The Importance of Florida State
By Paul Myerberg // Aug 3, 2011
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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Tags: Florida, Florida State, Jameis Winston, Jimbo Fisher, Miami (Fla.), Urban Meyer, Will Muschamp
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