Though many folks will point to quarterback EJ Manuel’s inconsistent play as the reason why Florida State didn’t triumphantly return to the BCS in 2011, what if the truth is it had nothing to do with throwing the ball?
Yes, what if the common thread of the Seminoles' four losses last season, and their reason for hope this year, is all about running the ball?
In all but one of Florida State’s 2011 defeats, the ‘Noles rushed for 110 yards or less and in two they racked up less than 30 rushing yards.
The numbers are scary; 27 rushing yards in the loss to Oklahoma, 29 vs. Clemson, 110 vs. Wake Forest and then the high-water mark of 186 rushing yards in the defeat to Virginia.
The net result is a rushing unit that finished the year ranked No. 104 nationally in yards per game.
And remember, this is a team that had all the other components in place: a scoring defense that stifled opponents to the tune of a No. 4 national ranking and a passing attack that, though not stellar, still managed a No. 39 ranking in yards per game.
Speed forward to 2012 and it makes sense why many statistical-minded preseason prognosticators pointed to Florida State’s key to actually winning the ACC as running the ball.
So, are the Seminoles on track?
Well, if Saturday’s 52-0 win over Wake Forest is any indicator of what’s to come, then yes, they are.
Florida State racked up 385 yards of rushing in their blitz of the Demon Deacons, and 197 of those yards came via senior running back Chris Thompson.
Where was Thompson last season?
Well, after rushing for over 800 yards as a sophomore in 2010, he went out early in the season with a back injury and managed only 83 yards and one score as a junior, a lapse he’s more than making up for in 2012.
Thompson zipped along for almost 200 yards and two touchdowns on only nine carries against Wake Forest in what was his first full game of action since the injury almost one year ago.
So, Thompson is back and so apparently is Florida State’s running game that has been in hiding for a full year, which can’t be anything but a very good thing for the Seminoles and their desire to crash the national championship party.
The million-dollar question regarding Florida State is fairly straightforward: If they can keep playing stifling, no-nonsense defense, throw the ball somewhat effectively and run the ball efficiently, can they do in 2012 what they were supposed to do in 2011?
Well, even though they haven’t necessarily played a blistering schedule thus far (two FCS teams and Wake Forest), the ‘Noles have only given up three total points, quarterback EJ Manuel has performed decently and they’ve begun a running renaissance.
You have to figure that if Florida State can keep firing on all three of these cylinders, all season long (especially given their schedule), then they may be the team with the best shot to knock the SEC off their BCS throne.