By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher joined his Rose Bowl counterpart, Mark Helfrich of Oregon, as well as Alabama’s Nick Saban and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer for a pre-playoff press conference Thursday in Orlando.
The stage featured seven national championships among Saban (4), Meyer (2) and Fisher (1). And Helfrich has Oregon on the cusp of its first title.
Here are five takeaways from what the coaches (mostly Fisher) had to say.
1) The Rose Bowl’s quarterback matchup should be one for the ages
Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston will be pitted against soon-to-be-Heisman winner Marcus Mariota in the type of matchup that fans dreamed of when the playoff format was announced.
Should Mariota take home the honor on Saturday, the Rose Bowl will boast the first matchup of Heisman winners since the 2009 BCS National Championship Game.
“I think (Mariota) is dynamic,” Fisher said. “One, he’s a leader. You see the guys follow him. You see the energy he creates. You see that he is a winner. … He creates so many things for them as player, not only in the pocket … but managing the team, processing the team.
“You can tell when a guy is in total control of his offense and he definitely is that.”
Helfrich, meanwhile, pointed to Winston’s undefeated record and knack for timely plays as signs of his greatness.
“Obviously Jameis is a winner,” Helfrich said. “He hasn’t lost a game in two years. You can tell when they need a play, they need a throw, it usually involves him making something spectacular.”
2) The FSU coaching staff is on a hectic schedule these days
Fisher is currently navigating high-profile press conferences, the national awards circuit, preparation for Oregon and, for the next week, time on the recruiting trail.
It’s made for a few long days for the FSU coaching staff, which is on the road this week trying to visit as many prospects as possible during the NCAA’s approved contact period.
The Seminoles will resume practice on Sunday.
“We’re on a very hectic schedule right now,” Fisher said. “These are long 16-, 18-, 20-hour days trying to get in and get out to where you have to get to because you only have a certain amount of time.
“You have to get to where you have to get to. Recruiting is the lifeline of all programs.”
3) Having three weeks to prepare for Oregon is nice, but …
It can cut both ways. Yes, the Seminoles have plenty of time to break down the film of Oregon’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense.
But the flip side is that the Ducks have three weeks to search for holes in FSU’s defense, too. The extra time allows teams to insert new looks or wrinkles into their system that might not be apparent during the run-up to the game.
“They’re so diverse and they create so many problems and different looks,” Fisher said. “The thing about that is they have time to adjust and change little things for them, too.”
Fisher contrasted college football’s postseason with the NFL’s, which begins right after the regular season and doesn’t usually allow time for significant changes.
“In college,” Fisher said, “the team you are when you finish the season is not always the team you are when you start the playoff.”
4) There are no hard feelings from being ranked third
Only one of the four teams participating in the tournament finished 13-0, and that team happens to be ranked third.
Most experts feel that, under the old Bowl Championship Series rankings, FSU would’ve been ranked No. 1.
But, despite finishing behind one-loss Alabama and one-loss Oregon, Fisher said the Seminoles are happy to just be in the field.
“I don’t think we’re slighted,” he said. “But it gets back to opinion and you get the committee and when people are involved, it goes back to opinions. We’re all in a learning process right now.
“The key was getting in the playoff. Whether you’re first or fourth, you’re going to play a great football team. There are no easy wins. Everyone in this playoff can play.”
5) FSU has certainly caught Oregon’s attention
Even after an undefeated season and 29 straight wins, FSU has often had to defend its resume – which features several close wins from this season – to its critics.
Helfrich, however, is not one of those critics.
He reiterated Thursday just how much respect he has for winning and overcoming adversity, especially for a team that has worn a target on its back all season.
“It’s been incredible what they’ve been able to accomplish and sustain,” Helfrich said. “Winning is really hard. Winning once is hard. You’re going to get everyone’s best shot.”
Helfrich also addressed the notion that FSU is a second-half team, as if that somehow diminished the Seminoles’ achievements.
“To be able to come back out of halftime and say ‘Hey, we’re better than you’ and win is a very, very impressive thing,” he said.