a long winning streak is just not easy to do.

Whatever you believe about Florida State and how the Seminoles have arrived at 29 straight wins, stop for a moment for a little perspective. Because these players are a part of college football history, tied with Miami (1990-92) and Michigan (1901-03) for No. 13 on the all-time longest streaks list.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher and Jameis Winston
Rob Tringali for ESPNDuring their 29-game win streak, coach Jimbo Fisher and Florida State have knocked off 19 bowl teams.
Of the 15 teams that have won 29 or more straight games, only eight played after World War II; only six after 1960; only three since 2000.

“It’s impressive, obviously,” said North Texas assistant Kevin Patrick, who was on the Miami teams that won 29 straight. “It’s something the more years that go by, the more impressed I even become with it. It’s such a high mark, especially back in the state of Florida. ... You go to school with so many people that are so familiar with the schools, it gives you a lot of bragging rights.”

The Florida State and Miami winning streaks bear similarities, beyond sharing the same home state. Miami won a national championship in the middle of its streak, the way Florida State did a season ago. Miami played eight games decided by a touchdown or less; Florida State has played nine (albeit seven have happened in 2014); Miami played 10 teams that were ranked at the time they played; Florida State nine.

Where there is slight separation is the opposition they played. Miami faced 12 bowl teams; Florida State 19. FSU played eight teams with losing records; Miami 12.

Still, wins are exceedingly hard to string together when you become a marked team.

“We were a lot of people’s bowl games,” Patrick said. “We were bigger than going to a bowl game to play so-and-so. They came into the Orange Bowl, we got the best out of everybody. I can remember even those smaller teams coming in, and they would give us everything they got. Great teams are capable of winning those games even at close margins. You win or you lose. That’s it.”

The only two other teams to reel off long winning streaks over the past 15 years were Miami (2000-02) and USC (2003-05). Both won 34 straight. Both have fielded teams regarded as among the best in college football history.

USC was viewed as playing in the better conference. There is an interesting comparison to be made with those USC teams and Florida State. During its 34-game winning streak, USC played 10 ranked opponents -- just one more than Florida State has played during its winning streak.

While the Trojans had only four games decided by a touchdown or less, they actually played weaker overall competition. USC faced 17 teams with losing records during its win streak. Yes, the USC streak was longer, but by only five games. If the FSU streak continues, the Noles have at least their next two games against winning opponents.

Miami also played its share of losing teams in the Big East. Clint Hurtt, who was on the 2001 national championship team, said motivation was a bigger factor than any pressure to keep the winning streak going.

“The pressure was never the issue. It was actually keeping interest,” Hurtt said. “What Florida State is going through right now is they have to present the challenge to themselves. The thing we did on those teams -- each position set goals that we had within the game that we had to try and accomplish. We played a game within the game just to get us going. That’s the truth.”

There is one more thing the two Miami teams and the 2003-05 USC teams have in common: Their winning streaks ended in the national championship game. Miami lost to Alabama in the 1992 Sugar Bowl; Miami lost to Ohio State in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl; USC lost to Texas in the 2005 Rose Bowl.

All three were favored to win, making their losses all the more stunning.

“It was one of the strangest games I’ve ever been in,” Patrick said of the loss to Alabama. “I remember sitting in there at halftime looking over at one of the other guys thinking, ‘What is going on out there?’ Some days the ball just doesn’t roll your way. Was there pressure? Absolutely not. I don’t think we went in there and one person thought about a streak. It was just the next one, and we’re going to take care of business.”

Florida State has taken care of business for so long, it is hard to believe the Seminoles are actually an underdog to Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual on Jan. 1 in the College Football Playoff semifinals, the first time they haven't been favored to win since 2011.

While that might be a surprising place for the Seminoles to be in, they want to avoid what would be the biggest surprise of all: losing.

New contract for Jimbo Fisher

December, 23, 2014
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Florida State's Jimbo Fisher agreed Tuesday to a new eight-year contract through the 2022 season, a deal the school says will make him one of the highest-paid coaches in the country.

Salary terms were not disclosed because contract details are still being worked out, but a source told ESPN.com's Chris Low that the deal is worth an average of $5.5 million a year.

"I am pleased that we have been able to secure Coach Fisher as our head coach for the long term," athletic director Stan Wilcox said in a statement. "The commitment we are making to him is a reflection of the outstanding job he has done in leading our program to its current level of excellence. While we are delighted with the undefeated season this year and our upcoming appearance in the inaugural College Football Playoff, we began working on this new contract before the success of this past season was in full view. It is a great day for Florida State."

Fisher, who is 58-10 in five seasons at Florida State, earned a new contract last season after taking Florida State to the national championship, one that increased his salary into the $4 million pay range.

"I am honored to be the head coach at Florida State University, which I've said many times before," Fisher said in a statement. "I appreciate that FSU believes in what we are doing and supports our goal of maintaining one of the best programs in the country. It is a privilege to coach the young men in our program. It is truly a family.

"Florida State is a very special place. I appreciate the support of the administration in accomplishing some great things. We have improved in a number of areas over the years, and the commitment to providing the very best in academics, facilities and maturation and growth opportunities for our young men has been key to our success. I look forward to continuing to build on what we are establishing."


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Winston Prepared To Test Weakened Oregon Secondary
Speaking to the media at the Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston addressed his off-field issues and discussed facing an Oregon secondary that will be missing All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
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ACC SCOREBOARD

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