Star freshman Winston key part of Seminoles' success in UPS Index, overall
A major reason Florida State sits atop the UPS Performance Index and will play for its first national championship in more than a decade is quarterback Jameis Winston.
During a quiet week on the FBS scene - Navy's 34-7 win over Army on Saturday was the only major college football game action - Winston continued his successful first-year campaign by winning the Heisman Trophy, while also adding another of the sport's most prestigious awards to his collection.
Using an advanced proprietary formula featuring offensive yards per play, defensive yards allowed per play, quality of opponent, various special teams statistics and a microindex of miscues that rewards disciplined teams, UPS has teamed with STATS LLC to normalize those numbers across 125 FBS schools.
From there, overall balance is measured across all of a team's individual units, with the final index weighted toward excellence in those areas as well as overall winning percentage.
Ahead of second-place Alabama by 1.81 points in the Index's overall efficiency ratings, Florida State (13-0) goes into the national title game leading both its offensive and defensive categories. The Seminoles have quietly allowed an FBS-low 10.7 points per contest while often being overshadowed by Winston and an offense that ranks second nationally at 53.0 points per game.
The team totaled 529.4 yards this season while winning by 42.3 points. A 48-34 victory at Boston College on Sept. 21 marked the closest any opponent came to beating it.
Powering that attack is Winston, the multi-talented and self-confident 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman from Alabama. The highly touted prospect made a smashing debut Labor Day night when he went 25 of 27 for 356 yards with four touchdown passes, no interceptions and a rushing score in a 41-13 win at Pittsburgh.
Winston would never let up, setting FBS freshman records with 3,820 passing yards and 38 TDs while often sitting during the fourth quarter with his team well ahead. Boasting a 190.1 passer rating, he has a chance to break Russell Wilson's single-season record of 191.8 set in 2011 at Wisconsin.
Even through the distraction of a recent sexual assault investigation in which he was never charged, Winston continued to shine, becoming the second straight freshman to win the Heisman - two days after being named the Walter Camp player of the year.
"One thing that coach (Jimbo) Fisher has always told me, especially through this process: 'For you to be a man, the kid in you must die,'" said Winston, who, at age 19, is the youngest winner in Heisman history and first Seminole to win the award since Chris Weinke in 2000.
"I believe that kid in me has died. I'm always going to have my personality. I'm always going to have my character. But I have to become a man. ... I really believe that people actually just trusted me. People obviously saw us play. But that comes from my team, too."
With 668 first-place votes and 2,205 points, Winston's margin of victory over Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron was the seventh-largest in Heisman history.
He can now turn his attention to preparing for the Seminoles' matchup with Auburn (12-1) in the final BCS title game on Jan. 6 - the same date as his birthday. Florida State last played for the national championship during the 2000 season, the year after beating Virginia Tech 46-29 for its most recent title.
"I can't allow this stop me from getting better or my team from getting better," Winston told the school's official website. "I look forward to the future and I look forward to playing Auburn."
Averaging 45.3 points during a nine-game winning streak, the Tigers are ranked fourth overall and eighth offensively in the Index, but are just 94th defensively. Auburn yielded 108 points despite beating then-No. 25 Georgia, the previously-top-ranked Crimson Tide and then-No. 5 Missouri over its last three contests.
"The unique thing from my standpoint is this team finds a way to win, and it's really bizarre that how they complement each other - the offense, the defense, special teams," coach Gus Malzahn told the school's official website. "When the pressure's on, our team's at the best, and it's been really something to be a part of."
Auburn running back Tre Mason, who ranks sixth in the FBS with 1,621 rushing yards after running for 304 and four TDs in the 59-42 win over Missouri in the SEC championship game, finished sixth in the Heisman voting.
Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch was third, Boston College running back Andre Williams was fourth and last year's winner, Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M, finished fifth. Winston, Manziel, McCarron, Mason and Lynch all lead teams that rank in the top 10 of the Index's offensive category.
Navy's 12th straight victory over rival Army was the only on-the-field news last weekend. While the top 24 overall spots in the Index remained the same, the Midshipmen rose three places to 45th.
Not only does a school from Florida own the top position in the Index, it also holds the last. Florida International finished 1-11 to rank 125th - 65.88 points behind the Seminoles.