FSU 41, Miami 14: Seminoles takeaways & observations

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Time to tear up those preseason Atlantic Coast Conference predictions.

Florida State, picked to finish second in the Atlantic Division, now just needs to win one of its final two ACC games to clinch the division and earn a spot in the conference championship game.

The No. 3 Seminoles (8-0, 6-0 ACC) finish their ACC schedule at Wake Forest on Nov. 9 and then back home against Syracuse on Nov. 16. Florida State holds the tiebreaker over second-place Clemson (8-1, 6-1), so the Seminoles essentially hold a two-game lead over the Tigers.

Florida State was picked to finish second in the Atlantic behind Clemson back at the ACC preseason media days in July.

But now another trip to the ACC championship game looks to be in hand as the Seminoles face Wake (4-5) and Syracuse (4-4). It would be Florida State’s third trip to a championship game in Jimbo Fisher’s four seasons as head coach.

Of course, even with the loss, Miami is 7-1 and 3-1 in the ACC and leading the Coastal Division. So we may see a Florida State-Miami rematch in Charlotte on Dec. 7.

Here are five observations from Saturday’s game:

1. Florida State is clearly on top in the Sunshine State.

Since Fisher took over as Florida State’s coach in 2010, he is 4-0 against Miami and 2-1 against Florida. Add in a 2012 win over South Florida at Tampa. That’s a 7-1 record.

Florida State has cruised to its wins over Miami, too. Three of the four wins have now been by double figures. And Fisher’s offense is averaging 35.5 points in those games.

2. The Seminoles won the game with their success on third down.

Florida State has been very good on third down this season, converting 52 percent of the time going into the Miami game.

But the Seminoles were even better on Saturday. They converted on 11 of 15 opportunities against the Hurricanes. Florida State also converted 8 of 12 chances in the rout of Clemson.

3. Florida State is back in the turnover business.

The Seminoles struggled a year ago, grabbing just 11 interceptions in 14 games. It was a remarkably low number for a talented group of defensive backs.

Florida State intercepted Stephen Morris twice in the second half on Saturday, once by sophomore P.J. Williams and the other by true freshman Nate Andrews. Through eight games in 2013, Florida State has 12 interceptions by seven players.

4. Even when he’s not exceptional, Jameis Winston is more than good enough.

Jameis Winston had a rocky first half, tossing two interceptions. But he also led Florida State on three long, first-half drives that led to touchdowns.

Winston finished with 325 passing yards, his fifth 300-yard passing game of the year. And Winston’s passing total is the most ever in school history by a Florida State quarterback in his first game over Miami (Chris Weinke had 316 in the 1998 game).

5. Florida State’s defense was again up to the challenge.

Duke Johnson ran well, going for 97 yards before leaving the game with a foot injury in the third quarter. But as a team, Miami ran for 83 yards and averaged just 2.9 yards per carry.

And while Stephen Morris had his moments, Florida State came up with the second-half interceptions. And Miami didn’t score in the second half.

That’s two top-10 teams, and just 14 points apiece for Clemson and Miami.