Jameis, FSU Turning Season Into Hot Mess
What we do know is this: Jameis Winston not only is famous, he’s heinous. It’s absolutely criminal he can be so poised, charismatic and fun only six games into his college football career, building a montage that is about to explode into talk about Heisman Trophies and national championships. He first lassoed my respect during a preseason media conversation, when he smiled wide after taking in a question about Johnny Manziel’s off-field episodes and incidents.
“If I get the Manziel disease, I want every one of y’all to get your mics and just start (hitting me) on the head,” he said.
Having far exceeded expectations since then, Famous Jameis is nearing Manziel levels as a redshirt freshman quarterback making demonstrable impact, his latest and greatest exhibit coming in a three-touchdown, 444-yard passing show in Florida State’s 51-14 rout of Clemson. But while Winston certainly is mile-a-minute chatty and supremely self-assured, there are no signs he’s about to contract “the Manziel disease,” even with hype percolating nationally and t-shirt sales so brisk — including a Tebow-esque likeness of Winston’s face superimposed over a representation of Jesus Christ — that the school’s compliance department is firing off cease-and-desist orders daily.
Know how cool Famous Jameis is? On the bus ride to the Clemson stadium, where 83,000 fans were waiting in the decibel trap known as Death Valley, he took a nap.
“We don’t play against noise. We’re playing against the Clemson Tigers,” said Winston, relaying what he told his teammates. “It was amazing, when we were out on the field that first snap. It was loud, and we started smiling because we don’t play against noise.”
And after the romp was over, and Winston had positioned himself right behind Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (and far ahead of a two-loss and banged-up Manziel) in the Heisman race, he offered a restrained look at the idea of the Seminoles playing in the final BCS championship game in a place called Pasadena, on the outskirts of Hollywood.
“One game at a time,” said Winston. “We’re not doing the partying or the rah-rah stuff.”
Not that he doesn’t ooze confidence in his team and his receivers, who range from dangerous Rashad Greene (eight catches, 146 yards, a 72-yard dash among his two touchdowns) to 6-3, 248-pound tight end Nick O’Leary (five catches for 161 yards, including a 94-yarder that consumed roughly the same amount of air time as a 40-foot putt by his grandfather, Famous Jack Nicklaus). “We’ve got that swag,” Famous Jameis said. “Florida State is bringing back the swag.”
Oh, and if you thought MC Hammer was long gone, there was Winston to revive him. “Our team is legit. Too legit to quit,” he said.
How do you not love a kid who stands on the field afterward, with a makeshift headband made of athletic tape, and tries to mention every coach and teammate in a 90-second ESPN interview? “My team is so good. I have so much confidence in my guys,” Winston said. “We played a great game. We were not scsred. We came in confident. My offensive line blocked their tails off. My receivers caught everything I threw them. My running backs ran the ball. They all played a great game. You always have confidence when you have a great team.”
And the Heisman talk? “I got to thank my team,” he went on. “If it wasn’t for them, if it wasn’t for coach (Jimbo) Fisher, if it wasn’t for the man upstairs, I wouldn’t be here.”
There would be no post-game shout-outs to Drake, no texts to Floyd Mayweather, no half-naked Champagne parties, no Manziel madness. Certainly, Winston is a major star as Florida State finally elevates toward Bowden-era dominance for the first time under Fisher, with a quick-learning defense a welcome accompaniment. Yet Famous Jameis is hardly the flamboyant second coming of Neon Deion Sanders in Tallahassee. His combination of enthusiasm, confidence and equilibrium would make Bo Jackson proud — Bo being the most famous athlete ever from Bessemer, Ala., also Winston’s hometown.
Here, however, is what we don’t know about Famous Jameis and his third-ranked team: Even if the ‘Noles are the nation’s best team, as linebacker Telvin Smith said late Saturday night, will they even get a chance to prove it if Alabama and Oregon finish out perfect regular seasons? At the moment, the answer is a resounding — and surprising — yes. The season’s BCS standings have Florida State ranked No. 2 behind Alabama, with Oregon third. Though components in both polls (USA Today and Harris) favor Oregon, the computers like the ‘Noles. In fact, the computers like the ‘Noles more than Alabama, ranking them No. 1 and dropping Oregon to fourth behind Alabama and — are you ready? — Missouri.
Celebrating in Tallahassee? Whoa there. The ‘Noles still have to beat MIami in a few weeks, Florida at Florida (assuming the Gators still matter) and either Virginia Tech or Miami a second time in the ACC title game. And to be safe, FSU fans had better root for an Alabama loss. Though observers sick of Nick Saban are devising wishful-thinking scenarios that see FSU leapfrogging the Crimson Tide, the facts are these: As shown by four Saturday upsets — Auburn over Manziel and Texas A&M, Mississippi over LSU, Tennessee over South Carolina and Vanderbilt over injury-depleted Georgia — the SEC will be recognized by the computers and polls as being deeper in quality than ever. You can’t say the SEC is weaker when Missouri, unbeaten and entering top-5 national air, manhandles Florida without its star quarterback. It’s a stronger league, top to bottom, which only will help Alabama’s BCS resume.
Providing, of course, that Saban survives LSU and a rising Auburn team next month — the game is at Auburn, by the way — and handles Missouri in the SEC title game. Why am I having problems getting my periods around that sentence? And, while on the topic, why is Missouri in the SEC East division when Rand McNally suggests otherwise?
Oregon dealt with Mariota’s first two fumbles of an otherwise turnover-free season — and 89 passes and 559 yards by Washington State’s Connor Halliday — in a 62-38 win. The Ducks still have tough games ahead in the Pac-12, including Stanford and UCLA, and may have enough quality wins in an unbeaten season to slide into the second BCS slot. The slimmest of margins — FSU is at .9348, Oregon at .9320 — separate the two, and they could flop-flop easily as soon as this weekend, when Oregon hosts UCLA and FSU hosts North Carolina State.
For now, we’ll sit back and enjoy the teenaged folk hero that is Famous Jameis. Hitting him on the head with a microphone will not be necessary, though sticking that mike in his face is a weekly must.