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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

The Importance of Florida State

Let’s get this out of the way: Florida’s not playing for a national title in 2011. Florida’s always aiming for a national title, meaning the Gators enter every season with gargantuan expectations, but this specific team, in Will Muschamp’s first season, doesn’t have what it take to run through the SEC without a blemish or two. Only two conference losses would be wonderful, in fact, and would leave the Gators at 9-2 entering the season finale at Florida State. And here’s where it gets interesting, and here’s where Muschamp might face the most important test of his debut season.

The Sunshine State is cyclical: Miami first, then Florida State, then Florida, then Miami again, then Florida again — it’s been impossible for one program to grab a permanent stranglehold on in-state supremacy, though each has experienced extended periods at the top. And the team that stands atop Florida often stands atop the nation at large, providing greater impetus to outplay, out-recruit, out-work and out-coach your rivals to the state crown.

It’s early in the process, but F.S.U. leads the way in 2011. It’s early in the process because the Seminoles have showed much but proven little, winning 10 games last fall but still losing to Virginia Tech in the A.C.C. title game. F.S.U. and Jimbo Fisher are still leading the way, thanks to the promise of something great: the promise of future dominance, in the state and the A.C.C., F.B.S., B.C.S. — all your meaningful acronyms.

We see this on the field, where the Seminoles are the closest of the trio to being a finished product. Last fall, F.S.U. went into Miami and took down the then-No. 13 Hurricanes, 45-17; the Seminoles did a similar number on the Gators nearly 50 days later. For Florida, that loss was the nadir in a year full of low points.

And here’s where Muschamp comes in: the SEC might come first, but Florida’s return to the top of the F.B.S. goes through Florida State. It does for two reasons, with the most practical being that the Gators need to beat the Seminoles each November to physically remain in the national title hunt. I mean, U.F. may be 11-0 and atop the B.C.S. in late November, but a loss to F.S.U. means 11-1 and the Orange Bowl, not the national title game.

But there’s also the idea that you can’t control your title hopes without first controlling the state — in recruiting, for starters. And you impress the top tier of the state’s recruiting bed by winning the meaningful in-state battles, by taking down the Hurricanes and the Seminoles with the state watching. It’s amazing to see how quickly Fisher has reversed Florida’s waterfall of riches on the recruiting trail; just today, F.S.U. landed a verbal commitment from five-star quarterback Jameis Winston, a pro-style slinger who would have fit perfectly in Florida’s new offensive system, by all accounts.

Winston’s from Alabama, not Florida, but the point remains: Florida needs a win over F.S.U. to get back in the hunt for the nation’s best, who chose the Gators en masse under Urban Meyer. Muschamp needs a win to validate, at least in part, his selection as Meyer’s successor. And the program needs a win in 2011, 2012 and beyond if the Gators plan on reclaiming their perch atop college football. Just something to consider.

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  1. bowman says:

    …all this with both USF and UCF working hard to earn a seat at the “big people’s table” when time comes for the holiday dinners….

  2. Dan Fulton says:

    Florida State back on top in Florida. It’s been awhile so I am enjoying all the FSU love the media and blogs are giving the noles. Jimbo Fisher is doing an excellent job as coach and at recruiting. They might be on top for awhile.

  3. DaUUU!!!!!!!!!!! says:

    Florida State is the lesser of two evils when it comes to FSU and those Gaytors. Hopefully FSU can bring back credibility to the ACC.

  4. Gotham Gator says:

    This article rings true. It’s a big game – huge for recruiting. In 2005, Florida’s pasting of FSU 34-7 led to an avalanche of recruits choosing the Gators, most of them in the locker room right after the game – and some of those guys were instrumental in Florida’s 2006 national title run.

    It’s always a big game, but the stakes are highest when the perceived balance of power is shifting. I wouldn’t say that FSU is on top yet. Their win last year came after 6 straight losses to Florida – but this year’s game will go a long way to establishing some perceptions in the state about the direction of each program.

  5. Pete says:

    Oh come on now, one year. Let’s not get carried away with this whole “on the top” thing. This isn’t the NFL (yet) where everything changes from one season to the next. Miami will be recovering from Hurricane Randy for a while and the Nolies have to go to Gainesville where they are going to be deafened by their biggest (and drunkest) crowd of the year.

  6. SeminoleDan says:

    So true. Looking at the 2011 & 2012 classes, you can’t deny that FSU leads UF & UM is far, far behind. I don’t think the Noles will pull off the 6-year dominance the Gators held while Bobby was in his final years, but this year, now… it’s all FSU. (until proven otherwise)

  7. UberD says:

    please FSU, just beat the Sooners. please!

  8. Huxley Hofmann says:

    “I mean, U.F. may be 11-0 and atop the B.C.S. in late November, but a loss to F.S.U. means 11-1 and the Orange Bowl, not the national title game.”

    You are a little off here…

    If UF is sitting at 11-0 heading into the SpearChucker game that means it has already punched it’s ticket to ATL…

    A loss to a top ten Trailerhassee State College and a win in the SECCG boosts UF right back into MNC picture and at the least directs them to the Sugar…

    The ONLY thing that would put them into an at large BCS bid would be back to back losses to a highly ranked SpearChucker squad and the SECCG…And even then the only way they play in Davie is IF the SEC Champ is playing in the BCS CG…

    The only thing in your scenario that would keep UF out of the MNC picture with a SECCG victory is if that SpearChucker team was ranked 13 or lower…

    TSC needs UF more than UF needs TSC…and TSC needs to beat a highly ranked UF to go along with a perfect regular season record and an ACC CG win to get their shot at a MNC chance in today’s BCS as they’ll miss out with undefeated champs from the SEC, PAC, Big Twenleven or Big 12 Minus Two…

  9. Hopefully Muschamp can cry and whine as much as I did and back his way into a NC Game after getting his butt kicked by the Seminoles.

    Or maybe he will cry like Urbie did on National TV after getting ripped and torn by Bama. Then He could back his way into 2 NC Games with a legendary speach by his penis-snipping childern in the Philippines QB.

    Have we ever gone undefeated? No, but we got 3 rings!

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