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College Football Thursday: The Return of Florida State
By Matt Horkman

The ACC took center stage last week in a game billed as one of the biggest in the conference’s history. Florida State traveled to Death Valley to take on Clemson. The game was a major disappointment. 

Florida State dominated Clemson. They did so because their stars made big plays. Quarterback Jameis Winston was brilliant, throwing for 444 yards. The freshman redshirt has now elevated himself into Heisman contention along side Oregon quarterbackLaMarcus Joyner Marcus Mariota. The defense also made a difference, though. Cornerback Lamarcus Joyner forced two first-quarter fumbles, allowing Florida State to jump out to 17-0 lead. He also intercepted a pass later in the game.

We live in a week-to-week culture, so it may seem like many are jumping on Florida State’s bandwagon, but the Seminoles have outscored their last two opponents by 100 points. These weren’t pushovers, either. Clemson is a legitimate BCS bowl contender and Maryland’s a win away from being bowl eligible, yet the Seminoles treated them as a varsity squad would their junior varsity counterparts. 

Winning last week, however, didn’t ensure Florida State an appearance in the BCS championship game. It doesn’t even guarantee an ACC title. Last week was more than just about beating Clemson or winning another conference game. It meant a return to national prominence.

Granted, Florida State has lingered among the elite for the last few years. They actually won the ACC championship in ‘12, but the glory days of the Bobby Bowden Era are a distant memory. For much of this decade, they’ve simply been a good program. Good passes for success at most schools, but not at Florida State, which is a program that went to the first three BCS championship games, and won two national titles in the ‘90s. They expect greatness and they’re on the cusp of reaching it.

After years of taking a backseat to SEC and Pac-12 programs, Florida State’s legitimately apart of a debate that consists of Alabama and Oregon, who’ve combined for 109 wins since 2009.

In addition, winning also means Florida State will play archrival Miami (FL) with something on the line for once. Next week, these teams collide in what will likely be a matchup of unbeaten teams. Several of the SEC rivalries and Ohio State versus Michigan has overshadowed the ACC‘s biggest rivalry. 

It’s back, though, in large part because both teams are trending upward. It’s renewing interest in the ACC and taking away the spotlight from the rugged SEC. That’s not to suggest the SEC isn’t the best conference in football. From a top to bottom standpoint, the SEC remains a notch above all conferences, but Florida State and Miami (FL) are the two most prominent schools in the ACC. In the case of the Seminoles, they have the chops to hang with both Alabama and Oregon.

Nobody is debating that, even with many college football fans considering Alabama and Oregon a dream matchup. However, with the exception of fans of the Crimson Tide and Ducks, would anyone be disappointed with Florida State crashing the party and playing one of those schools?

Nobody would.

And that’s because Florida State’s back among the elite.

Draft Watch
Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
Outlook: Montgomery’s a big, fast, and versatile receiver. He displays outstanding run after the catch ability and is especially dangerous in the open field. He can also contribute as a return man. Because of his size (6-2 & 215 pounds) and speed combo, he‘s not your ordinary slot receiver. Most slot receivers are small and quick, but Montgomery’s size makes him a unique prospect. In a sense, he’s a larger version of Green Bay wide receiver Randall Cobb. Based on his ability and production, he’s a candidate to forgo his senior season and enter the 2014 NFL Draft.

Stock: Up

Couch Potato Lineup
Last Week: 1-2
Season Record: 14-7

No. 10 Texas Tech at No. 15 Oklahoma
Time/TV: 3:30 PM EST, FOX
Prediction: Ever since beating Notre Dame on September 28, Oklahoma has gone into a bit of a funk. They narrowly defeated TCU 20-17, badly beaten by Texas 36-20, and beat Kansas 35-15 in a game closer than the final score indicates. They can erase disappointing memories, however, with a strong showing in their next two games. First up is Texas Tech, who’s surprisingly playing consistent on the defensive side of the ball. They’ve allowed just one team (Iowa State) to score over 30 points on them. Still, they’ve benefited from a soft schedule. None of their previous opponents currently ranks in the BCS standings. Oklahoma, meanwhile, has a strong road win over Notre Dame. They’re also desperate to get back on track. I think they will.

Oklahoma 27 Texas Tech 17

No. 21 South Carolina at No. 5 Missouri
Time/TV: 7:00 PM EST, ESPN2
Prediction: Just two weeks ago, I was feeling confident Georgia would win the SEC East. Then they went and lost two games, opening the door for Missouri to control the Eastern Division with a win over South Carolina. Missouri did suffer a setback two weeks ago, when senior quarterback James Franklin sustained a shoulder separation against Georgia. Freshman Maty Mauk stepped in and the offense didn’t miss a beat against a good Florida defense. South Carolina is also having injury trouble at quarterback with Conner Shaw. He’ll likely miss this game, forcing Dylan Thompson to start. Thompson doesn’t have the dual-threat capabilities that Shaw has, but he is an experience junior. In addition, Jadeveon Clowney played very well against Tennessee. He’ll need to play even better against Missouri, if South Carolina‘s able to pull the upset. I’m incline to think he has one big performance left in him before he turns pro, but Missouri’s offensive line is sneaky-good. They’ll make the difference on Saturday night.

Missouri 24 South Carolina 20

No. 12 UCLA at No. 3 Oregon
Time/TV: 7:00 PM EST, ESPN
Prediction: Last week, Brett Hundley wasn’t impressive. He did play spectacular against Nebraska in early September, but the UCLA quarterback brought back memories of former Washington quarterback Jake Locker. Like Locker, he’s all sizzle and not enough steak. Fortunately, for the Bruins, they have some steak to their defense. Anthony Barr is a legit pro prospect and one of the best pass rushers in the country. He has the ability to throw off Oregon’s offense by disrupting quarterback Marcus Mariota. Frankly, if Hundley can get hot, UCLA matches up well enough with Oregon to pull the upset. I don’t trust Hundley on the road, however. Plus, Mariota’s the best quarterback in college football. He gives the Ducks the edge, but they’re on upset alert.

Oregon 37 UCLA 28

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