Ten Years Later, Catching Up With O.U.
By Paul Myerberg // Sep 15, 2011
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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Tags: Bob Stoops, Florida State, Jimbo Fisher, Oklahoma
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