Is Winston’s Heisman good or bad omen for Florida State?

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (5) looks to pass during the second quarter of the ACC Championship against Duke on Dec. 7 at Bank of America Stadium.

TALLAHASSEE — With a 13-0 record, a No. 1 national ranking and a Heisman Trophy winner running the offense, it’s no wonder that Florida State is favored to win the 2013 BCS national championship.

Jameis Winston and the Seminoles opened as 7.5-point favorites over No. 2 Auburn, and that line has shifted to either 8.0 or 8.5 points at virtually all of the Las Vegas sports books. But longtime Florida State supporters know as well as any fan base that being the favorite and having a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback doesn’t necessarily guarantee a victory.

During the three decades leading up to Winston’s section earlier this month, 18 of the 30 Heisman Trophy winners were quarterbacks. Those 18 signal-callers combined to go just 8-9 in their bowl games (1989 winner Andre Ware’s Houston Tigers were not eligible for the postseason because of NCAA probation).

In 11 of those 17 games, the Heisman winner’s team was competing for a national championship; those teams went 4-7 with the trophy-winning quarterback on their sides.

Florida State quarterbacks are responsible for one of those wins and one of those losses. Charlie Ward, who won the 1993 Heisman, led the Seminoles to an 18-16 Orange Bowl victory against Nebraska to claim the school’s first national championship. He completed 24 of 43 passes in that game for 286 yards, with no touchdowns or interceptions.

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Seven years later, Chris Weinke won FSU’s second Heisman Trophy but came up short in the same venue against Oklahoma. The 2000 Seminoles, who were the defending national champions, were 10.5-point favorites against the Sooners but stumbled to a 13-2 defeat.

Weinke completed 25 of 51 passes in that game for 274 yards, with zero touchdowns and two interceptions.

In 2000, the Seminoles’ passing attack was hurt greatly by the loss of receiver Snoop Minnis to academics, and it probably didn’t help matters that offensive coordinator Mark Richt already had accepted the head coaching position at Georgia. But the result was another tough bowl game for a Heisman-winning quarterback, and more fuel for the concern about a “Heisman jinx.”.

When examining the statistics of those 11 Heisman quarterbacks who have played for the national title during the past three decades, there haven’t been a lot of spectacular performances.

Southern Cal’s Matt Leinart, who won the trophy in 2004, might have had the best day of all – he completed 29 of 40 passes for 365 yards in a 55-19 rout of Oklahoma. That was one year after the Sooners’ Jason White had one of the all-time poor passing performances in a title game; White connected on just 13 of 37 attempts for 102 yards against LSU; he threw two interceptions with no touchdowns.

Overall, the composite numbers haven’t been great for the quarterbacks in this group. Vinny Testaverde (1986), Gino Torretta (1992), Ward (’93), Danny Wuerffel (’96), Weinke (’00), Eric Crouch (’01), White (’03), Leinart (’04), Troy Smith (’06), Sam Bradford (’08) and Cam Newton (’10) combined to complete just 51.6 percent of their passes with eight touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

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Those are somewhat alarming numbers for players who were considered to be the best in the country. But it must be noted that virtually all were going up against outstanding defenses. So it’s difficult to assess whether their struggles were primarily a result of tough matchups or the hype and distractions that come with winning college football’s most prestigious individual award.

As far as it relates to the 2013 winner Winston, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said he has seen no cause for concern. Once Winston returned last week from New York, Fisher said, he appeared to be the same quarterback who shattered FSU, ACC and national records as a redshirt freshman.

“I’ve said before, he’s mature above his years,” Fisher said. “He’s very intelligent. He’s a tremendous team guy.”.

Fisher said he believes two of Winston’s core characteristics should help him avoid the pitfalls that might have affected previous Heisman winners: He is intensely driven to help his team succeed, and he is equally determined to be great individually.

“I think those are two things that keep that in perspective for him,” Fisher said.

Winston, who is just the second freshman to win the Heisman, has dismissed any notion that winning such a prestigious award might affect his performance on Jan. 6 against Auburn. He said he and his teammates are as hungry now, if not hungrier, than when they started the season.

“Our mindset is to get better every single day,” Winston said. “But our preparation is always going to be the same. We don’t believe in being complacent and saying, ‘OK, we’ve got this in the bag.’ We’ve got to get better every single day.”.

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Ira Schoffel also writes for The Tallahassee Democrat.

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