Clemson gets latest chance to affect college football title chase

Written By kolimtiga on Sabtu, 20 September 2014 | 12.56

This fishy early season is a "one that got away" story.

The title race might have been jumbled before October had a few teams not frittered away the late summer.

Many of our preseason favorites have been shaken, but not stirred.

Underdog Oklahoma State trailed No. 1 Florida State, 27-24, in the Labor Day opener before the Cowboys were bucked from their saddles.

Clemson had a 21-14 lead on Georgia before, well, you know.

Wisconsin blew every Badger bit of a 24-7 lead on Louisiana State, a perennial icon from the hallowed Southeastern Conference West.

Michigan State owned an 11-point third-quarter lead at Oregon, a team many have picked to win this year's title. Oregon won by 19.

How many chances do you want?

Kansas State, if it had a kicker, could kick itself for not upsetting Auburn on Thursday night.

Bill Snyder's Wildcats outplayed the Tigers on every section of the field except the scoreboard. Three missed field-goal attempts and a huge red-zone turnover cost Kansas State a chance to take down another SEC West power.

Auburn rushed its "hurry up" offense out of Manhattan, Kan., with a six-point win on its way to another possible trip to the national title game.

Snyder accused Auburn of stealing its signals, but what Snyder really needed was for Auburn to steal the goal posts.

Once the SEC gets into league play, it becomes almost impervious to outside attacks. League games become "bloodbaths" and Kentucky gets better by the minute.

Saturday offers another chance to alter the championship construct, but it relies on Clemson coming through in the clutch.

Clemson may be backed by its largest fan base ever when it takes on top-ranked Florida State in Tallahassee.

Clemson can do the world a favor by taking down Florida State.

People fed up by the antics of quarterback Jameis Winston are going to break out the Clemson pompoms.

Winston, the Heisman Trophy winner who led Florida State to last year's national title, was originally benched for the first half after making "offensive and vulgar" comments this week about female anatomy.

Friday night, however, Florida State interim President Garnett S. Stokes and Athletic Director Stan Wilcox increased the suspension to a full game.

The school announced in a statement the decision was "based upon the results of our continuing investigation of Tuesday's incident involving Jameis Winston."

It's the latest in a long line of Winston missteps, yet the first time he will miss football action as a consequence.

Winston originally apologized "to the university, to my coaches and to my teammates" for his latest act of immaturity, but his apologies are becoming bamboo (hollow).

Coach Jimbo Fisher did not attach his name to the news release announcing Winston's suspension but said this week: "You can't make certain statements that are derogatory or inflammatory in any way toward any person, race, gender or any shape or thing."

The media bears some responsibility for enabling Winston.

After his first collegiate start last year, a win over Pittsburgh, Winston told the press he didn't want to become another bad boy like Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

"If I get Manziel disease," Winston said, "I want every one of you to get your mikes and start slapping me on the head."

Winston's suspension gives Clemson a clear advantage over Florida State, but is that enough?

Last year, the third-ranked Tigers had their best team in years and got fifth-ranked Florida State at home. Clemson got wiped off its own field, 51-14.

Tigers Coach Dabo Swinney can use that defeat only to suggest home field is not always an advantage.

"It wasn't a factor last year when they came in here and kicked our butts," he said this week. "It didn't help us."

Florida State now has to rely on Sean Maguire, who has thrown only 26 career passes, to lead the Seminoles in place of Winston.

Clemson's problem is that Florida State has other great players. The Seminoles are loaded on both lines of scrimmage. They have a veteran offensive line and key weapons in tailback Karlos Williams, receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O'Leary.

Reasons Florida State officials may have increased Winston's suspension?

It could have been due to the negative public backlash after the original suspension. Also, a full-game negates the possibility of Winston becoming a hero by rescuing his team from a first-half deficit.

Florida State might even be able to absorb a defeat if the selection committee concludes it occurred because Winston did not play.

Maybe nothing can stop Florida State. Maybe college football's best chance is for Winston to do, or say, something dumb again next week.

Follow Chris Dufresne on Twitter @DufrenseLATimes

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

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