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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

Next Up for Savannah State: The Seminoles

Savannah State lost to Oklahoma State by 84 points. It could have been worse. Head coach Steve Davenport called Mike Gundy’s coaching style over the game’s final three quarters a “tremendously classy act.” “[T]his thing could have gotten even worse… I am graciously appreciative of the way he handled the game.” Savannah State lost by 84 points, but as even Davenport admitted in his postgame press conference, it could have been worse – the Cowboys could have hit triple-digits with ease, could have buried the Tigers, could have actually hurt the Tigers had Gundy kept his team’s foot down for the entirety of four quarters. Gundy was kind.

The early line has Florida State, the Tigers’ opponent on Saturday, as 64.5-point favorites; the Cowboys were 69-point favorites, or thereabouts. How is Davenport approaching Saturday?

“Our number one goal was not to win either of these games. Our goal is to win the conference championship. We have got another preseason game in Tallahassee next week then our season gets underway. That is where we are.”

In a sense, this is a preseason game – for Florida State. The Seminoles, like an N.F.L. team in August, will play their starters for a quarter before turning the game over to backups, substitutes and a slew of former walk-ons. And like Gundy, Jimbo Fisher will do what he can to keep the final score from getting out of hand.

One quick point: Florida State didn’t schedule Savannah State years in advance, but rather as a quick-fix for a hole in this year’s schedule. In February, West Virginia backed out of a planned meeting at what F.S.U. athletic director Randy Spetman called the “11th hour.”

That “really put us in a very difficult situation,” said Spetman. “We contacted every B.C.S. school that had an opening in hopes of replacing [West Virginia] with a B.C.S. opponent, but none of those few schools could make it work either because of our dates or theirs.”

“It is important for our fans to realize that the schools we contacted during the search did not pass on the 2012 game out of concern for the competition, but because of challenges they faced with schedule changes this late in the year.”

So here comes Savannah State, which for the low, low price of $475,000 will suffer another pummeling of historic proportions. No, don’t blame Florida State – by Spetman’s account, the university did all it could to land another F.B.S. opponent. And don’t place all the fault on West Virginia, which can’t be blamed for looking to get out of a major non-conference test during its first season as part of the Big 12.

I’m past playing the blame game. What’s more interesting: How can Florida State make things as painless as possible while still putting together a large enough margin of victory as to not jeopardize its place in both polls? Talk about a balancing act.

It’s fairly simple: just run the football. (Oklahoma State did the same, though this fact was lost behind the final score.) In doing so, F.S.U. can kill two birds with one stone. For starters, the Seminoles will ensure that Savannah State can escape with at least a touch of dignity intact – and while the opposition’s dignity always comes a distant second to victory, it’s certainly something that this staff is keeping under some form of consideration.

Secondly, Fisher and his staff know that they must develop a consistent running game before opening A.C.C. play against Wake Forest and Clemson. In last week’s victory over Murray State, the Seminoles rushed for 285 yards and 7 touchdowns on 42 carries. Fisher wants more of the same against Savannah State, even if the game is no more than a glorified scrimmage – I’d actually wager that there are many non-football-playing students at F.S.U. who could play for Davenport and the Tigers.

You know what my worry is? That there are players on Savannah State’s roster who could get hurt. I’m serious: Florida State is so good, so fast and so strong as to actually put players on the Tigers’ roster in jeopardy. For example: Savannah State will start four freshmen offensive linemen against the best defensive front in college football. Cross your fingers.

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  1. Dave says:

    I gave the ‘Noles grief on their countdown post page about scheduling 2 x FCS cupcakes, but I can admit when I’m wrong – after reading the above, this obviously wasn’t planned.

    Still don’t think there should be ANY FBS-FCS games, but that’s a topic for another time…

  2. BobJ says:

    This happens more than we hear about. The Ducks played F.C.S. teams recently when scheduled opponents backed out late. They have an easy non-conference schedule this year because those are the only teams they could get to play them.

    There was a time when Oregon was a team the big boys signed up so they could win 63-0. We know how it feels.

  3. Travis says:

    So even sans Jenkins you still feel FSU has the best Defensive Front in College football? I would agree. I just wanted to know your thoughts on it in comparison to say LSU or UT.

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