NCF Nation: Rashad Greene

It obviously takes talented players to put together a 29-game winning streak.

How talented? Florida State could be in rarefied air once the draft is completed in early May. With a nation-leading five early entrants in the draft, Florida State is on course to have at least 11 players selected.

If that happens, Florida State will have 29 players drafted over the last three years, more than any other team since the draft was cut down to seven rounds in 1994. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the last school that had at least 29 players drafted over a three-year period was Texas, with 31 taken from 1982-84.

Only two programs have had 28 players taken since 2002: Miami (2002-04) and USC (2008-10).

Those Miami teams are widely regarded as among the best all-time at producing NFL talent. Of those 28 drafted, 15 went in the first round. Florida State will not come close to that first-round number, having had four first-round picks in 2013 and 2014 with a handful projected for 2015.

But there is an interesting debate to be had between this recent Florida State stretch that produced a national championship, 29 straight wins and potentially more overall picks, and the Miami stretch that produced a national championship, 34 straight wins and more first-round picks.

Is the 2001 Miami championship team head-and-shoulders above the 2013 Florida State championship team? That question is worth discussion.

What is not up for debate is where this Florida State group stands compared to its other talented teams. This three-year stretch blows any other in school history away. Until now, its most drafted three-year group was 22 from 1993-95.

It goes without saying that coach Jimbo Fisher has done a tremendous job on the recruiting trail. Not only is he signing top-flight classes, he is taken the highly skilled players in those groups and developing them into professional talents at rapid-fire rates. Fisher can boast that better than just about anyone.

Here is a look at the recent three-year stretches Florida State, Miami and USC have put together in the NFL draft:

MIAMI, 2002-04

2002 draftees: 11
First round: Five -- Bryant McKinnie, Jeremy Shockey, Phillip Buchanon, Ed Reed, Mike Rumph

2003 draftees: Eight
First round: Four -- Andre Johnson, Jerome McDougle, Willis McGahee, William Joseph

2004 draftees: Nine
First round: Six -- Sean Taylor, Kellen Winslow, Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams, Vernon Carey, Vince Wilfork

USC, 2008-10

2008 draftees: 10
First round: Four -- Sedrick Ellis, Keith Rivers, Sam Baker, Lawrence Jackson

2009 draftees: 11
First round: Three -- Mark Sanchez, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews

2010 draftees: Seven
First round: None


2013 draftees: 11
First round: Three -- EJ Manuel, Bjoern Werner, Xavier Rhodes

2014 draftees: Seven
First round: One -- Kelvin Benjamin.

2015 draftees: TBD
Most likely to be drafted: Jameis Winston, Eddie Goldman, P.J. Williams, Mario Edwards Jr., Ronald Darby, Cameron Erving, Josue Matias, Karlos Williams, Rashad Greene, Nick O'Leary, Tre' Jackson
We’re winding down our list of the ACC’s top 25 players from 2014. To view the previous entries, click here. Now, on to Nos. 6 through 10.

6. Rashad Greene, Florida State

Position: Receiver

Year: Senior

There’s never been any question about Greene’s talent, but in 2014 he firmly established himself as one of the great leaders in FSU history. Surrounded by an inexperienced group of receivers, Greene stepped up to become one of the most consistent targets in the nation and caught 99 passes for 1,365 yards -- with numerous game-changing plays along the way. His 74-yard touchdown against Clemson preserved FSU’s win streak, and he finished with double-digit receptions in three games and topped 100 yards receiving eight times. Greene wrapped up his career as FSU’s leading receiver in each of his four seasons.

7. Grady Jarrett, Clemson

Position: Defensive tackle

Year: Senior

Jarrett was the vocal leader of Clemson’s dynamic defensive front, and few tackles in the country made a bigger impact on a week-to-week basis than he did. His 45 tackles paced all Clemson defensive linemen, and his 10 tackles for loss were the most by an ACC interior lineman. Jarrett was a key cog in the nation’s fifth-ranked rushing defense, and he helped solidify the middle for a unit that racked up 254 tackles for loss over the past two seasons.

8. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech

Position: Quarterback

Year: Sophomore

Entering the season, fans were beginning to wonder if Paul Johnson’s option offense had run its course at Georgia Tech. Then Thomas was added to the fray, and everything changed. The sophomore proved a perfect fit for Johnson’s scheme and threw for 1,719 yards and 18 touchdowns while becoming just the second Tech QB in the past decade to top 1,000 yards on the ground. Thomas is one of just 13 Power 5 QBs in the past decade to top both benchmarks in a single season. Thomas helped Georgia Tech become the nation’s most prolific rushing offense and led the Yellow Jackets to an 11-3 season, a Coastal Division title and a win in the Capital One Orange Bowl.

9. DeVante Parker, Louisville

Position: Receiver

Year: Senior

How do you make a case for a player who missed the first seven games of the year to rank in the top 10? With Parker, it’s actually pretty easy. A foot injury during fall camp sidelined Parker early, but the Cardinals’ receiver debuted Oct. 18 against NC State with nine catches for 132 yards, and he never slowed down. In his six games this season, he topped 120 yards five times, including a 214-yard performance against Florida State. Despite missing half the season, Parker finished seventh in the ACC in receiving yards, and among Power 5 receivers with at least 40 catches, none averaged more yards per reception than Parker, at 19.9.

10. Jamison Crowder, Duke

Position: Receiver

Year: Senior

Crowder finished with 1,000 receiving yards for the third straight season, after turning in his fourth 100-yard game of the year in Duke’s bowl game against Arizona State. One of the ACC’s most consistent receiving threats in each of the past three seasons, Crowder was an all-purpose star who finished third in the ACC in receiving yards, second in receptions, first in punt-return yardage and sixth in all-purpose yards. Also, he was the only ACC player with multiple special-teams touchdowns this season.
The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft has passed. Now let's take a quick look at the biggest draft deadline winners and losers across the ACC:


Clemson: The Tigers did lose an underclassman: punter Bradley Pinion. Head-scratching, yes. But the reason the Tigers are winners this year is that they held on to all their top offensive talent. While nobody was in position to declare early, it still is notable that this is the first time Clemson has not had an underclassman on offense turn pro since 2010. That could very well change once these freshmen start growing up, but for now, it is good to be co-offensive coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott.

Duke: The Blue Devils had only one player who could have potentially left early: safety Jeremy Cash. When he announced he would return to school, there must have been a huge sigh of relief. Not only does the Duke secondary now return all its starters, it returns its best player. Cash had 111 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 2 interceptions and 4 forced fumbles this past season. With linebacker Kelby Brown (ACL) expected healthy for 2015, Duke potentially has two of the best defensive players in the ACC.

Notre Dame: So the Irish have only one toe in the ACC football waters, but they did end up a huge winner, and that is something teams with Notre Dame on the 2015 schedule need to know. All underclassmen who could have returned did: defensive lineman Sheldon Day, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, center/guard Nick Martin and quarterback Everett Golson (at least for now). Stanley was the biggest surprise because some had projected him as a first-round pick on a few early mock drafts. While Golson's status remains unclear, getting Day, Stanley and Martin back means expectations will again be high in South Bend, Indiana.


Florida State: The Seminoles might be the biggest draft-deadline loser in the country, with five players turning pro early this year: quarterback Jameis Winston, cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby, defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. Of that group, Winston and Goldman are listed on the first Mel Kiper Jr. mock draft. Losing players to the draft is nothing new for the Seminoles, but they have taken heavy losses from their underclassmen in the past three years: 12 in all. Add to that losses from a terrific senior group, including Rashad Greene, Nick O'Leary and Karlos Williams, and 2015 might end up being a bit of a rebuilding year for the Seminoles as they get a boatload of young guys ready to play. On the bright side, kicker Roberto Aguayo and linebacker Terrance Smith announced they would return to school.

Louisville: Many expected safety Gerod Holliman to leave after he tied an NCAA record with 14 interceptions, despite some questions about his pro potential. But losing defensive backs Charles Gaines and James Sample has to be a blow the Cardinals were not quite expecting. Louisville, which ranked No. 5 in the nation in pass efficiency defense, must now replace five of its top six defensive backs in 2015. Put another way, Louisville is losing players responsible for 21 of the 26 interceptions it had last season.

Miami: While we all expected running back Duke Johnson to leave, losing him is still tough for a Miami offense that revolved heavily around him in the past three seasons. Johnson leaves as the school's all-time career all-purpose yards and rushing yards leader. Add the departure of offensive tackle Ereck Flowers and now Miami has to replace its two best underclassmen, plus top seniors Clive Walford and Denzel Perryman.
Florida State has won three straight ACC championships, but the Seminoles are not a lock to be the preseason favorites to win the league again in 2015.

This could be the season to catch the Seminoles -- especially with Georgia Tech and Clemson returning top-25 teams.

[+] EnlargeJustin Thomas
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsJustin Thomas and the Yellow Jackets will aim to defend the nation's top-ranked rushing offense next season.
Everybody knows what Florida State has done over the past three years to re-establish itself as a national program. The Seminoles will remain a national program in 2015, but they may not be as dominant as they have been, given all the players they must replace.

You thought having to replace 11 NFL players off the 2012 team was bad? At least the Seminoles had Jameis Winston coming in at quarterback, and returning standouts such as Rashad Greene, Nick O'Leary and Lamarcus Joyner on defense.

Now, the Seminoles have to replace perhaps the best player in program history (Winston), the best receiver in program history (Greene) and the best tight end in program history (O'Leary). Not to mention four starting offensive linemen and at least two All-ACC defenders who have declared early, with up to two more on the way.

When it is all said and done, Florida State could end up getting at least another 11 players drafted. That would bring its three-year total to 29 drafted players -- more than the 26 players Miami had drafted off its heralded teams from 2001-03.

Not even a coach that has recruited as well as Jimbo Fisher has can easily reload after losing so many veterans that laid the foundation for multiple ACC titles, a national championship and a 29-game winning streak.

What could make the difference is quarterback. That remains a big uncertainty in Tallahassee. But Georgia Tech and Clemson return two of the best quarterbacks in the ACC -- both sure to earn preseason votes for ACC Player of the Year.

Justin Thomas had a breakthrough season for the Yellow Jackets, the catalyst for an 11-win season and what should be a top-10 final ranking. He has two more seasons in Atlanta. While it is true the Jackets lose terrific players in Zach Laskey, Synjyn Days, Shaq Mason and DeAndre Smelter, the biggest key to efficiency and productivity in the Georgia Tech offense is its quarterback.

Thomas was terrific in his first year as a starter, becoming just the second quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in school history. He ranks No. 4 in the nation in QBR, a measure of how good a quarterback is on a play-by-play level. From a team perspective, Georgia Tech ranks No. 1 in the nation in rushing offense and third-down conversions, No. 3 in time of possession and No. 7 in first downs -- all testaments to how well the triple-option worked this season with Thomas behind center.

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AP Photo/Rainier EhrhardtDeshaun Watson and the Tigers finished second in the Atlantic Division in 2014, and will likely be a preseason favorite to take over No. 1 in 2015.
At Clemson, we all saw the potential Deshaun Watson has -- provided he can stay healthy for an entire season. With Artavis Scott, Mike Williams, Wayne Gallman and a host of other young offensive players returning, this offense has the potential to be as good -- if not better -- than the crew Tajh Boyd led a few years ago. The Tigers could end up being the top preseason choice in the Atlantic.

On the whole, the Atlantic Division should be tougher than it has been over the past few seasons. Louisville showed it is a team that has the potential to make some noise in the ACC in Year 1; NC State is vastly improved, and the last ACC team to hand the Seminoles a loss. Boston College has played the Seminoles close the past two seasons, nearly pulling the upset in Tallahassee a few months ago.

Of those three, the Cards and Wolfpack also return their starting QBs.

The ACC schedule will also be more challenging. The Seminoles swap Virginia for Georgia Tech from the Coastal, and the game is in Atlanta. So is their annual Atlantic showdown with Clemson. Already, those two games are setting up to be pivotal in the 2015 ACC race.

There is no doubt Florida State has plenty of talent in the pipeline. But whether the Seminoles will be able to put it all together for 2015 and play like a dominant force remains a question mark, leaving the door open for another team to raise the championship trophy.
Florida State running back Dalvin Cook closed out his freshman season with a nightmare performance, one that will stay with him in the months to come.

Because in the aftermath of his two fumbles in a 59-20 loss to Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual, Cook sat in a quiet, desolate locker room and talked about the motivation those mistakes will give him in the offseason.

[+] EnlargeDalvin Cook
Gary Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsDalvin Cook finished his freshman season averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
As if building on a 1,000-yard season was not going to be motivation enough, Cook plans on torturing himself with replays as a way to make sure those mistakes never happen again.

“I feel like this offseason has got to be the best one I’ve had,” Cook said. “I’ve got to go back and I’ve got to take it in. If I don’t want to watch it, I’ve got to watch it.”

Without a doubt, Cook took his first steps toward team leadership in the aftermath of that game.

As a true freshman generally off limits to the media, he could have taken the easy route and avoided queries after the blowout loss to the Ducks. Instead, Cook sat on his stool during the open locker room period and made himself available, answering every single question that came his way.

He took full responsibility for the game-changing fumbles that altered the course of the College Football Playoff semifinal, handling himself with poise.

Demeanor is one thing. More importantly, Cook is set to become the best returning player on offense, somebody his teammates can get behind as they begin to find a new identity.

Veteran leaders Rashad Greene, Nick O’Leary and Karlos Williams are gone. So are four starting offensive linemen. Though quarterback Jameis Winston did not provide any hints about his future, it is anticipated he will leave school early to enter the NFL draft.

If Winston does leave, Cook will be the new face of the offense, a devastating runner with the capability of becoming one of the best backs in the entire country. Cook hit the 1,000-yard mark on just 170 carries, averaging 5.9 yards every time he touched the ball.

His skills were on full display in the second half of the season, when he posted four of his five 100-yard games. But along with his ability to make big plays -- 12 of his carries went for 20 yards or more -- came too many mistakes.

Cook lost four fumbles, two against Oregon and one each against Virginia and Miami. Three were converted into touchdowns. Florida State overcame the mistakes against the overmatched Hoos and Canes, but they were devastating against the elite Ducks.

“The first fumble, I was kind of like trying to get extra yardage, and I was stumbling and a guy came from behind me, and he stripped the ball from me,” Cook said.

On the second: “I thought I’d seen a seam and I didn’t have the ball secured. It was the same thing, he came from behind me and he stripped it.”

Cook did not play another down.

But he will start 2015 with a clean slate, a player who should garner a few preseason votes for ACC Offensive Player of the Year. If the Seminoles do have a new starting quarterback, at least he will have the luxury of having Cook right behind him.

An extra motivated Cook, eager to put all his mistakes in the past.

“At the end of the day, the younger guys that will return and be a part of this organization for more years, they will learn from this experience,” Greene said. “They will learn from the mistakes they made and get better.”

Florida State is counting on that.
PASADENA, Calif. -- The turnovers started mounting, and Florida State looked like a team uncharacteristically out of control.

For so long, we had grown accustomed to the Seminoles showing poise and precision in the second half, shrugging their shoulders at any deficit that came their way. But against Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual on Thursday, Florida State had a litany of errors that ultimately became its undoing.

Five turnovers -- including four in the game-changing third quarter.

A sideline spat between Jameis Winston and coach Jimbo Fisher after a critical fourth-down fumble, in which Fisher could be seen telling his quarterback to calm down or head to the bench.

And an ugly ending beyond the 59-20 score, when many Florida State players walked off the field without the customary postgame handshake.

[+] EnlargeTony Washington, Jameis Winston
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesJameis Winston's fumble resulting in a touchdown return by Oregon's Tony Washington was one of five Florida State turnovers in the Rose Bowl, including four in the third quarter.
Florida State, so resilient in close victories, lost its will to fight. There was no protocol for anyone to follow, not after 29 straight wins. Not after the Seminoles had been able to overcome their mistakes so many times in 2014. The new year and high-powered Ducks presented new problems Florida State simply could not handle.

“It hurts badder than whatever you can imagine,” said Winston, the first time in his collegiate career he had to answer questions about losing. “No one likes to lose, man. Losing is really not in my vocabulary, but we fell short.”

The game started slipping away on the first drive of the third quarter, when Dalvin Cook fumbled on a promising drive with the Seminoles down 18-13.

Oregon turned that mistake into a touchdown.

Cook fumbled again later in the quarter.

Oregon turned that mistake into a touchdown. All of a sudden, the Ducks had a 19-point lead late in the third quarter. Even with its reputation as a second-half team, Florida State never had to overcome a deficit that large with so little time left on the clock.

On its ensuing drive, Winston fumbled trying to make a play on fourth down, scrambling in the pocket before running backward and falling, the ball coming out of his hand. Quarterback and coach had an animated discussion on the sideline that Fisher explained away, saying Winston always gets animated.

There was reason to after that particular play. Oregon turned that mistake into a touchdown.

So the third quarter ended in this way: Four Florida State turnovers, and Oregon outscoring the Seminoles 27-7, running roughshod over a defense that forgot how to tackle and looked as if it wanted to scream, "No mas!"

“When turnovers come, they change momentum,” Fisher said. "Once it got up to 45, we really started pressing and didn't let the ball stay in our hands."

Especially for a player like Cook, so spectacular for large stretches of the game. He showed his dazzling burst and ability to truck through defenders on one play after another, averaging more than 7 yards per carry in the first half.

With Oregon blanketing top pass catchers Rashad Greene and Nick O'Leary, the Seminoles turned to Cook for a little help. But his two fumbles ended up being disastrous. Simply put, there was no way Florida State could win with five turnovers and nothing from Greene and O'Leary. Then there is this: The Seminoles tied a school record for points allowed.

“It got away from us. It started with me,” Cook said. “I made some mistakes and I put our defense in a bad situation. Those are mistakes I can’t make. I can’t blame it on anything but myself. It’s on me. I made the mistakes.”

He was not the only one. In attempting to explain the defeat, Winston pointed squarely at all the collective mistakes.

“If everybody in this room just want to be real with themselves, this game could have went either way,” Winston said. “We just turned the ball over a lot. We beat ourselves.”

Winston participated in the postgame handshake, but many of his teammates started edging toward the locker room before the clock hit zero. Fisher said he was unaware of what happened, but it was not a good look for the Seminoles, who appeared ungracious in defeat.

The postgame locker room was quiet. Karlos Williams exited with red eyes and politely declined to answer questions. Greene, so clutch for so long, had six catches for 59 yards -- a non-factor even with top Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu out with a knee injury. O’Leary, who tweaked his hamstring during pregame warmups, had one catch for 4 yards.

They were left to explain what seemed inexplicable -- the undefeated Seminoles playing their worst game with the most on the line.

“Everybody is upset,” O’Leary said. “It’s my last game and a lot of us are seniors. It’s not a good way to go out.”
Presenting 10 reasons why Florida State will beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual:

1. Jameis Winston: His interceptions are up and his touchdowns are down. But is there any other quarterback you want leading your team with two minutes left in a tight game? Absolutely not. Winston has come through for the Seminoles when they needed him most, putting his mistakes behind him to lead five second-half comebacks this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information data, Winston has an 88.1 total QBR when trailing in the second half, fourth-best in the nation. Oh, and he’s 26-0 as a starter.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsJameis Winston has been as clutch as it gets for Florida State, especially in the fourth quarter.
2. The second half: As noted above, there is not a better team in the country at making second-half adjustments. Florida State has outscored Power 5 opponents by 8.6 points per game in the second half, second-best among Power 5 teams behind TCU, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. A big reason why are the defensive improvements. In their past eight games, the FSU defense has given up fewer yards in the second half seven times. Opponents have scored 125 total points in the second half. Compare that to Oregon, which has given up 151 second-half points.

3. The defense is healthy: This is probably the healthiest Florida State has been since the start of the season, and it could not come at a better time. Defensive tackles Eddie Goldman and Nile Lawrence-Stample are ready to go, and so is linebacker Terrance Smith, who missed the ACC championship game with a knee injury. Florida State has struggled at times on defense, and injuries have not helped matters. Having these three back is huge.

4. Dalvin Cook: The freshman has emerged in the second half of the season, setting a school freshman record for rushing yards with 905. He is tough to contain and bring down. Eleven of his carries have gone for 20 or more yards. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Cook is averaging 8.8 yards per rush outside the tackles, second-best among Power 5 running backs behind Melvin Gordon (minimum 50 carries). He will be a load for the Oregon defense to stop.

5. No Ifo: Losing All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a huge blow for the Ducks, who are expected to start redshirt freshman Chris Seisay in his place. Winston said earlier this week it hardly matters who is lined up at corner, but there is no doubt Florida State will test Seisay early and often. The Seminoles have matchup advantages with dependable veteran Rashad Greene, speedy Travis Rudolph, and tight end Nick O'Leary to boot.

6. Florida State secondary: Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost had high praise for defensive back Jalen Ramsey, who has emerged in the second half of the season as a dependable leader in the secondary. Ramsey has 11 pass breakups and 9.5 tackles for loss and is joined by lockdown cornerback P.J. Williams, the BCS national championship MVP a year ago. Florida State has 53 pass break-ups this season. Oregon has great athletes at receiver; Florida State has the athletes to keep up.

7. More physical: Oregon takes exception to the finesse label, so here is the perfect opportunity to prove everybody wrong and absolutely own the line of scrimmage against the bigger Seminoles. Florida State owns a size advantage on the offensive line -- the five starters average 323 pounds -- and has been much better with Cameron Erving under center. Can a patchwork offensive line dominate All-ACC performers Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards Jr.? Florida State has the edge in both matchups.

8. Roberto Automatic-o: Not only does Florida State have the clutch Winston, it also has the clutch Roberto Aguayo, who has missed only three field goal attempts in his career. Aguayo is 8-for-8 on field goal attempts from 44 yards or longer and has never missed an attempt from 50 yards or longer. He is as close to automatic as you will find, and that is a huge advantage for any team playing for a championship.

9. Red zone dominance: Florida State has been extremely productive in the red zone, converting 92.6 percent of its opportunities into points to rank No. 5 in the nation. Against Power 5 opponents, Florida State has converted 38 of its 42 red-zone chances. Twenty-one of those scores have been rushes. Here is the advantage: Oregon ranks No. 74 in the nation in red-zone defense and allows 4.1 yards per carry.

10. The 29-game winning streak: Florida State just doesn’t lose. Simple as that.
videoSo much for Oregon, injury riddled much of the year, getting healthy for its Rose Bowl matchup with Florida State in the College Football Playoff. So much for the A-list matchup between Ducks All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who injured his knee Tuesday, and Seminoles receiver Rashad Greene.

So much for the Ducks hitting their earnest preparation for, potentially, the program's first college football national title with positive momentum.

Oregon doesn't talk about injuries, but we do and this is a bad one. Oregon, when it does at least acknowledge that a key player might be hurt, reverts to the mantra, "Next man in," and that will be the case here. But the Ducks next man in at cornerback won't be anyone close to Ekpre-Olomu, a consensus All-American. While Oregon will don all-green uniforms for the Rose Bowl, the guy who steps in for Ekpre-Olomu might as well show up in highlighter yellow -- an actual Ducks uniform option! -- based on how the Seminoles and quarterback Jameis Winston are going to view him.

[+] EnlargeOregon defense
Scott Olmos/USA TODAY SportsOregon star cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu suffered a severe knee injury during the Ducks' practice Tuesday and will miss the rest of the season.
It's likely senior Dior Mathis will get the call. The fifth-year senior has seen a lot of action but he has been unable to break into the starting lineup. Or the Ducks could go with promising youngster Chris Seisay, a redshirt freshman who was listed behind Ekpre-Olomu on the depth chart in advance of the Pac-12 championship game. At 6-foot-1, Seisay, who started against Wyoming in place of Troy Hill, brings better size to field than the 5-foot-9 Mathis -- or the 5-10 Ekpre-Olomu for that matter -- but it's not encouraging when the laudatory remark next to his name on the depth chart is "has tackles in five straight games."

Ekpre-Olomu, a senior who has been a starter since midway through his freshman year, has 63 tackles and nine passes defended, including two interceptions, this season. While he's been notably beaten a few times, there were whispers that he was playing through some bumps and bruises that were slowing him down. He was one of many Ducks who were expected to greatly benefit from nearly a month off.

Suddenly losing a star like Ekpre-Olomu is about more than a starting lineup, though. It also takes an emotional toll on a team, both during preparation as well as the game. The Ducks secondary loses its best player -- a potential first-round NFL draft pick -- and a veteran leader, a guy everyone counted on. Think Mathis or Seisay will have some butterflies when they see Greene, who caught 93 passes for 1,306 yards this season, coming his way? Think Oregon's safeties will be asked to play differently than they have all season with Ifo in street clothes?

The Ducks secondary will be less talented and less confident without Ekpre-Olomu.

Injuries? Oregon's had a few. It lost offensive tackle Tyler Johnston, a 26-game starter, and No. 1 receiver Bralon Addison before the season began. It saw emerging tight end Pharaoh Brown go down on Nov. 8 against Utah. It's been without All-Pac-12 center Hroniss Grasu for three games. It's seen several other key players miss games, including offensive tackle Jake Fisher, running back Thomas Tyner and defensive end Arik Armstead.

Yet the general feeling was the Ducks had survived. And, in fact, thrived, scrapping their way to the No. 2 seed in the CFP. By scrapping we mean winning their last eight games by an average of 26 points since suffering their lone loss to Arizona.

That, in itself, will be something the Oregon locker room will look at and point to as it gets ready for FSU. This is an elite program, one that can overcome adversity, even an injury to perhaps the team's second-best player behind a certain guy who plays behind center.

But there is no changing the fact that Oregon is worse without Ekpre-Olomu, and against a team like FSU, the defending national champions and winners of 29 consecutive games, you don't want to be at anything but your best.
Jared Shanker and Chantel Jennings have spent their fair share of time around Tallahassee, Florida, and Eugene, Oregon, this season covering Florida State and Oregon. Leading up to the No. 2 vs. No. 3 matchup in the Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual, Shanker and Jennings will be analyzing pressing questions facing different matchups within the game. Any suggestions for questions? Tweet @JShankerESPN or @ChantelJennings with your suggestions.

We continue with the matchup between the Florida State offense and Oregon's defense.

1. Can Oregon be the first team to stop freshman running back Dalvin Cook?

[+] EnlargeDalvin Cook
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsFreshman Dalvin Cook rushed for 321 yards in Florida State's last two games.
Shanker: The Ducks’ coaching staff must wish they would have played Cook earlier in the season, when his snaps were being limited. Cook finished the season with 1,084 yards from scrimmage and more than half (592) have come since Nov. 15. The Oregon defense is better than people think, and the Seminoles’ rushing attack has been inconsistent, so it wouldn’t be a shock if the Ducks held Cook in check. To stop Cook, the Ducks cannot miss tackles. The true freshman Cook has a rare ability to make defenders completely whiff.

Jennings: As long as the Oregon defense continues its upward trajectory, then yes. In the Pac-12 championship game, the Ducks held Arizona to 111 rushing yards, more than 75 yards fewer than the Wildcats’ season average at that point. Arizona running back Nick Wilson, who had averaged 6.2 yards per rush coming in to that game, averaged 2 yards per rush against the Ducks. Now, the Oregon run defense hasn’t been stout all season, but it has looked good lately. I think Don Pellum is going to be able to keep the Ducks going strong there.

2. Can Oregon's pass rush expose the Florida State offensive line?

Jennings: This will be another interesting matchup because both Oregon’s pass rush and Florida State’s O-line have been spotty at times this season. However, in the last four games of the season, the Ducks held opposing quarterbacks to an average adjusted QBR of 34.9 and held quarterbacks to just a 35.3 percent completion rate on third-down passing attempts. Though the Ducks have only sacked opposing quarterbacks on 6.1 percent of passing plays (No. 61 nationally), they have allowed just 5.5 yards per pass attempt (17th nationally).

Shanker: The Seminoles’ offensive line was exposed often through the early portion of the season, but the unit jelled late in the season with the insertion of freshman Roderick Johnson at left tackle. Four of the five starters have posted season-high grades along the offensive line since Johnson took over for Cam Erving, who was moved to center. In August and September, the unit ranked 95th in sacks per game; in November it ranked 16th. However, Oregon could make Jameis Winston uncomfortable by coming off the edges. As good as Johnson has been, he is still a true freshman, and right tackle Bobby Hart has struggled at times. A couple of exotic blitzes off the edge could confuse the FSU offensive line and leave Winston vulnerable.

3. How will Jameis Winston fare if the Ducks take away wide receiver Rashad Greene?

Shanker: It’s no secret Winston has an affinity for throwing the ball to Greene, one of the country’s best receivers. It’s also no secret the rest of the young group of receivers has been largely inconsistent. The Ducks might let Ifo Ekpre-Olomu cover Greene one-on-one, which puts pressure on Jesus Wilson and Travis Rudolph. While both have played well at points, they’ve also disappeared at times. At times, opponents have been able to effectively take away tight end and Mackey Award winner Nick O’Leary, who was held without a catch in two games this season. What shouldn’t be forgotten is teams have tried to take away Greene all season and the senior still finished seventh nationally in yards and eighth in receptions.

Jennings: One of the areas in which the Oregon defense has been the most inconsistent is in giving up big plays, specifically big pass plays. Oregon has given up 56 plays of 20 or more yards, and 40 of those were pass plays. Chances are with how good the chemistry is between Winston and Greene, they’ll be able to pull of one or two big plays, but the Seminoles will need to make sure they cash in on those. During the past month the Ducks have improved greatly there as well, only giving up nine pass plays of 20 or more yards.'s All-ACC team

December, 12, 2014
Presenting the 2014 All-ACC team:


WR Rashad Greene, Florida State: Whenever FSU was in trouble, Greene was there to save the day. He made big catch after big catch, took big hit after big hit, and ended the season with 93 catches for 1,306 yards, helping him break both FSU's records for receptions and receiving yards.

WR DeVante Parker, Louisville: The senior caught 35 passes for 735 yards and five touchdowns, the latter two numbers among the top 10 in the ACC. Oh, did we mention he missed the first seven games?

TE Clive Walford, Miami: Was there a more complete tight end in the country? The numbers say there might not be: 44 catches (third nationally), 676 yards (third), 7 TDs (third nationally). Walford did this all with a true freshman QB, too.

OT Cameron Erving, Florida State: Erving repeated as the ACC's blocking trophy winner, moving from left tackle to center in Game No. 10 this season and staying there, further showing his value to a unit that had dealt with interior injuries but came on strong late to help running back Dalvin Cook bloom into one of the country's finest freshmen.

OT T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh: Clemmings ought to get at least a piece of James Conner's player of the year trophy. The converted defensive end was among the nation's most improved players, starting every game for the second season in a row while using his athleticism to ace a position switch he had resisted earlier in his career.

C Andy Gallik, Boston College: BC lost a Heisman finalist at running back and actually improved its rushing totals this season. A dual-threat QB explains part of that, but so, too, does a powerful offensive line, led by Gallik in the middle, who helped pave the way for the league's No. 2 rushing attack.

OG Shaquille Mason, Georgia Tech: The only ACC team that rushed for more than BC? The only one that kept its QB unscathed more than Duke? The Yellow Jackets are the answer to both, with Mason captaining an oft-overlooked unit that was absolutely integral to the program's resurgence this season while running its famed triple-option attack.

OG Laken Tomlinson, Duke: The future pro turned in his best season yet, helping a Blue Devils offensive line that anchored a balanced offensive attack and kept QB Anthony Boone upright all season long, as Duke surrendered just 13 sacks, tied for 11th-best nationally.

QB Jameis Winston, Florida State: The reigning Heisman winner was not as sharp as last season, but he once again put up big numbers (3,559 yards, 24 TDs) while leading FSU to another perfect mark. Winston is 26-0 for his career as a starter. You simply cannot beat that.

RB James Conner, Pitt: The ACC player of the year rewrote the Pitt record books -- no easy feat for a place that boasts names like Tony Dorsett, Curtis Martin and LeSean McCoy. Conner rushed for 1,675 yards and 24 TDs, responding to each defense's best shot game after game.

RB Duke Johnson, Miami: Like Conner, Johnson set himself above his peers at a program that has produced plenty of great running backs. Coming off an injury-shortened 2013 season, the junior ran for 1,520 yards and 13 TDs, becoming Miami's all-time leading rusher and its career leader in all-purpose yards.


DE Vic Beasley, Clemson: The ACC's defensive player of the year has seen his decision to return for his senior season pay off, as Beasley led the ACC in sacks (11) and tackles for loss (18.5) while making Clemson's defense the top-ranked unit nationally.

DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State: Who can forget Goldman forcing a Clemson fumble late to keep FSU's perfect season alive? The junior was in the right place at the right time often, a versatile threat who moved back inside this season after playing end. He dominated the line of scrimmage, and one just needs to look at how FSU fared without Goldman -- giving up 331 rushing yards to Georgia Tech as he went down early -- to see his value.

DT Grady Jarrett, Clemson: Ends might get all the stats and glory, but Jarrett's impact on offenses might have been as big as Beasley's, as he helped form arguably the top defensive line in the country. Jarrett had 6.5 TFLs and 11 QB hurries, freeing up those around him and making running the ball next to impossible down the stretch for opponents.

LB David Helton, Duke: The senior led the ACC in tackles (125) and ranked 11th nationally. Helton helped Duke overcome the preseason loss of linebacker Kelby Brown and led a unit that continued its ascension under coordinator Jim Knowles, finishing fifth in the ACC in scoring average (20.6 ppg), and 20th nationally.

LB Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville: A step-up in competition for Mauldin and the Cardinals meant even better results, as the hybrid notched a career-best 45 tackles and led the team in tackles for loss (13), while notching 6.5 sacks. Louisville's defense was one of the most surprising units in the country this season in its first year under coordinator Todd Grantham, ranking No. 6 nationally.

LB Stephone Anthony, Clemson: The leading tackler (73) on the nation's top defense, Anthony impacted games in a number of ways for the Tigers, making 9.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage while forcing two fumbles and picking off one pass.

LB Denzel Perryman, Miami: The senior led the Hurricanes in virtually ever major category: Tackles (102), TFLs (8.5) and forced fumbles (3) among them. He validated his decision to return after last season, recording yet another 100-tackle season and making his case as perhaps the top linebacker in the ACC.

S Gerod Holliman, Louisville: Fourteen interceptions. Fourteen! What more needs to be said? Holliman broke the ACC record and tied the NCAA mark. He had four multi-pick games, including a three-pick performance at BC. And he did this all after transitioning from corner to safety under Grantham's tutelage.

S Jalen Ramsey, Florida State: The sophomore made big play after big play, giving FSU's D an edge at the star position. He clinched the Miami game with a late pick and had two on the season to go with two forced fumbles, 11 break-ups, 13 passes defended and 9.5 TFLs. He blocked a kick, too.

CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech: The last in line of the storied Fuller family to come through Blacksburg, the sophomore showed plenty of the same NFL promise that has guided his older brothers. One of only a handful of Hokies to start every game, Fuller finished second in the ACC in passes defended (15), recorded 4.5 TFLs and recovered one fumble.

CB Garry Peters, Clemson: As overlooked as one can be on a defense loaded with stars, Peters quietly executed his job to a T, picking off one pass, breaking up 11 and defending 12. He forced a fumble and managed eight TFLs as well on a pass defense that ranked No. 3 nationally.

Special teams

K Roberto Aguayo, Florida State: Just another year at the office for Aguayo: 25-of-27 on field-goal attempts, perfect on extra points and a number of crucial kicks, which wasn't always required last year when he first stepped into the national spotlight. Aguayo is a whopping 46-of-49 for his career on field-goal attempts.

P Will Monday, Duke: Monday averaged 43.4 yards per punt, with 12 of his boots going for 50 or more yards. Eight of his punts were touchbacks, 19 were fair caught and 17 were inside the 20-yard line.

KR DeVon Edwards, Duke: Edwards averaged 25.4 yards per kick return, including a 99-yard touchdown in a high-scoring affair at Pitt, which the Blue Devils ended up winning in OT.

AP Tyler Boyd, Pitt: Boyd was a jack-of-all trades for Pitt, catching 69 passes for 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also the ACC's top punt returner, averaging 10.8 yards per return, which ranked 15th nationally.
After the hearing and talk of distractions and the altered practice schedule and the 17 interceptions, Jameis Winston looked like a Heisman Trophy winner again Saturday.

If Winston’s first season was a march toward the inevitable, this year has been anything but that. Winston has teetered on the brink, as much celebrity as quarterback, navigating a high-wire act with much of the nation rooting for a fall, only to come to this: His best performance of the season in the game that assured his team would get its shot at a second straight national title.

"He’s elite, he’s special, he’s different than anybody I’ve ever been around," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said after Winston threw for 309 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Seminoles past Georgia Tech 37-35 on Saturday. "When he has a job to do and people counting on him, that's what a man does. And when you know the truth and you know the facts, you can put your head on the pillow at night and go to sleep."

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsJameis Winston can silence his critics by leading Florida State to another national championship.
There are still so many questions surrounding Winston, not the least of which is the outcome of the high profile code of conduct hearing that took place on Florida State’s campus last week, a hearing that could ultimately end the quarterback’s career at the university but, more likely, will simply move the trial of Jameis Winston back to the court of public opinion.

But if Winston is still Florida State’s quarterback for the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 -- and Fisher has made it clear he fully believes that will be the case -- Florida State should be optimistic. Against Florida two weeks ago, cracks finally appeared evident in that suit of armor Winston has worn for more than a year. Against Georgia Tech on Saturday, he was back to being an immovable force on the field.

"He’s tremendous, man, just to be able to move on from play to play," receiver Rashad Greene said. "A lot of people don’t realize it, but he’s a special guy, and his ability mentally is tremendous -- to be able to focus on the things he needs to focus on with all this adversity coming around us."

Winston’s dynamic performance in the ACC Championship Game also sets up a rare matchup in the Rose Bowl: The reigning Heisman winner vs. the soon-to-be-crowned Heisman winner.

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota capped a brilliant season in the Pac-12 title game, throwing for 313 yards and accounting for five touchdowns while avenging his lone loss of the season. He appears to be the runaway favorite for this season’s Heisman, meaning that for just the fourth time in history, two players with a Heisman in their trophy cases will go head to head in a bowl game.

In 1949, Notre Dame’s Leon Hart topped SMU’s Doak Walker to win the national championship.

In 2004, Jason White fell to Matt Leinart as USC took home the BCS title.

In 2008, Tim Tebow bested Sam Bradford to win a national title for Florida.

And now Winston and Mariota will add to the list, two soon-to-be Heisman winners that took distinctly different paths to the same field.

Mariota’s Heisman campaign hardly needs the tough sell this season. The Oregon quarterback has been exceptional, leading the nation in yards-per-attempt (10.1), passer rating (186.1), TD-to-INT ratio (38-to-2), Adjusted QBR (91.9) and total touchdowns (53), and he’s done it all while being routinely praised as one of college football’s nice guys.

"He's a tremendous football player, and he can affect you in so many ways," Fisher said of the Oregon quarterback. "Not with just the arm and the feet, but with his mind and his intangibles."

Winston’s season has been a roller-coaster. He was suspended for the Clemson game after a shouting a vulgar phrase on campus. His first-half struggles have forced FSU to climb out of an early deficit in eight of his 12 games this season. His second-half heroics have helped the Seminoles win each of them. His four INTs against Florida two weeks ago underscored what was, statistically, the worst performance of his career. His three-TD dismantling of Georgia Tech’s defense on Saturday was among his best.

And, of course, Winston has hardly played the role of the nice guy this season.

But after Saturday’s game, so much of that feels like prologue. The criticism will still come, but the hearing is behind him. The result of the hearing is out of his hands, but Winston has always been OK with that.

"Me knowing that I did nothing wrong ... knowing that you've got a family, you've got the truth, and you've got what you love to do," Winston said after Saturday’s win. "When I can just go out there and put all that stuff behind me and just lock in and focus on 'I've got to do this for the team and not myself,' we go out there and have a great game."

The struggles on the field feel like a distant memory, too. Winston said the performance against Florida might have been necessary, a little extra adversity to galvanize the team’s focus -- even if adversity has been the one thing Winston never seems to lack. The Winston on display Saturday was vintage, a convergence of 2013’s nearly flawless execution with 2014’s unwavering resilience in a game that felt so much bigger than either of Florida State’s past two ACC championships.

Last weekend, the six playoff contenders all won. Five did it in dominant fashion, and Florida State once again survived.

Still, survival looked different against Georgia Tech, from Dalvin Cook’s relentless running to the defense’s midgame adjustments -- but mostly in how Winston once again looked like the force of nature that overwhelmed all adversaries a year ago.

That Jameis Winston is still the nation’s best quarterback, and if he can play that well again on Jan. 1, the battle between Heisman winners could be one for the ages.

"You have two of the greatest college football players right now," Fisher said. "It makes for great TV and great competition."
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Florida State band played the 1970s classic “Still the One” while players celebrated and a posse of photographers trailed behind Jameis Winston, documenting his every turn.

Winston jogged around giddily but with a glint in his eye on Saturday night while hugging teammates and screaming, “We can’t help that we them boys!”

You think Winston and his teammates have ignored what has happened over the past week? That defiant statement said everything the Seminoles believe but would never say behind a podium. The outside world wants them to lose? Florida State shrugs its shoulders and laughs its way to another win.

As herky-jerky as the Seminoles have looked at times, they unequivocally deserve a spot in the College Football Playoff after beating No. 11 Georgia Tech 37-35 for their third straight ACC championship.

Florida State has won 29 straight and is the only 13-0 team from a Power 5 conference. It would be neglectful of its responsibilities if the selection committee decides to leave the defending national champions out because they did not throttle their opponents enough.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsJameis Winston proved clutch on Saturday night, throwing for 309 yards and three touchdowns.
The seeding might end up being semantic when released later Sunday, even though it feels like blatant disrespect. Florida State wants in; currently ranked fourth, Florida State will most likely be in; and then, well, its critics will find out whether the Seminoles deserve that spot.

“I’m not worried about being No. 1,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We’ll be in the playoff. That’s what matters. That’s an opinion. Ours are facts.”

No matter how much people spout facts about Florida State, the overriding feel from those outside Florida State and the ACC is that the Seminoles have skated by on pure luck. Injuries Ohio State and Oregon have had to overcome are endlessly discussed and praised.

Yet nobody has even discussed how remarkable it is that this winning streak remains intact, given the hurdles this team has overcome. The Seminoles are facing every team’s best effort and new wrinkles, too, which force halftime adjustments that have been key to several comeback wins. Fisher has grown the most in this aspect as a head coach; had he not, Florida State would have lost at least once this season.

The Seminoles have been hit with key injuries, too, which mostly decimated their defensive front.

It happened again Saturday night, when starting tackle Eddie Goldman was hurt in the first quarter and missed the rest of the game.

If there was one defensive player Florida State could not afford to lose while facing the triple-option, it was Goldman. Florida State struggled without him initially, as Georgia Tech marched up and down the field with ease and scored touchdowns on its first three possessions.

But the difference in this game was the offense stayed out of its own way for the first time in quite some time. Freshman Dalvin Cook was game MVP after rushing for 177 yards and a score. He started because Karlos Williams was out with a concussion.

Equally important was having a mistake-free Winston behind center. He played perhaps his best game of the season and went 21-of-30 for 309 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was a crucial performance after his miserable four-interception game a week ago against Florida.

Florida State was able to match Georgia Tech score for score until its defense made enough adjustments with Goldman out to contain the powerful Jackets’ rush offense.

“I just felt I probably needed that [against Florida] because there’s always adversity that you’ve got to face,” Winston said. “Florida was a great team, as well as Georgia Tech, but sometimes you’ve just got to calm down, get back in the rhythm of things and get the ball to a guy like Dalvin Cook a couple more times and let him do his thing.”

Then there is the mounting pressure Florida State has faced with every win, along with the mounting scrutiny. Fisher said this was the first game in which he really saw his team take a step back and relax.

“After we won last week," he said, "I felt like a burden came off this team. Because I saw them loosen up. … You can see the finish line.”

Florida State is not going to magically change. It plays close games; it wins close games. It has victories over three top 25 opponents and nine bowl-eligible teams. That might not be good enough to be No. 1 in the CFP committee’s eyes, but it should be good enough to get into the playoff.

“We smelled the roses,” receiver Rashad Greene said of winning another ACC title. “Now we’re back smelling the dirt. So it’s time to grind.”

Now that the postseason is upon it, Florida State plans to prove it is, indeed, still the one.
Florida State’s 29-game winning streak began with a win over Georgia Tech in the 2012 ACC Championship Game, and Jameis Winston ensured it would continue as the Seminoles outlasted the Yellow Jackets 37-35 to wrap up a 13-0 season and, perhaps, punch their ticket to the first College Football Playoff.

How the game was won: One week after perhaps the worst game of his career, Winston played one of his best. Winston, who spent two days this week in Code of Conduct hearings on campus related to a sexual assault allegation from 2012, looked like a completely different QB from the one who tossed a career-high four interceptions last week against Florida. Winston was 21-of-30 passing for 309 yards and three touchdowns, looking flawless in the first half as the two offenses traded blows. Justin Thomas and the Yellow Jackets dominated the clock and scored TDs on four of their first six drives, including a dominant 14-play, seven-minute march to open the third quarter, but FSU got stops on the next three drives to build a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

Game ball goes to: Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. It was no secret Georgia Tech planned to run the ball early and often, but it turned out to be Florida State’s ground game that was the difference. Cook was a star for the Seminoles, handling all but one carry with senior Karlos Williams out with a concussion. Cook carried 31 times for 177 yards and a TD and caught five passes for 43 yards to boot. The true freshman, who didn’t emerge as FSU’s top runner until midseason, set the Florida State freshman record for rushing in a season during the game. Add that production to Winston’s heroics, and FSU’s offense proved impossible to stop.

What it means: Florida State remains undefeated, winners of 29 straight games and certainly should expect an invite to the first College Football Playoff. Of course, the Seminoles were already teetering on the edge at No. 4 in the latest poll, and they also played the day’s closest game among the playoff contenders. But while the score was tight, FSU certainly helped ease some of the doubts about its performance as Winston played his best game of the season, Rashad Greene was exceptional once again, and Cook continued his rise to stardom. For Georgia Tech, the outcome was a disappointment, but the Yellow Jackets proved they belonged and will still likely head to a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Playoff implication: For Florida State, there might still be a little Sunday drama after slipping to No. 4 in last week’s poll, but it’s hard to imagine a 13-0 defending national champion would be left out.

Best play: Greene runs wide open after a Georgia Tech defender slips, and Winston hits him for a 44-yard score to tie the game at 21. Greene finished with seven catches for 123 yards and two scores.

video What's next: Waiting on the committee. Georgia Tech seems a lock for the Orange Bowl, but FSU’s next game is a mystery that won’t be answered until the committee releases its final rankings Sunday. Assuming FSU cracks the top four, there could be any number of intriguing matchups, including Fisher going up against his former mentor Nick Saban at Alabama or a former rival in Urban Meyer.

Conner, Beasley win ACC POY honors

December, 3, 2014
Pitt running back James Conner was honored as ACC Player of the Year on Wednesday, while Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley won Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Conner, also awarded ACC Offensive Player of the Year, edged Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston for overall honors in a vote among 55 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. The sophomore back ranks No. 4 in the nation with 1,675 yards rushing. His 24 rushing touchdowns set an ACC single-season record and a Pitt school record, breaking the old mark of 22 set by Tony Dorsett in 1976.

"We are tremendously proud of James and all that he achieved this season," Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said in a statement. "In addition to his production on the field, James has been an excellent teammate and leader. I know our entire program takes pride in James receiving this prestigious honor.”

Beasley edged Louisville safety Gerod Holliman for defensive honors. The senior end leads the ACC in sacks (11) and tackles for loss (18.5), remaining a dominating force despite facing double- and triple-teams this season. He holds the Clemson school record and leads all active FBS players with 32 career sacks, and is a finalist for the Bednarik Award and Lombardi Trophy.

“He came back for his senior year to graduate, and to have a great season and improve as an all-around player,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement. "He has done that -- he is a complete player. He is a big reason we currently rank No. 1 in the nation in total defense and many other areas. He is the best defensive player in the ACC, and I really feel he is the best defensive player in the nation."

ACC Player of the Year (votes in parentheses)
1. James Conner, RB, Pitt (16)
2. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (13)
3. Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson (8)
4. Gerod Holliman, S, Louisville (6)
5. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (5)
t6. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State (2)
t6. Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech (2)
t6. Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina (2)
9. Quayshawn Nealy, LB, Georgia Tech (1)

ACC Offensive Player of the Year
1. Conner (23)
2. Winston (16)
3. Johnson (7)
4. Greene (4)
5. Thomas (3)
6. Williams (2)

ACC Defensive Player of the Year
1. Beasley (24)
2. Holliman (20)
3. Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami (7)
t4. David Helton, LB, Duke (2)
t4. Nealy (2)
The ACC announced its 2014 all-conference selections Monday, with a handful of noteworthy winners and snubs.

Florida State once again led the way with 17 players named, including 10 named first-team All-ACC. Duke had nine players named, Virginia had eight, and Coastal Division champ Georgia Tech had seven.

The most noteworthy first-team selection was FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, who has led the Seminoles to a second straight undefeated season, but also leads the league in interceptions. The battle for the top spot at quarterback was particularly close, with UNC's Marquise Williams (second team), Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas (third team), Miami's Brad Kaaya, Clemson's Deshaun Watson and NC State's Jacoby Brissett all having strong seasons, too.

Here's the first-team All-ACC selections:

QB: Jameis Winston (FSU)
WR: Rashad Greene (FSU)
WR: Jamison Crowder (Duke)
WR: Tyler Boyd (Pitt)
RB: Duke Johnson (Miami)
RB: James Conner (Pitt)
C: Andy Gallik (Boston College)
G: Laken Tomlinson (Duke)
G: Tre Jackson (FSU)
T: T.J. Clemmings (Pitt)
T: Cameron Erving (FSU)

DE: Vic Beasley (Clemson)
DE: Mario Edwards Jr. (FSU)
DT: Eddie Goldman (FSU)
DT: Grady Jarrett (Clemson)
LB: Denzel Perryman (Miami)
LB: David Helton (Duke)
LB: Stephone Anthony (Clemson)
CB: Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech)
CB: P.J. Williams (FSU)
S: Jalen Ramsey (FSU)
S: Gerod Holliman (Louisville)

K: Roberto Aguayo (FSU)
P: Wil Baumann (NC State)
Ret: Jamison Crowder (Duke)

To see the full roster, click here.

Among the biggest snubs in the ACC:

Miami tight end Clive Walford is a Mackey Award finalist and has more yards, touchdowns and first downs and caught a higher percentage of his targets than fellow Mackey Finalist, Nick O'Leary. Still, O'Leary was named to the first team.

Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker was a third-team selection thanks to missing the first seven games of the season, but he ranks seventh in the league in yards in spite of just playing five games.

NC State's Shadrach Thornton is third among running backs in yards (811) but was not named to any of the All-ACC teams.

BC's Josh Keyes has 11 tackles for loss — good for 12th in the conference — but was not one of the 10 linebackers named to All-ACC teams.

Wake Forest's Marquel Lee ranks 10th in the league with 12 TFLs and ninth in tackles with 101 but did not even earn an honorable mention.

Georgia Tech's Shaq Mason has anchored one of the best offensive lines in the country, helping pave the way for the nation's No. 4 rushing offense, but he was not a first-team selection.