Jameis Winston trumps Stephen Morris in QB matchup

Florida State plays host to Miami on Saturday in the final regular-season game this year involving unbeaten teams, but while both are undefeated and in the top 10, the Seminoles are a 22-point favorite.

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A reason for the huge spread is the quarterbacks. Florida State redshirt freshman Jameis Winston is playing like a senior and is a top-three Heisman candidate. Miami senior Stephen Morris went into the season hyped as a potential first-round pick, but he has struggled and at times has looked like a redshirt freshman.

Winston (6-foot-4, 228 pounds) is averaging 311.0 passing yards per game, with 23 touchdowns -- tied for third nationally -- and four interceptions. He is completing 69.9 percent of his passes, and his yards-per-attempt average (11.9) is second among those who qualify. That means he is completing a lot of long passes; he does not oversee a dink-and-dunk passing attack.

Winston is guiding an offense that has scored at least 40 points in every game this season. That ties the 1995 team's school record for the most consecutive games with at least 40.

"He's playing great football," Miami coach Al Golden said Tuesday of Winston.

Asked if he and his defensive staff have cracked the code with Winston, Golden joked that, "I'd be worth a lot more if I could crack that code."

Heck, even Miami baseball coach Jim Morris weighed in on Winston on Tuesday. Winston is an excellent baseball player, too, and Morris said he felt Winston is a first-rounder in both sports. "It's really, really hard in baseball to be able to pitch and to hit, and he might be their best pitcher and their best hitter," Morris said. "And by the way, he's playing football too, which is amazing. ... He's a very unique athlete."

Stephen Morris (6-2, 218) is averaging 209.0 passing yards per game, with 10 TDs and eight picks. He is completing 59.9 percent of his passes, a disappointing number for a guy who won the skills competition at the elite Manning Passing Academy over the summer. He went into the season seemingly poised to become a first-round quarterback, but it's now fair to ask whether he is even one of the top 12 quarterbacks in the nation.

Arm strength never has been a concern for Morris -- that is, by far, his greatest attribute -- but his accuracy and footwork are issues. Morris has completed 58.2 percent of his career passes, at least 7 or 8 percentage points below what is expected of an "elite" quarterback. Morris has been bothered by a right ankle injury this season and that has affected his plant foot and his motion, but he actually is completing passes at a slightly higher percentage this season (59.9) than his career rate.

Still, while Miami rallied late to win each of its past two games, against North Carolina and Wake Forest, Hurricanes coaches turned to the running game, not Morris' arm, to win. On the winning drive against UNC, Miami ran on 10 of its final 13 plays. And on the winning drive against Wake, the Hurricanes ran on eight of their final 10 plays. Morris combined to throw one TD pass and four interceptions in those two contests.

Worth noting is that Miami has played just one high-level defense this season. Against Florida, the Hurricanes managed just 212 yards. Florida State has a high-level defense; will Miami have more success than it did against Florida? That seems extremely doubtful, considering Morris' propensity to suffer mechanical breakdowns in the pocket when pressured. That means sophomore tailback Duke Johnson needs to play at a high level for the Hurricanes, or it could be the blowout Vegas oddsmakers expect.

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

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