Published September 19, 2013
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The eighth-ranked Florida State Seminoles are a no-huddle team looking to pick up the pace.
The Seminoles scored five offensive touchdowns during an 8:15 span in the 62-7 rout against Nevada last weekend. That was impressive, but coach Jimbo Fisher believes the unit can move faster.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston checks with the sideline after every play. Offensive linemen take their positions as receivers and backs hover and await the next call. Fisher wants to quicken the process, put opposing defenses on their heels and wear down opponents.
"Coach Fisher says it all the time, he wants to play fast," FSU left tackle Cameron Erving said. "He wants to get a lot of snaps a game on offense. As an o-line, we try to make it happen.
"We want to get a lot of snaps on offense and keep our defense off the field as much as possible. But at the same time, we're not Oregon. ... We do something, they do something different. But that's definitely in the right area. We want to be up there on the same level, at a certain speed as those teams."
Oregon has been the FBS standard-bearer when it comes to playing at a break-neck pace. The Ducks averaged 72 offensive plays per game in their first three contests this season, their lowest average in the last four seasons. That's not a surprise with former coach Chip Kelly now in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles. Oregon ranked No. 9 in the FBS last season with 81.4 plays per game, according to STATS LLC, and was the second-highest scoring team in the nation (49.6 points per game).
Clemson was eighth in the country in 2012, running 81.7 plays per game. The Tigers ranked No. 6 with 41.0 points per game.
Baylor, which leads the FBS with an average of 69.5 points per game this season, averaged 76 plays in its first two games.
Florida State averaged 67.2 offensive plays per game in 2012 — the team-high in four years under Fisher — and were ranked 88th among FBS schools. The Seminoles have run an average of 63.0 plays in two games this season — tied for No. 111.
Fisher wants more and a veteran offensive line, including four juniors and a senior, has him optimistic about the rest of the season. Their next chance comes Saturday against undefeated Bethune-Cookman (3-0).
"That line can now really feel comfortable getting up there in a hurry, making calls and not have to decipher all that stuff. You've got a mature line," Fisher said. "We were still a young team last year on offense. Even though we had a good offense.
"I think the maturity allows you to do more, just play faster and make the calls better and get in a better rhythm."
The offensive line can help, but tempo primarily rests with the quarterback.
The offense ran at a quicker clip with a senior quarterback in EJ Manuel. Winston is a freshman with just two games of NCAA experience. The Seminoles averaged a play every 26.8 seconds of possession in 2012. That number has risen to 29.6 in 2013.
Winston is "still trying to learn. He doesn't know it all," Erving said. "He pushes the tempo just as much as EJ would. ... Jameis pushes us to pick up the tempo, but at the same time, it's a slower process because Jameis has to slow down. He has to make his calls. Make sure everything's right, everything.
"The last couple games, we've gone pretty fast. At the same time, we're still not at the tempo that we know we can be."
Winston added, "What do they say? 'A team's only as good as its weakest link?' I'm not going to say I'm the weakest link, but I am the youngest on the offense."
Pace doesn't directly translate to national championships. Neither Oregon, Baylor nor Clemson have won a BCS title. Alabama, which ranked No. 112 running an average of 64.1 plays per game in 2012, has won of three of the last four.
The Seminoles, however, are in the championship discussion with one of the top young quarterbacks in the game. They should remain in contention, especially if Winston and the rest Florida State's talented offensive cadre start getting more snaps and more opportunities to challenge defenses.