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Tuesday, Sep 23, 2014
Colleges

FSU poised for another title run

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Published:   |   Updated: January 7, 2014 at 11:02 AM

PASADENA, Calif. — The Florida State Seminoles will open next season against Oklahoma State in the Aug. 30 Cowboys Classic at Jerry Jones' opulent AT&T Stadium, which can accommodate 105,000 fans.

It wouldn't be shocking if the Seminoles made a return visit to Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 12, 2015, for the initial College Football Playoff championship game.

FSU rallied to defeat Auburn, 34-31,  in the final BCS Championship Game, ending the 16-year system of computer rankings and polls, essentially designed to match the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in a winner-take-all contest. Monday night was FSU's fourth BCS title game.

Beginning next season, college football will go to a Final Four of sorts with the teams picked by a 13-member selection committee, chaired by Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long.

The committee includes former coaches, former players, current athletic directors, a journalist and Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State.

Next season's playoff semifinals (matching the No. 1 seed vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3) will be held at the Rose and Sugar bowls Jan. 1, 2015, with the winners advancing to Arlington, Texas. The 2017 championship game was awarded to Tampa.

The biggest reason why FSU is a favorite to reach next season's title game?

That's easy.

Quarterback Jameis Winston, the Heisman Trophy winner, will return for his redshirt sophomore season, perhaps his final year at FSU before a likely high selection in the NFL draft. Winston also will attempt to become the second two-time Heisman winner behind Ohio State's Archie Griffin in 1974 and 1975.

The Seminoles will lose senior starters such as cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (Jim Thorpe Award winner), center Bryan Stork (Rimington Award winner), safety Terrence Brooks, linebackers Christian Jones and Telvin Smith and receiver Kenny Shaw.

Other key underclassmen, such as nose guard Timmy Jernigan, receiver Kelvin Benjamin, offensive tackle Cameron Erving, tight end Nick O'Leary and running back James Wilder Jr., could opt for early entry into the NFL draft.

Besides the opener against Oklahoma State, FSU has home games against ACC opponents Boston College, Clemson, Virginia and Wake Forest, plus nonconference foes Notre Dame, Florida and The Citadel. The Seminoles travel to ACC opponents Louisville, Miami, N.C. State and Syracuse.

After several strong classes since Jimbo Fisher took over as head coach in 2010, the Seminoles are assembling another strong group that will contend for the nation's top ranking by the major recruiting services. Last week, Dalvin Cook, considered the nation's second-best running back, flipped from Florida to FSU.

Also, four-star defensive end Lorenzo Featherston of Greensboro, N.C., gave the Seminoles a verbal commitment.

“When you are playing for a championship (it helps recruiting) because guys want to win,'' FSU passing game coordinator Lawrence Dawsey said. “Being where we are right now, we are getting a chance to get quality players. You're not having kids flipping back and forth because we are winning. We are fortunate to be where we're at. Hopefully, we can continue to get better.''

Within a four-year span, Fisher said he wanted the Seminoles established as an annual contender for the national championship. Mission accomplished.

“You want more than a team, you want a program,'' Fisher said. “By our first senior class, I wanted us to be one of those teams that was competing year-in, year-out. Our staff has done a great job of getting players in and developing them. We're very happy with where we're at.''

Especially if next season includes two trips to Arlington.

 

jjohnston@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7353

Twitter: @JJohnstonTBO

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