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Another Winston magic act saves Seminoles’ ranking

Once again, it appeared Jameis Winston had created a mess he could not possibly escape. And once again, the quarterback turned into a magician, stunning the crowd with his sleight of hand.

Winston threw a flurry of interceptions Thursday night, and Florida State’s good fortune seemed to be expiring. But along with smoke, mirrors and some assistance, the troubled kid has impressive survival skills and a ton of talent.

He has eluded police detectives and NCAA investigators and overcome Notre Dame and every other opponent in his face to rescue the Seminoles’ season, at least for now.

When the selection committee in charge of the College Football Playoff revealed its first set of rankings Tuesday, Florida State was in the No. 2 spot. It might be a phony ranking based on a lucky zero in the Seminoles’ loss column, but the rankings are meaningless today, anyway. It’s the end of October, and the winds of change are coming.

“I don’t like the early speculation,” Nick Bogdanovich, director of the William Hill sports books, said of the committee’s playoff rankings. “It’s just too early to form an opinion.”

It’s always too early to count out Florida State, which trailed Louisville, a fired-up 4-point home underdog, 21-0 late in the second quarter. In live wagering, the odds were 5-1 against the Seminoles storming back to win.

Winston, who had thrown three interceptions, tossed three touchdown passes in the second half to beat the odds and the Cardinals, 42-31. He put his autograph on this comeback.

So, the rankings remain unchanged, at least for now. After playing with fire three times — against Oklahoma State, Clemson and Notre Dame — Florida State survived a fourth upset attempt to go a lucky 8-0.

Before kickoff, Bogdanovich addressed the top four teams in the rankings, and said, “I couldn’t put Florida State in there.”

Here’s the committee’s top 10: Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn, Mississippi, Oregon, Alabama, Texas Christian, Michigan State, Kansas State and Notre Dame.

There are some problems with those rankings, and here’s one: Alabama would be favored over every other team on a neutral field, according Westgate Las Vegas sports book manager Ed Salmons.

Here’s another problem: Mississippi, which owns a 23-17 home victory over the Crimson Tide and just lost at Louisiana State, would be in the four-team playoff if staged today. Fortunately, it’s not staged today.

The Rebels scheduled Boise State, Louisiana, Memphis and Presbyterian outside of the Southeastern Conference, which has four teams from the West division in the top six of the rankings.

“Can you believe that top four? I couldn’t believe Ole Miss was in it,” Golden Nugget sports book director Tony Miller said.

Bruce Marshall, handicapper for The Gold Sheet, said “SEC West overhype” influenced the committee, which overlooked the fact most SEC teams play soft nonconference schedules.

“I don’t have an SEC team in my top six,” Steve Cofield, ESPN Radio host in Las Vegas, said while ranking Florida State, Notre Dame, TCU and Arizona as his top four.

“Mississippi State and Mississippi didn’t play anyone out of conference, so I don’t know how good they are yet. I have (the Rebels’) Bo Wallace as the 11th-ranked quarterback in the Pac-12 and the third-stringer at Arizona State. That’s my eye test and the way I look at it, and my argument is as good as anyone else’s. Who’s going to be there at the end? I think Alabama will make it.”

The 12-person selection committee includes athletic directors Barry Alvarez (Wisconsin), Oliver Luck (West Virginia) and Pat Haden (Southern California), retired coach Tom Osborne and fired former coach Tyrone Willingham. Also voting are Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State, and Mike Gould, former Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy.

The committee was carefully chosen. Just missing the cut were Carrot Top, Matthew McConaughey, Kim Kardashian, Ryan Seacrest and Ron Zook. Seriously, though, maybe Bogdanovich or another Las Vegas oddsmaker should be on the panel to inject reality into the debates.

“It is so ridiculous. We’re stuck with this committee, and there is no divine intervention with this bunch,” Marshall said. “But this stuff usually sorts itself out.”

Most of the mess will sort out in time. As for now, Florida State is still in, thanks to another ridiculous, odds-defying comeback.

■ CLOSING NUMBERS — With a little luck, I rolled a 6-0 in this spot last week, and that runs my season record to 36-25. Here are seven picks for Saturday (home team in CAPS):

Navy (+15) over Notre Dame; Auburn (+2) over MISSISSIPPI; Arkansas (+11) over MISSISSIPPI STATE; LOUISIANA TECH (-7) over Western Kentucky; MIDDLE TENNESSEE (+4) over Brigham Young; Southern California (-8) over WASHINGTON STATE; Arizona (+6½) over UCLA.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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