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FSU's Jameis Winston tied for 11th in nation in interceptions

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Steve Cannon/Associated Press
Florida State QB Jameis Winston has thrown 11 interceptions so far in 2014.

Florida State's Jameis Winston is seventh nationally in passing yards per game and is on a pace that would give him more passing yards this season than the 4,057 he had last season, when he won the Heisman.

But there's another passing number he's not so proud of: He is one of 29 quarterbacks nationally to have thrown at least 10 interceptions, and his 11 are tied for 11th-most in the nation. He admitted after last Saturday's win over Virginia that he had become too turnover-prone.

A few errant throws this week against Miami could lead to a loss that would knock FSU out of the national title picture.

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Winston already has thrown one more interception in eight games this season than he did in 14 last season. He said he knows what he has to do, telling reporters after the Virginia game that he had to "make smarter decisions, stop always looking for the big play. I stressed about checking the ball down and making smart decisions, and I've got to go back to that. I can't be careless with the ball."

FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said during his weekly Monday news conference that he isn't worried about Winston.

"No one is harder on Jameis than Jameis," Fisher told reporters. "I understand where it comes from, but, at the same time, you can't worry about that. When you're throwing the ball and making decisions, you're going to have things that aren't just perfect.

"But what the great ones are able to do is, when something like that happens, compartmentalize it and move on."

Winston is being asked to do more this season, both as a result of the natural growth that comes from a quarterback in his second season as a starter and because FSU isn't consistent running the ball.

The Seminoles are averaging 129.9 rushing yards per game -- a drop of almost 75 yards per game from last season, when they rushed for 203.1 per game. Part of that is the early departures to the NFL of tailbacks Devonta Freeman and, to a lesser extent, James Wilder Jr. Part of it is also an offensive line that has underachieved in carving out running space and protecting Winston.

Tackle Cam Erving and guards Tre Jackson and Josue Matias were expected to be among the best seniors at their positions nationally. Instead, all three -- and especially Erving and Jackson -- have struggled at times. Right tackle Bobby Hart was seen as the potential weak link, and unfortunately for FSU, he has lived up to billing. And center Austin Barron's arm injury, which has kept him out of four games and meant redshirt freshman Ryan Hoefeld has had to start, has hurt, as well. Barron is expected back for Saturday's game, and that should be a positive, both in run blocking and blitz pickups. Teams that have blitzed FSU especially have found success on up-the-middle blitzes.

Also a positive is the emergence of true freshman tailback Dalvin Cook, who, like Freeman, is a product of Miami's Central High. Cook gives FSU explosiveness and a big-play threat that Williams cannot provide.

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Winston also misses wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin, who turned pro early after last season, and Kenny Shaw, who was a senior last season; those two combined for 108 receptions and 21 touchdown catches last season, when FSU had three players with at least 54 receptions. This season, other than senior Rashad Greene, one of the top players nationally at the position, there has been no consistent wide receiver. Sophomore Jesus "Bobo" Wilson and true freshmen Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane have had their moments, but they have combined for just 61 catches. Tight end Nick O'Leary is a solid complementary threat, but asking him to be more than that is beyond his skill set.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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