Schedule favors No. 2 Florida State down stretch

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FSU's Great Escape


By KAREEM COPELAND

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."

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Schedule favors No. 2 Florida State down stretch
FILE - In this Sept. 6, 2014, file photo, Florida State's quarterback, Jameis Winston stands on sideline during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida State officials say Winston will be benched for the first half of Saturday's game against Clemson after making "offensive and vulgar" comments about women and that the quarterback will undergo internal discipline. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File)
Florida State's quarterback, Jameis Winston looks for an open receiver againsy the Citadel defense in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida State won the game 37-12. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (5) throws a pass during warm ups before a NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State, Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Videographer in tow, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (5) searches for teammates to interview during their NCAA college football media day on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (5) poses for a photo during their NCAA college football media day on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
From left, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston asks linebacker Reggie Northrup about his dance moves during their NCAA college football media day on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (5) tries to stay cool waiting for a team photo during their NCAA college football media day on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
FILE - In this July 20, 2014, file photo, Florida State's Jameis Winston answers a question during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football kickoff in Greensboro, N.C. Winston has made lewd comments about women and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher says he is deciding whether to bench the Seminoles' quarterback for his "derogatory" remarks. Several students tweeted Winston stood on campus Tuesday and shouted a lascivious comment that may have derived from an internet meme. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)
Florida State's Jameis Winston answers a question during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football kickoff in Greensboro, N.C., Sunday, July 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Florida State's Jameis Winston answers a question during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football kickoff in Greensboro, N.C., Sunday, July 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Jameis Winston of the Florida State University Seminoles arrives at the ESPY Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Jameis Winston of the Florida State University Seminoles arrives at the ESPY Awards at the Nokia Theatre on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
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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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