It took a lot to get to this point, but Florida State is headed to the inaugural College Football Playoff.
After an up and down year, the Seminoles have managed to get through the regular season unscathed, with a perfect 13-0 record and an ACC Title in hand. Their reward? A New Year’s Day meeting with Oregon for the chance to advance to the National Championship game.
After weeks of conversation and speculation, the final College Football Playoff ranking came out last Sunday. The teams picked to play in the new playoff were Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State. Alabama will face Ohio State in the night cap game on New Year’s Day after the Ducks and Seminoles’ do battle New Year’s afternoon. These games are the headlines of what is known as the “New Year’s Six,” in which six bowl games will be played on New Year’s Day. Quite the way to bring in 2015.
As one of the four teams picked to play in the first ever College Football Playoff, Florida State will be looking to win its second consecutive championship. Last season, they were largely dominant on their path to the title, as their only real close game came in the BCS National Championship game, when they narrowly defeated Auburn 34-31. This season, FSU hasn’t been nearly as dominant, but the results up to this point have been the same as they were this time last year: undefeated.
Leading the way for FSU for the second year in a row is Jameis Winston. Now Winston hasn’t been the same player statistically this season (2013: 40 touchdowns/10 interceptions, 2014: 24 touchdowns/17 interceptions), but he has continued to lead the team to victories despite some of his struggles. Winston is projected to be a top pick in next year’s NFL Draft if he decides to leave school after this season, so we could be seeing the final game(s) of one of the best quarterbacks in recent college football memory.
Standing in the way of FSU’s bid at a championship repeat is the Oregon Ducks. Over the past decade, the Ducks have had one of the most prolific offenses in all of college football, and that is no different this year. Oregon is led by their Heisman Trophy front runner at quarterback, Marcus Mariota. This season, Mariota has put up some stellar statistics, passing for nearly 4,000 yards and 38 touchdowns with just two interceptions. Mariota has also ran the ball for nearly 700 yards and 14 touchdowns. The junior-year quarterback from Honolulu, Hawaii is headed to New York this Saturday for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Many would be surprised if he didn’t leave the Big Apple without the trophy in hand.
The key to a Florida State victory will obviously be slowing down Mariota and that high powered offense. Oregon is the second ranked offense in the country, and the third highest scoring offense in the country. With such an explosive offense on the other side of the field, it will be imperative for Jameis Winston to limit his turnovers, because Oregon is the type of team that will take advantage of any extra opportunities given to them by mistakes.
The playoff is several weeks away, and each day the anticipation will only grow. College football fans certainly can’t wait for New Year’s Day for this matchup and all the other ones scheduled. It should be a lot of fun to say the least.