Schedule favors No. 2 Florida State down stretch

KAREEM COPELAND
Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The road to the College Football Playoffs is open for Florida State after a thrilling victory Saturday night.

The No. 2 Seminoles passed their toughest test by holding on against then-No. 5 Notre Dame with a second-half comeback orchestrated by quarterback Jameis Winston.

The Seminoles (7-0, 4-0 ACC) control their own destiny, and no currently ranked teams remain on the schedule. They are one of only three top-five teams that are still undefeated, and both No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 3 Ole Miss have at least two more games against ranked teams. The Bulldogs and Rebels face each other in the regular-season finale in the Egg Bowl, so one is guaranteed to end the season with a loss.

“You can say whatever you want: This team is dominant,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “This team understands how to win. … This team has tremendous what I call adversity tolerance. It doesn’t flinch. It can deal with anything.”

The Seminoles just aren’t last season’s title team. Instead of setting offensive records, the scoring offense ranks No. 21 in the country. Instead of a defense that set a school record for interceptions, the pass defense is ranked No. 60 and has given up big games to Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson, N.C. State’s Jacoby Brissett, Clemson freshman Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh.

The ‘Noles have three victories by less than a touchdown.

But Florida State finds ways to win and still has the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Winston, who completed 15 of 16 passes during the second-half comeback against the Fighting Irish.

“We don’t have anything to prove to anybody,” Winston said. “We’ve just got to keep playing and hopefully things will go our way. But one thing we are consistently proving is that we are winners.

“And no matter what type of adversity we may face, we are family here at Florida State and we play hard.”

Louisville (6-2) presents the biggest challenge for Florida State with a total defense that ranks No. 1 in the country and a scoring defense ranked No. 4. But its 59th-ranked scoring offense could be a problem in trying to pull off an upset against FSU. A Thursday night game Oct. 30 doesn’t help much considering the Seminoles have an off week to prepare and get healthy.

The rest of the ACC opponents on the FSU schedule — Virginia, Miami and Boston College — are each 4-3. The Seminoles will be heavy favorites in all three.

Rival Florida (3-3) looms in the season finale, but 2014 has been abysmal for the Gators, who have dropped 3 of 4, including a 42-13 home loss to Missouri on Saturday. Coach Will Muschamp may be sitting on the hottest seat in the country.

A loss would put Florida State in a precarious position without anyone left on the schedule to impress the selection committee. The Seminoles won’t have to worry about that if they can keep winning.

“That’s one thing we can do — we can go four quarters,” FSU linebacker Terrance Smith said. “A lot of teams, they fizzle out toward the end, but we know how to fight and play four quarters. Sixty minutes.”

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