Oregon has been at the forefront of just about everything cool and good about college football in recent years.
The spread, read-option offense. The fast-paced play-calling. The colorful uniform combinations. (OK, so that's a little hit and miss.)
There’s just one thing the Ducks haven’t been first in: The final rankings.
Oregon has never won a national championship.
This could be the year.
The Ducks moved a major step closer on Thursday in a College Football Playoff national semifinal at the Rose Bowl.
Oregon capitalized on five Florida State turnovers, converting them all into touchdowns, as they routed last season’s national champion, 59-20.
The battle between the last two Heisman Trophy winners wasn’t close.
Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, this season’s winner, passed for 338 yards and two touchdowns as well as ran for 62 yards and another score.
Florida State’s Jameis Winston, who won in 2013, passed for 348 yards and a touchdown but also lost a fumble and had a pass intercepted.
The loss was Florida State’s first in 30 games dating to the 2012 season, and Winston’s first since November 2011, when Vigor High defeated his Hueytown team in an Alabama Class 5A semifinal game.
Oregon led at the half, 18-13, and scored touchdowns on its first five possessions of the second half to go along with a 58-yard return of a fumble for a touchdown by linebacker Tony Washington.
Here's a recap of the Rose Bowl game:
Oregon 59, Florida State 20 (10:13 left in fourth quarter)
And yet another Florida State turnover.
And yet other Oregon touchdown.
I'm sensing a trend here.
This time quarterback Jameis Winston connected with Jesus Wilson on a pass, but as Wilson turned upfield, the ball was knocked loose and linebacker Tyson Coleman recovered for Oregon.
That's five turnovers -- four fumbles and an interception -- for the soon-won't-be-defending national champions.
Thomas Tyner scored on a 21-yard run for Oregon, capping a four-play, 57-yard drive. The Ducks have 34 points after turnovers.
Oregon 52, Florida State 20 (13:56 left in fourth quarter)
Another Florida State turnover, another Oregon touchdown.
Seminole quarterback Jameis Winston hit Travis Rudolph in the chest with a pass, but the ball popped up out of Rudolph's grasp and into the arms of Oregon's Erick Dargan at the Florida State 43.
Six plays later, the Ducks were in the end zone as quarterback Marcus Mariota broke loose for a 23-yard touchdown run.
Oregon 45, Florida State 20 (1:36 left in third quarter)
You can't fault Jameis Winston for trying, but he probably just fumbled away any shot at a Florida State comeback.
Winston dropped back to pass, saw no open receiver, scrambled, scrambled some more, looked like he was going to run, then pulled back and ... coughed up the ball back over his head and into the arms of Oregon linebacker Tony Washington.
Washington picked it up and ran 58 yards for a touchdown.
Oregon 39, Florida State 20 (4:21 left in third quarter)
Another fumble by Florida State's Dalvin Cook -- this time after he caught a pass from Jameis Winston for a nice gain -- has set up another Oregon touchdown.
Reggie Daniels recovered for the Ducks, Oregon took over at Florida State's 43, and two plays later the Ducks were in the end zone as quarterback Marcus Mariota again connected with Darren Carrington -- this time on a 30-yard scoring pass.
Oregon 32, Florida State 20 (6:43 left in third quarter)
And, just like that, some breathing room for the Ducks again.
Covering 81 yards took five plays this time, the last 56 on a pass from Marcus Mariota to Darren Carrington, who took a pass near the right sideline and sprinted to the end zone after Seminoles defender Tyler Hunter fell down.
Mariota has passed for 290 yards.
Oregon 25, Florida State 20 (8:07 left in third quarter)
There's a reason Jameis Winston and Florida State don't lose football games.
With Oregon on the brink of breaking open the Rose Bowl national semifinal game, Winston's clutch passing has moved the Seminoles back within striking distance.
Winston led a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive, completing a couple of key third-down passes along the way.
On third-and-21, Winston connected with Jesus Wilson for a 23-yard gain. And on third-and-two later, he hit Rashad Greene for 15 yards.
The Florida State touchdown came on an 18-yard pass from Winston to Travis Rudolph.
Oregon 25, Florida State 13 (11:54 left in third quarter)
Another huge momentum switch.
Florida State was crisply moving the ball down the field on its first possession of the second half.
But then Derrick Malone, Jr. of Oregon stripped the ball from Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, and one minute 32 seconds later, the Ducks were in the end zone.
Taking over on its own 31 after Malone recovered the fumble, Mariota connected with Darren Carrington for 34 yards, Charles Nelson for a yard and Evan Baylis for nice 30-yard gain on a catch and run.
After the play to Baylis moved the ball to the Florida State 3-yard line, Royce Freeman ran it in from there.
Another reminder why Florida State is so good late in a close game:
After an interception gave the Seminoles the ball near midfield, Florida State completed two passes and then tried a field goal from the usually unheard of distance (in a college game) of 54 yards.
And Roberto Aguayo's kick, as time expired, was long enough, too. But it hit the left upright and bounced back, allowing Oregon to keep its 18-13 lead at the break.
It was Aguayo's fourth miss in 52 career attempts for Florida State.
Oregon 18, Florida State 13 (36 seconds left in second quarter)
Anybody who thought Florida State was going to go away in this one hasn't been paying attention all season.
The undefeated Seminoles just gave Oregon fans a glimpse at why they don't want the game to be close in the final minutes.
Reeling after a long Oregon scoring drive, Florida State's veterans steadied themselves and fought back with a six-play, 71-yard march of their own.
The drive was nearly all Jameis Winston and running back Karlos Williams.
Winston connected with Williams for a pair of passes totaling 29 yards, Williams ran twice for 15 yards, and Winston ran once for five yards in addition to completing a 17-yard pass to Ermon Lane. (Florida State also picked up five yards on a penalty.)
Oregon 18, Florida State 6 (2:18 left in second quarter)
Typical Ducks scoring drive: 75 yards, 10 plays. Six passes, four runs.
And on the touchdown play, a one-yard run by Thomas Tyner, Florida State was in such a scramble that it had nine players set to defend the goal line.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has completed 17 of 24 passes for 147 yards, and the Ducks have 124 yards rushing, led by Tyner's 55 yards in seven carries.
Oregon 11, Florida State 6 (5:18 left in second quarter)
Florida State is having less difficulty moving the ball against Oregon than the Seminoles are overcoming their own mistakes.
Florida State drove from its own 27 inside the Oregon 10, but two penalties -- a false start and a delay of game -- stalled the Seminoles there and they had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Roberto Aguayo.
Freshman Dalvin Cook gained 38 yards in three carries on the drive.
Oregon 11, Florida State 3 (10:12 left in second quarter)
Florida State just took a very smart timeout, and it paid off.
With Oregon having driven nearly the length of the field in 16 plays, Coach Jimbo Fisher took what might be called an "Oxygen Timeout" -- giving his Seminoles a chance to catch their breath and regroup.
It worked. After the timeout, Florida State stuffed Byron Marshall on a run, then Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota threw a terrible pass that fell incomplete, and the Ducks had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Aidan Schneider.
Oregon drove from its own one to the Florida State 11 on 13 runs and three passes before stalling.
Oregon just disspelled any notion that it was a "soft" football team.
The Ducks stuffed Florida State not once, not twice, but three times inside the 5-yard-line to preserve its lead early in the second quarter.
The first time, Florida State's Karlos Williams was thrown for a four-yard loss but an offside penalty gave the Seminoles the ball inside the one.
From there, Williams was stuffed again, for no gain.
That made it fourth down, and Florida State went for it, with quarterback Jameis Winston trying to run it in. However, Winston fell just short, his knee touching down just before he was able to stretch the ball into the end zone.
Oregon being Oregon:
The Ducks had fourth-and-five at the Florida State 23-yard line -- field-goal position for any other college team on the planet.
The Ducks went for it and failed as a Marcus Mariota pass toward Byron Marshall fell incomplete after Marshall was hit hard by Seminoles defensive back Ronald Darby.
Oregon and Mariota missed an an earlier opportunity when his pass toward Dwayne Stanford, who was wide open around the 10-yard line, sailed high.
Florida State takes over at its own 23 with 4:10 left in the first quarter.
Oregon has seized the momentum, stuffing Florida State deep in its own territory in the wake of the Ducks' touchdown.
After a 27-yard punt by Cason Beatty, Oregon will take over at the Florida State 40 with 5:19 left in the first quarter.
Oregon 8, Florida State 3 (6:55 left in first quarter)
Florida State's lead lasted a little more than two minutes.
Oregon and quarterback Marcus Mariota got rolling with some quick-hitting passes as the Ducks drove 73 yards in nine plays.
Royce Freeman ran for the touchdown from one yard out, and the Ducks tacked on a two-point conversion on a pass from Taylor Alie to Torrodney Prevot.
Mariota completed all four of his passes for 50 yards on the drive.
Florida State 3, Oregon 0 (9:06 left in first quarter)
A 28-yard field goal by Roberto Aguayo has the Seminoles in the lead.
Aguayo also converted on a 43-yard kick on the drive, but a personal foul penalty on Oregon for hands to the face gave Florida State a second shot at a touchdown.
The penalty moved the ball to the Oregon 12-yard line, but quarterback Jameis Winston was stuffed on a run, and then was sacked by outside linebacker Torrodney Prevot for a seven-yard loss to stall the drive.
A quick three and out for Oregon on its first possession.
On third-and-eight, quarterback Marcus Mariota overthrew a wide-open EWvan Baylis in the middle of the field.
Florida State won the coin toss and deferred to the second half.
Oregon will receive.
The temperature was 57 degrees at kickoff -- the 17th time in 101 Rose Bowls it has been colder than 60 degrees.
What kind of a factor is that?
Apparently not much.
Six out of the last eight times it’s happened, the team from the warmer weather state has won.
It's 20 minutes before game time, and it's clear that Oregon has the crowd advantage today at the Rose Bowl.
Ducks green and gold looks as if it controls about 70% of the stadium.
And Oregon scores even higher when it comes to the opinions of Los Angeles Times sportswriters and columnists covering today's game.
Columnist Bill Plaschke: Oregon, 42-20.
Columnist Bill Dwyre: Oregon, 45-21.
National college football reporter Chris Dufresne: Oregon, 48-35.
Reporter David Wharton: Oregon, 52-38.
Deputy Sports Editor Mike Hiserman: Florida State, 41-38.
(There's always a contrarian.)
A Seminole just stuck a tomahawk or a spear into the Rose Bowl turf.
Where's Sam Handler when you need him?
Today's Rose Bowl marks only the fourth time two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks will be competing on the same college football field.
Marcus Mariota of Oregon, this season's winner, vs. Florida State's Jameis Winston, last season's winner.
A tale of the tape, comparing this season's statistics:
Advantage Mariota, 68.3% to 65.4%.
Advantage Mariota, 3,783 to 3,559.
Advantage Mariota, 38 to 24.
Advantage Mariota, who has had two passes picked, to 17.
Advantage Mariota, 186.3 to 147.0.
Advantage Mariota, 669 to 82.
Advantage Winston, 13-0 to 12-1.
Days like this at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena remind me why there are so many Midwesterners who live in Southern California.
I gotta believe half of them were students at Big Ten Conference schools who came out to watch their team play on Jan. 1 and swore then that somebody they'd be back.
Not a cloud in the sky. Majestic mountains as the backdrop... And, oh yeah, a pretty great college football matchup now less than two hours from kickoff.
Florida State comes in with a record of 13-0, Oregon at 12-1. The combined 25-1 record is the second-best ever between teams competing in a Rose Bowl game, surpassed only by USC and Texas, who both came into the 2006 game with records of 12-0.
Since the start of the 2010 season, Oregon has the best record in major-college football, 59-7. Florida State is second best at 58-10.
And then there's this: dueling Heisman Trophy winners.
Marcus Mariota, this season's winner from Oregon, will be trying to become the 15th player to win the Heisman and play on a national championship-winning team. Jameis Winston, last season's winner from Florida State, did it last year.
Yes, a pretty good matchup, on a pretty spectacular day.
We'll be with you from start to finish on latimes.com.
Follow me on Twitter @MikeHiserman