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Could FSU ride its momentum to win in Orange Bowl game?

Before you convince yourself how big a favorite sixth-ranked Michigan is over FSU in Friday night’s Orange Bowl, perhaps you should re-consider the last month.

You know, when FSU was 4-0.

You know, when Michigan was 2-2.

Perhaps more things than momentum will matter when the two clash. But FSU has played its best football, especially on defense. Michigan has played well, too, especially in a double-overtime loss to Ohio State, but still, the Wolverines have lost two games in late November.

Still, Michigan ranks as the second-stingiest defense in America, behind Alabama, which is going to make it tough for FSU’s Dalvin Cook and Deondre Francois. FSU has climbed up to a respectable 29th in defense, but tough games against Louisville, USF and Clemson still hold the Seminoles down some.

One of the things that gives hope to FSU is the steady progression of quarterback Francois, only a freshman. He leads the Seminoles’ 24th-ranked offense (Michigan is 46th).

“To be honest with you, when Deondre came in and played, it was just as if he was an experienced quarterback,” FSU wide receiver Travis Rudolph told the Tallahassee Democrat.

“I mean, you guys probably think, ‘Oh, he’s just a redshirt freshman,’ but I feel like he played at the level of a junior or a senior.”

Francois came into the season wanting to earn the respect of his teammates and coaches.

“(I wanted) to become a better player each week,” Francois said.

“Just to grow. On the field and off the field. Basically, to get my teammates to trust me, to become a better leader, and just fight for my team.

FSU’s Jimbo Fisher finds the rewards of staying in Tallahassee

Turns out, not coaching at LSU is fairly lucrative.

Just ask FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, who received a raise and a contract extension by staying home.

FSU extended Fisher Monday, bumping his salary to $5.5 million and an extension through the 2024 football season. Fisher, whose name was mentioned with both LSU and Texas in the last month, will stick with his young talent with the Seminoles.

Total guaranteed compensation over the length of the 8-year contract will reach $44.4 million.

“Coach Fisher has done an outstanding job in leading our football program, and is clearly one of the top coaches in college football,” Stan Wilcox, Florida State University Vice President and Director of Athletics, said.

“”He is committed to maintaining the elite status of FSU football and we are fortunate and proud to secure him for the long term.”

Fisher was ranked fifth nationally among the sport’s highest paid coaches behind Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh ($9.04 million), Alabama’s Nick Saban ($6.9). Ohio State’s Urban Meyer ($6) and Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops ($5.5), according to USA Today’s college coaches’ salaries database.

It also marks the fourth consecutive year FSU has increased Fisher’s compensation.

“I am proud to be the football coach at Florida State University, and I am happy we were able to reach a long-term contract to have our staff in place for a long time,” Fisher said. “We are committed to developing young men in all phases of their lives and we have the administrative staff in place to do this.

“Florida State is a special place and I look forward to continuing to build on our past success into the future.”

Fisher’s team was a young one this season, with freshman quarterback Deondre Francois leading the way. The Seminoles will be one of the ACC favorites this  coming season.

Fisher is 77-17 at FSU. His team faces Michigan in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston settles with woman accuser

Tampa Bay Bucs’ quarterback Jameis Winston can just worry about the playoffs.

If anything else was on Winston’s mind, he put it to rest Thursday when he and accuser Erica Kinsman have reached a settlement in her lawsuit.

John Clune, a lawyer for the woman, Erica Kinsman, on Wednesday night confirmed a report first published by TMZ Sports, saying, “The case has been resolved to the satisfaction of the parties.”

Kinsman, who said she was raped by Winston when the two were at Florida State, reached an undisclosed settlement in her case. Kinsman had been awarded $950,000 in a suit against Florida State regarding the handling of the allegations.

Winston has never been charged criminally in the case. FSU’s code-of-conduct hearing also found no wrongdoing.

State of Florida filled with quality head football coaches

The roster of Tampa Bay college coaches grew again Monday, when ESPN reported that Florida Atlantic University had agreed on a new contract with Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin, who has been the offensive coordinator at the University of Alabama, had been mentioned for several openings before agreeing to join the Owls. Kiffin might have gotten a bigger head coaching job if not for his reputation of jumping one school for another.

Regardless, the roster of coaches in the state schools is impressive.

FSU has Jimbo Fisher, ackowledged to be one of the best in the country. He flirted with LSU in each of the last two off-seasons, but stayed with the Seminoles. Fisher is the only coach in the state who has won a national title. Fisher is 74-17.

Florida has Jim McElwain, who has guided the Gators to the last two SEC title games (but lost). His team’s offense has been slowed by the lack of a true quarterback, however. McElwain is 17-8 at Florida, 39-24 overall.

Miami seems pleased after one season of coach Mark Richt, who led his team to an 8-4 finish this year. He’s 153-55 overall.

USF just hired new coach Charlie Strong, who has led the Louisville and Texas programs. He’s 53-37 overall.

UCF enjoyed its turnaround under Scott Frost from a winless team to a bowl team. His club is 6-6.

FIU earlier announced it would hire Butch Davis, who is 79-43 at Miami and North Carolina.

Now there is Kiffin, who is 35-21 as a head college coach.

Whose the best coach? We’ll see. Few states can match these guys. It ought to be fun.

Michigan looks for another holiday in Florida in Orange Bowl

A year ago, Michigan took out its frustrations on a Florida team in a Florida Bowl.

Might it happen again?

The Wolverines are a touchdown favorite to beat FSU in this season’s Orange Bowl. A year ago, Michigan won an easy game against Florida, 41-7, in the Citrus Bowl.

The game could end up being a game of chase-the-quarterback. FSU leads in the nation in sacks, and Michigan is fourth. If you consider sacks-per-game, Michigan is second.

The Wolverines are second in the nation on defense. Despite a troubling start, FSU has closed to 29th, however.

“We all watch Florida State,” Harbaugh said. “You see what a fine team they always have, and a great atmosphere for football and their fan base. The white pony and the spear. It’s all cool.

“Everything about it I think will be a great matchup. We’ll be excited to practice, get prepared and get ready for a football fight at the Orange Bowl.”

FSU will try to test Michigan with quarterback Deondre Francois and running back Dalvin Cook.

It’s a game that many might have forecast as a playoff game. But FSU lost three games this year, and Michigan lost two.

Harbaugh quarterbacked Michigan to a 20-18 victory over FSU in 1986.

I just remember how great Deion Sanders was. That really stood out in my mind. And Coach (Bobby) Bowden. He was really cool. I remember running and scrambling, once to the left and once to the right toward their bench and ended up running 80 or 90 yards side to side and ended up throwing it out of bounds. He gave me a smile, and a pat on the back and said something (to me).”

Game time is 8 p.m. On Dec. 30.

FSU’s Dalvin Cook not invited to Heisman Trophy presentation

Run as he might, Dalvin Cook could never catch up to the Heisman Trophy

Cook, FSU’s star running back, was not among the five players invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony. Those players included Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and receiver DeDe Westbrook. The latter two, teammates, might come as a surprise.

The Heisman will be awarded Saturday night.

Cook has scored 19 total touchdowns this season, and rushed for 1,620 yards – 71 yards shy of his single-season school record set as a sophomore in 2015.

Cook had a slow start to the season as Jackson and Watson emerged as the top two players in the ACC.

12 of this year’s college Bowl games that are worth watching

Bowls, bowls, everywhere bowls.

There are Taxslayer Bowls and Nova Home Bowls and Motel 6 Bowls. There’s a Potato Bowl and a Poinsettia Bowl and a Popeye’s Bowl. There are Bowls on every day of the week.

But which ones should you watch?

A dozen bowls you shouldn’t miss.

1. National Championship Game, Jan. 9, Tampa, Fla.: Will it be an Alabama-Clemson rematch? Will it be Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer? Can the maligned Washington Huskies sneak through? This is the one with all the hype, the one that relegates the other bowls to supporting actors.

2. National Championship semifinal, Jan. 2, Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Arizona: Most of the noise will follow defending champion Alabama, but the Clemson-Ohio State game is better with quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and J.T. Barrett. Both have had closer games than you might expect, but both have plenty of firepower.

3. National Championship semifinal, Jan. 2, Peach Bowl, Atlanta, Ga.: Is this Saban’s finest team? Certainly, it might be his finest defense. If that defense is sharp, it shouldn’t have a major problem with Washington, which got to the playoffs despite a weak out-of-conference schedule. Alabama has opened as a  14-point favorite.

4. USC vs. Penn State, Rose Bowl, Jan. 2, Pasadena: Penn State remains outraged it wasn’t invited to the playoffs. Against USC, the Lions play another one of the hottest teams in the nation, however. Penn State has won nine straight games and USC has won eight. USC’s Sam Darnold and Penn State’s Trace McSorley combined for 51 touchdown passes.

5. FSU-Michigan, Orange Bowl, Dec. 30, Miami: Start the conversation with Jimbo vs. Jim, two fiery coaches who were both fined for their outbursts this season. Throw in Dalvin Cook and Deondre Francois of FSU and Wilton Speight and Jabrill Peppers of Michigan. Michigan, the No. 5 team in the country, will be favored.

6. LSU vs. Louisville, Citrus Bowl, Dec. 31, Orlando, Fla.: LaMar Jackson has lost some of his early-season momentum, but he still might win the Heisman. LSU’s excellent defense will try to slow him down, and hope Leonard Fournette can break one.

7. Okahoma State vs. Colorado, Alamo Bowl, Dec. 29, San Antonio, Texas: Oklahoma State is ranked 12th, Colorado 10th. That promises an even match-up that should be entertaining to watch. Quarterbacks Mason Rudolph of OSU and Sefo Liufau of Colorado lead their teams.

8. Houston vs. San Diego State, Dec. 17, Las Vegas Bowl, Las Vegas, Nev.: One of the season’s finest early-Bowl games. Houston has Greg Ward Jr. and San Diego State moves behind running back Donnel Pumphrey, who has gotten mention for the Heisman. Don’t care about who wins: Just watch.

9. Stanford vs. North Carolina, Dec. 30, Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas: Yes, both teams could have been better this year. But with North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, there should be enough offense to make fans watch.

10. Iowa vs. Florida, Outback Bowl, Jan. 2, Tampa, Fla.: If you’re interested in offensive fireworks, this isn’t the game for you. But Florida had enough defense to get past LSU this year, and Iowa had enough to get past Michigan. Could the Gators give a freshman quarterback playing time? Maybe.

11. Auburn vs. Oklahoma, Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2, New Orleans, La.: Oklahoma ended the season hot, and if not for an early-season loss to Ohio State (one of their two losses), the team could be in the playoff conversation. Auburn lost momentum late, but remains talented.

12. USF vs. South Carolina, Birmingham Bowl, Dec. 29, Birmingham, Ala.: It will be intriguing to see how the high-scoring Bulls fare against an SEC foe coached by defensive whiz Will Muschamp. USF’s offense ranks No. 5 in the nation in rushing (291.8 yard per game), No. 7 in scoring (43.6 points per game) and No. 10 in total offense (515.1 yards per game).

FSU to play Michigan in Orange Bowl; Florida meets Iowa in Outback

Jimbo Fisher vs. Jim Harbaugh.

As explosive as these two are, a bomb squad may have to officiate this year’s Orange Bowl.

The bowl schedule was announced Sunday afternoon, including a meeting between Harbaugh’s Michigan team against Fisher’s FSU team to be played on Dec. 30. Both Fisher and Harbaugh were fined for criticizing officials this season.

Other bowl games including Florida teams include Florida vs. Iowa in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2, Miami vs. West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl on Dec. 28, USF vs. South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 29 and Central Florida vs. Arkansas State in the Cure Bowl on Dec. 17.

Could the bowl season include a Jimbo Fisher-Jim Harbaugh match-up?

Would you be interested in seeing FSU’s Jimbo Fisher coach against LSU? It’s possible.

Or how about Fisher going head-to-head with Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh? That’s possible, too.

Those are two of the possible scenarios for upcoming bowl season, according to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach and Brent McMurphy. Schlabach sees the Seminoles playing LSU in the Cirtrus Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 31. McMurphy sees them playing Michigan in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 30.

This is the last week such speculation will be necessary. Bowl pairings will be announced Sunday.

Other match-ups that ESPN predicts include the Outback Bowl, where both writers see Florida playing Nebraska on Jan. 2. Both agree that USC will play in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 29. Schlabach thinks the Bulls will play Vanderbilt, while McMurphy says it will be South Carolina.

The two agree that Miami will play West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 28.

Schlabach has UCF playing against Toledo in the Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 19. McMurphy sees UCF playing against Louisiana Lafayette in the Cure Bowl on Dec. 17.

FSU’s Deondre Francois named ACC Rookie of the Year

You can remember this past season. Or you can think about the future.

Both are among the reasons that FSU quarterback Deondre Francois was named ACC Rookie of the Year.

Francois ended the season with 3,138 yards passing – the fourth highest total ever for a freshman quarterback. He had 18 touchdowns to six interceptions. He also ran for 189 yards and four more scores.

Francois received 25 votes, far outdistancing Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and Duke quarterback Daniel Jones.

During the season, Francois was named ACC Rookie of the Week four times. He was also named the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Seminoles’ defensive end Brian Burns was fifth in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year.

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