Starting 11: Jameis Winston is college football’s villain

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Jameis Winston: College football’s No. 1 villain.

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Jameis Winston has become one of the biggest villains in college football history. Sure, we’ve had other players who were disliked by a great many fans, but usually that was because of the success their teams had, more than it was rooted in their personalities.

Last year Johnny Manziel was squarely in the crosshairs of the haters, but that was mostly for the way he carried himself off the field. He was flashy, liked to party, and probably lied about signing autographs. But was the entire nation rooting against Manziel when Alabama rolled into College Station? No way.

Leaving aside FSU fans and gamblers, I’m not sure there was anyone in the country rooting for FSU against Clemson last Saturday. 

Before Manziel, Tim Tebow and Cam Newton went through the media ringer, beloved by many at the same time they were hated by many. While Cam got paid — a transgression that seems relatively minor in today’s NCAA — and left Florida under a cloud of laptop-related shenanigans, he hadn’t been accused of anything violent off the field. The crescendo of Cam hate exploded in late October 2010 and crested a month later when Alabama fans rained down Monopoly money on him as he entered the field at Bryant-Denny. But while Newton was squarely in a media storm for a few months, it was nothing like Winston’s past 10 months.

Tebow, meanwhile, basically was a saint off the field. Which, if anything, proved that the hater gene had reached full fruition; if you could hate Tebow, you might as well hate Jesus, too.

Even with their fair share of hate, Cam and Tebow and Manziel had significantly more support than Winston. In my lifetime as a college football fan, I can’t think of a player who is more universally reviled than Winston is right now. I welcome your nominations for other college football players who have been hated as much, but I can’t think of one. 

1. Which is why Clemson’s collapse hurt so much.

Clemson, my god, Clemson, you had this game totally won. Just consider the inexplicable plays that happened in the final series of the third and fourth quarters:

a. On second-and-goal with the ball virtually resting on the goal line, you shotgun a snap over QB Deshaun Watson’s head, losing 23 yards before you miss the ensuing field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. This all happened after the touchdown was taken off the board on a pass play and after an apparent first-down touchdown run was not reviewed.

b. On second-and-24 your defensive back falls down and allows a 76-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.

c. After an interception return, you have a first down inside the FSU 20 with 90 seconds to play. The absolute worst-case scenario, which probably would have happened, is that you miss a field goal. What happens instead? You fumble away the football.

d. In overtime you get stopped on fourth-and-inches while running a play from the shotgun.

Any one of these plays would be pretty unbelievable, but to have them all happen… I’m just sorry, Clemson fans, I really am.

(One bright spot: Watson appears to be the real deal. But it’s going to be incredibly painful watching Clemson lose games it should win over the next two years before he goes pro). 

2. Alabama dominated Florida.

This was total destruction. 

Fumbles are, by and large, random acts of football luck. If Florida doesn’t get three Alabama fumbles, then the Tide hangs 60 points on Will Muschamp’s Gator defense.  

The Tide put up 645 yards of offense and converted — wait for it — 12 of 16 third downs. We can’t heap too much praise on Blake Sims, Lane Kiffin, Amari Cooper — who is likely to be at the Heisman ceremony in New York — and everyone else associated with the Alabama offense. We spent all offseason worrying about how the Gator offense was going to be. Turns out, we should have been most worried about the Gator defense, which has been torched in two straight SEC games. Based on what we’ve seen of the Gators so far, it certainly looks like Muschamp isn’t going to be back next season. 

I hereby apologize for ever believing in Jeff Driskel. He’s the Jake Locker of college football — he looks like he should be so much better than he actually is. After his performance at Alabama, I’m done believing in Driskel.

The Vols should beat the Gators in two weeks. (Which means Driskel probably will throw for 500 yards and eight touchdowns in Knoxville).      

By the way, here are my early top three for the Florida job. You have to get an offensive coach in there. So here goes: Art Briles, Mike Gundy and — wait for it — Bobby Petrino.

Here’s the wild card: Could you get Bob Stoops to finally come back from Oklahoma?

Any of these four would be a great fit. If you can’t get them, boy, the pickings get slim in a hurry.

3. Oklahoma handled West Virginia. 

Baylor at Oklahoma on Nov. 8 is a playoff game — whoever wins is in, whoever loses is out. It’s really that simple in the Big 12.  

In related news, I was upset to see West Virginia lose because I’ve grown quite fond of Clint Trickett’s hair. He’s the only man in college football with better hair than me.

4. Holy hell, Mississippi State demolished LSU. 

I never would have believed that LSU could be the seventh-best team in the SEC West, but with the way State dominated — leaving aside the fact that LSU almost scored a Les-magic three touchdowns in the final two minutes — and the way Arkansas and Texas A&M have played, it’s fair to say that LSU is the worst team in the SEC West right now.

The worst team in the SEC West also beat the best team in the Big Ten West, which is, of course, totally perfect. 

This was undoubtedly the biggest win of the Dan Mullen era at State — yes, even bigger than the bowl game demolition of Michigan in his second season — and served noticed that State is a contender in the SEC West. After a bye week, State gets A&M and Auburn in back-to-back weeks in Starkville. With the way Dak Prescott is playing, both of those games should be thrillers.

Here’s a couple of great stats about this game: Prior to losing to State, LSU had lost only two games at night at Tiger Stadium in the past six years: to No. 1 Florida in 2009 and to No. 1 Alabama in 2012. This also was Mississippi State’s first win at LSU since 1991 and its first win over a top-10 opponent since 2000.

Well done, State. I now have you at No. 7 in my national top 10.   

5. Oregon looked human.

Most of you didn’t see it because the game didn’t end until nearly 2 in the morning on the East Coast, but Washington State gave Oregon everything it could handle. And if not for a blown pass interference call late in the fourth quarter, this game may well have gone to overtime. (Or, knowing him, Mike Leach might have gone for two). The Ducks gave up 499 total yards to Washington State. 

In three weeks Oregon travels to UCLA. If UCLA gets past Arizona State on Thursday night, boy, that’s going to a massive football game. The only downside? It’s likely we get a rematch in the Pac-12 title game.   

6. South Carolina beat Vandy and Steve Spurrier gave this press conference after the game. 

Watch it. 

7. Mizzou lost to Indiana. 

Big Ten fans already have given up on the season because I hardly heard from anyone after this game, the worst loss of the season for any SEC team other than Vanderbilt.

The ominous thing about this game was there was nothing that freaky about it. The two teams looked completely even. There weren’t a ton of turnovers, the yardage was even. Indiana was just better. And it ran the ball really well. Mizzou will be competitive at South Carolina, but in a couple of weeks Todd Gurley is going to run for more than 200 yards against the Tigers. 

8. ECU put up 70 on North Carolina. 


That 10-point South Carolina win over ECU looks pretty good right now. The Pirates are going to finish 11-1 and I’m not sure there’s a number short of infinity that would lead me to not bet on them against SMU this weekend. 

Keep your eye on QB Shane Carden. I don’t claim to be an NFL expert, but how high can he be drafted this year? Someone may well get a steal. He’s been fantastic. 

9. How bad is Michigan?

The answer, really bad. It looks like Brady Hoke is done. 

In my mind there are only eight college coaches right now who would win no matter where they are. That is, if you put them at the most average college football job in America — say, Illinois — they’d win a conference title there. 

Those coaches are: Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Bob Stoops, Art Briles, Kevin Sumlin, Gus Malzahn, James Franklin and Bobby Petrino. (A couple of you emailed to note that I left Malzahn off after listing him in the mailbag on Friday. That’s my bad. Blame it on me trying to forget his short-sleeve Under Armour turtleneck.)

Let’s assume that Michigan can’t get any of these coaches or Harbaugh, so who do you hire?

Could the third time be the charm for Les Miles to Michigan?

10. Penn State is 4-0 and no one is paying attention to the Nittany Lions. 

They should beat Northwestern this weekend. What once looked like a tough trip to Michigan now doesn’t look so tough. It’s possible the Nittany Lions are 6-0 with Ohio State coming to town on Oct. 25.

The Nittany Lions aren’t ranked, but it’s downright possible that the Big Ten East could be decided on Nov. 29 when Michigan State rolls into Happy Valley. If you’re a Spartans fan, you desperately need Penn State to be 10-1 on that weekend so you can get some attention for a Big Ten win at the end of the season. 

11. Here are our weekly SEC power ratings. 

Remember, we’re rating teams based on the games that actually have taken place, not what we expect to happen in the future. So, for instance, Texas A&M has the best win of the season so far in the SEC, destroying South Carolina on the road. Meanwhile Vandy has the worst loss of the season, losing by 30 at home to Temple. Everyone else’s résumé is somewhere in between.  

1. Texas A&M

2. Alabama

3. Auburn

4. Mississippi State

5. Ole Miss

6. Georgia

7. South Carolina

8. Arkansas

9. LSU

10. Florida

11. Kentucky

12. Tennessee

13. Mizzou

14. Vandy

Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.