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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

Ten Years Later, Catching Up With O.U.

These two teams met in early 2001 with even more on the line, but have since gone their separate ways, one up, one down. Oklahoma won that night, humbling the defending national champs, 13-2, and starting a decade-long run under Bob Stoops that is virtually unparalleled in the program’s long and illustrious history. Florida State didn’t drop off the map, not immediately, but beginning in 2004 experienced a six-year dip that didn’t end until Bobby Bowden’s retirement following the 2009 season. Is Florida State already back? That’s still unknown — ask again on Sunday. But the fact that F.S.U. hosts Oklahoma with national title aspirations on the line does suggest that the Seminoles, after a prolonged absence from center stage, are once again the Seminoles.

You know those Seminoles: big, nasty, mean and confident. Especially confident. It was confidence that played a large part in propelling F.S.U. to 14 straight top five finishes from 1987-2000 — a streak that ended the year after losing to Oklahoma — though talent and coaching certainly played a role. The talent level is back, if it ever left. The coaching is also back, and it’s clear that top-notch coaching left the building in the mid-2000s.

Jimbo Fisher has been outstanding. And his support staff, his group of assistants, have done tremendous work both on the field and on the recruiting trail; in the latter capacity, F.S.U. has reeled in successive classes that have retooled the play on both sides of the line, which has been a key development in the program’s recent resurgence.

All of that work culminates on Saturday evening: we’ll know, for all intents and purposes, whether F.S.U. is really back by the end of 60 minutes. A win pushes the Seminoles not just into the top three nationally — it might put the Seminoles No. 1 — but also places them in the driver’s seat for a spot in the B.C.S. title game. And that’s what Florida State plays for, right?

Just as a win vaults them up, a loss knocks the Seminoles out of the national conversation. Not out of the A.C.C. hunt, of course, but earning a berth in the national championship game with a single loss seems like a long shot. The A.C.C. is to thank and to blame: in one way, the fact that no team seems able — through the season’s small sample size — of playing with F.S.U. paves the way for the Seminoles to run the table.

In another way, there’s no chance that the schedule provides an opportunity for F.S.U. to turn 11-1, 12-1 with an A.C.C. championship, into a spot against an Alabama on Jan. 9 in New Orleans. And the same can be said for Oklahoma, though I think the Sooners are a more viable one-loss choice than the Seminoles.

You could excuse either team for not looking ahead. This is major college football at its finest: two great teams in 2011, two premier programs in the big picture, one chance at making a claim to being the best team in the country. It doesn’t get much better than this, which is why this game, on a weekend full of great games, is our prime time event — and we’ll all be watching.

Is Florida State ready for this? It wasn’t a year ago, losing by 30 points, but that game was in Norman, not Tallahassee. And that was year one under Fisher — and yes, he was in place as the F.S.U. offensive coordinator, but 2010 was his first season after cleaning house. What we’re looking at on Saturday is a game under the lights in Doak Campbell Stadium featuring a far better F.S.U. team. Oklahoma? More of the same: outstanding.

The Sooners haven’t gone anywhere since Jan. 3, 2001. And they’re not going anywhere anytime soon; the players have come and gone, especially at quarterback, but Stoops has built a machine in Norman. Florida State, on the other hand, spent some time in the doghouse after losing the B.C.S. title game to Oklahoma.

Are the Seminoles back? You know, really back? I don’t think Saturday’s result necessarily answers that question. But the final score sends a message in either direction: either F.S.U. is back or there’s still work to be done. Even with a loss, you have to think that Seminoles will get there eventually.

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  1. Lee says:


    FSU is the most overrated team in the country. Their offense doesn’t have a solid running game and their QB is unproven.

    OU 35-FSU 17

    FSU loses 3 times this year.

  2. Kevin says:

    They ran the ball pretty well last year with the same backfield and offensive line. 3 Rushers in the top 20 of the ACC, no other school did that. What’s not solid about depth + production? Agreed that it is not known how great EJ will be, yet.

  3. Mark says:

    If LSU wins tonight they will have defeated 2 ranked teams away from Tiger Stadium in their first 3 games, including a top 5 team. If FSU wins they will have defeated 2 nothing teams and 1 top 5 team at home. I don’t get the sentiment that this win could put them at #1 while LSU would have the best resume of any contender and can’t get any love.


  4. Washington Irving says:

    I think if you’re looking at the first two games as any indicator of what FSU’s offense is, you’re fooling yourself. Manuel has not run at all. When he does, it adds a new dimension to that offense.

    The last time we saw FSU in a contested game, they put up 250+ rushing yards and effectively contained the SEC’s top WR and RB.

    Now, I think it’s unfair to make this single game a referendum on the state of Florida State football. A win and they’re right in the national championship picture, sure. But a competitive game is what they really need. A close loss vs. OU followed by a run to the Orange Bowl is a successful season.

    Win or lose, I think it’s clear that Fisher has altered the momentum of the program. FSU first must prove that it is again the class of the ACC. I think they lose on Saturday but reach the ACCCG comfortably. The FSU-VT rematch in Charlotte will be a more direct reflection of the gains the program has made in one year.

  5. Washington Irving says:

    Sorry, 218 rushing yards.

  6. Lee says:

    They struggled against legit defenses. Versus UF they had 221 passing yards(not bad) but only 69 rushing yards. UF had 4 silly turnovers that turned a competitive game into a romp. 290 yards of offense fellas…not exactly killing it.

    Against USC…308 total yards and gave up 414. Careless turnovers cost USC the game.

    OU had 487 yards(let off the gas) and only allowed FSU 345 yards while playing soft.

    Against Clemson….gave up 391, gained 307.

    Against VT…gave up 442, only gained 341.

    My point is that yes FSU was vastly improved from the Bowden years but they were and are no where near top 10 material. They have a ways to go. They went 2-3 against the top 5 teams they played last year. They won two because the other teams gave the game away(to their credit they took advantage) but when the other 3 didn’t self destruct they got hammered. They are no where near to being back to the 90′s version of FSU. They are a legit top 20 team..somewhere around 14-15 in my opinion. In a few years…Muschamp versus Fisher is going to be for all the marbles.

    They will be very solid this year but have holes. The media morons over hype all of the major teams and blindly overlook any flaws…i.e. Alabama. They are INVINCIBLE because ……we say so. Don’t get caught up in the FSU hype.

  7. Washington Irving says:

    Those silly/careless turnovers were forced. I agree that the offense didn’t produce as much as it should have. However, in those 5 games you mentioned, FSU went 3-2. The Florida game in particular, while the game was still “competitive”, as you say, FSU gained 282 yards on 44 plays – 6.4 per play. 7 drives, 4 touchdowns, a FG and two punts. UF ran 43 plays for 206 yards – 4.8 per play. They scored on their first drive and then their next 7 drives ended with four turnovers and three punts. By that point the game was over and it was time to protect the lead.

    Admittedly, the 2010 team had glaring weaknesses. Little depth on the DL and an inexperienced secondary certainly showed against OU and, to a lesser but still significant extent, VT and UNC. And for much of the year the offense was limited by Ponder’s injuries. However, Manuel filled in well at times and was the reason they won the bowl.

    Last year was a transition. Lots of new faces learning a new system on defense. But last year they acquitted themselves fairly well save for the two games in which they were beaten by better teams (OU and VT).

    There’s enough talent on this team to justify a top 10 ranking. I think 5 may be high, but 8-10 is about right. When you look at the other teams around there, it’s easy to find flaws. But from where this program was in 2009, it’s remarkable that we’re even having this discussion today.

  8. Lee says:

    Two of those turnovers had absolutely nothing to do with FSU. Rainey let the ball slip out of his hands as he juked the defender out of his shoes(kind of funny, i think he juked himself out and lost the ball as a result)and the fake punt call by Meyer was the dumbiest move of his career. Those two screw ups lead to a huge deficit. UF went up and down the field running the ball. Addazio was just the world’s worst off cordinator so the redzone off was terrible.

    Those two teams were actually evenly matched..as far as talent goes. Great example of what happens when you play sloppy on the road against a solid team.

  9. SeminoleDan says:

    You really need to look at yards per play, not total yards. It’s hard to rack up significant yardage on Offense when your return game consistently puts you around the 40-50 yard line.

    Excellent job Irving.

  10. Lee says:

    Good point,

    UF returned the ball past the 40 yard line 3 or 4 times. So they didn’t have to go too far either.

  11. Washington Irving says:

    This is where the concept of available or possible yards comes into play. If a team gets the ball on its own 20, it has 80 yards available. On its own 45, 55 available yards. And so on.

    On its first drive, UF got the ball on FSU’s 32. This drive resulted in their only TD, so they gained 100% of the available yards. Their next 7 drives began on their own 4, 7, 19, 20, 20, 24, and 40, respectively. On their 8 drives, UF gained only 34% of the possible yards.

    Conversely, FSU gained 71% of the available yards on the first 7 drives of the game. Again, after that it was 31-7 and the game was out of reach.

  12. Dre says:

    Pretty sure Greg Reid kicked the ball out of Rainey’s hands.

  13. Russ says:

    Why are you bringing your inferiority complex here to troll and obsess about FSU getting some well-deserved national love while your beloved Gators get overshadowed? Myerberg is considered one of the top analysts in his field, you are not, so quit whining about his assessment.

    Don’t assume your Gators will be around to challenge a surging FSU as they resume their rightful place at the top of the college football world. Muschamp is unproven and his not the same caliber head coach, motivator or recruiter that Jimbo Fisher is. Tebow is gone and so is UF’s 15 minutes of fame. Back to the SEC cellar with Vanderbilt where you two were for the first 85 years of conference play as the only schools not to win a conference title.

    …and oh, yeah, you’re wrong about Rainey fumbling due to “juking” his FSU defender. Video evidence shows that it was a nifty forced fumble made by Greg Reid.

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