Winston is 27-0 all-time as a started at Florida State and has played well in the three biggest games of his career so far, including going 20-35 for two touchdowns, including the game winning score to Kelvin Benjamin, in last year’s National Championship game.
The Seminoles will go into the New Year’s Day matchup against the Ducks riding a nation’s best 29-game winning streak, but what might play into FSU’s advantage the most is the fact that the ‘Noles have been there before, defeating Auburn 34-31 in last year’s BCS title game. Florida State won’t be caught up in all the pomp and circumstance that comes in playing in the famed Rose Bowl, while Oregon will be playing in Pasadena for the first time against a team that isn’t UCLA.
“To play in Pasadena, at least it is good you know where you are going to be, the kind of stadium it is and the weather and I think that will be an advantage,” said FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher after practice on Tuesday.
Oregon heads to the Rose Bowl ranked second in the College Football Playoff rankings and are third in the FBS with 46.3 points per game, as well as the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. Mariota led the Ducks offense with 3,783 passing yards and 38 touchdowns through the air, and added another 14 scored on the ground this season.
“They do it extremely well, but no-huddle teams are more similar now, or there are more of those than huddle-up teams. So you see it a bunch now.” said Fisher following practice. “And I thought it was a key last year when we played Auburn.
“I mean, that was the thing that everyone thought we would fade at the end and that’s when we got stronger. I feel very good about where we’re at and our conditioning is going really well.”
But FSU has a Heisman winner of their own in Winston, who always finds a way to win when the game is on the line, as he showed in last year’s National Championship game when he led the game-winning drive in the biggest game of his career.
Florida State showed that they can stop an up-tempo offense when they defeated Georgia Tech and the triple-option in the ACC Championship game two weeks ago, so expect Mario Edwards Jr., Jalen Ramsey and P.J. Williams to be ready for Oregon’s spread offense.
“On the edges, you’re going to have to play well on the edges.” said Fisher of the importance of Edwards Jr. to the defense. “Whether he plays on the edges or moves inside or wherever he goes. And the guys on the perimeter are going to have to do that, tackle well, keep edges on the defense and close the space and tackle in space.”
Another X-factor for the Seminoles will be true freshman running back Dalvin Cook, who has emerged as FSU’s go-to guy in the back field during the last few weeks when Karlos Williams was plagued by injuries. Cook ran for 177 yards and a touchdown against Georgia Tech and has ran for 489 yards in the last four games for the ‘Noles.
Despite being an underdog in Las Vegas, Florida State should be considered the favorite going into the CFB Playoff semifinal on New Year’s Day, as the Seminoles are the only FBS team to finish the regular season undefeated and have the experience of playing in College Football’s biggest game with a quarterback that has led them there before, and as a redshirt freshman.
The Rose Bowl between No. 3 Florida State and No. 2 Oregon is set for 2 p.m. PST from Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day and will decide who goes to the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship in Texas to face the winner of Alabama/Ohio State. The game can be watched on ESPN.
For updates leading up to the Rose Bowl, as well as during Bowl Week be sure to follow The SkyBoat FSU beat writer Danny Morales (@Danny_Morales_) and The SkyBoat (@TheSkyBoat) on Twitter.