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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

Mission Accomplished for Florida State

A very important note about Florida State in 2010: the Seminoles finished 6-2 in A.C.C. play. Why is that vital? Because Bobby Bowden — the great Bobby Bowden — never finished greater than 5-3 in conference action following the A.C.C.’s split into two divisions in 2005. If you know nothing else about F.S.U. in 2010, you know enough. There’s more to know, of course. You need to know that Jimbo Fisher has fit like a glove; that Mark Stoops, the first-year defensive coordinator, has his group playing inspired football; that there are many, many young players due to play significant roles in 2011 and beyond; and that — and this is also vital — Florida State will only get better.

The most important thing of all, of course, is that the Seminoles are the A.C.C. Atlantic champions. This is vital; there was no Tennessee-style mandate from the F.S.U. administration stating that anything less would be a disappointment, but it was a strong first step for the program to take in Fisher’s first season.

Speaking of Fisher: Frank Beamer is my choice for A.C.C. Coach of the Year, but Fisher’s a close second. This is not because his team has necessarily overachieved. If anything, the Seminoles have finally lived up to expectations — talent-wise, at least. This team, while young, is surely as talented as any team in the conference.

It’s that the Seminoles have lived up to expectations that’s important. This is a team — a program — that was nothing if not absolutely frustrating on a yearly basis from 2004-9. Those Bowden-led teams had the talent yet lacked a certain mental fortitude, the type of toughness that allows a team to, say, overcome back-to-back narrow losses in conference play to end the season on a three-game winning steak.

That wasn’t happening under Bowden; it happened under Fisher in 2010. Not that all the credit falls to the rookie coach, of course: Stoops is certainly part of the equation. Outside of that ugly showing in Norman in September, as well as those successive defeats to North Carolina and N.C. State, the F.S.U. defense has been terrific.

And this wasn’t a defense that drew acclaim in August, when significant questions were raised about the viability of a group that was young up front, lacked weapons at linebacker and seemed thin in the secondary. All those questions remain; nevertheless, Stoops was able to cobble together an attack that finished 39th nationally in total defense and ninth in scoring, one year after finishing 108th and 84th in those same categories, respectively.

Remind me again why Stoops wasn’t even a nominee for the 2010 Broyles Award — given to the nation’s finest assistant coach — let alone a finalist?

Water under the bridge. Those who have seen Florida State’s one-year defensive turnaround can attest to the job Stoops has done cleaning up the mess left by Mickey Andrews, Chuck Amato and the handful of F.S.U. assistants no longer part of the program.

As noted, it hasn’t been all about the offense, which has been somewhat average, though also due to injuries; nor is it about the defense. It’s all about an improved mindset, one that has this program eying a fertile future under a new coaching regime.

This is merely the first step, it seems: an Atlantic division title is nice, and there remains the chance that F.S.U. knocks off Virginia Tech to win the conference crown outright. Regardless of what happens on Saturday, it’s clear that better days lie ahead: the roster is young, the coaching staff still new, and there’s reason to believe 2011 will be even better than this fall.

Again, first things first. Win the Atlantic and play for the A.C.C. title. Mission accomplished in 2010. On Fisher’s to-do list, it’s merely the first of several tasks to come.

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  1. DaU!!!!!!!!!!! says:

    Even though I love Miami its great to finally see FSU back on its feet. I just hope they have continued success and are not a one hit wonder…..Now only if Florida can schedule the U on a regular basis so they can get their butt handed to them by both Miami and FSU

  2. Paul, I know you know this, but others might not.

    Always feel compelled to note that Mickey Andrews didn’t want to stick around after the unspeakable family tragedy he suffered with his son. Yes, it was a mess when he left, but it wasn’t HIS mess as much as it was the mess left by incompetent or insubordinate assistants thrust upon him by Bobby.


    Great Read

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