Yet another year of college football is coming to a close in Tallahassee, and yet another year their fans are left wanting more.
It seems that the same internal dialogue justifying Florida State’s struggles has plagued their supporters for the last five seasons or so.
The Seminoles came into the 2012 season with national championship aspirations, but their title chances took a hit before the ‘Noles ever played a down.
West Virginia bailed on the September 8 matchup in Tallahassee shortly after their Orange Bowl victory over Clemson last season. They cited their transition from the Big East to the Big 12 as the motive for the cancellation.
While some Florida State fans couldn’t hold back their jubilation as they saw the only major out-of-conference competition willfully take itself off the schedule, this would eventually prove to be a huge blow for Jimbo Fisher’s squad.
Many outside of Tallahassee have viewed the ‘Noles’ 2012 slate as being too easy of a road to Miami. A weak ACC schedule was supposed to be boosted somewhat by the matchup against the Mountaineers and the yearly in-state rivalry game against Florida, but with West Virginia paying the $500,000 fee and bolting, not much was left to substantiate FSU’s claim to a title-worthy schedule.
Couple the absence of tough games from the Noles’ schedule with a loss to an NC State team they were supposed to breeze past, and title hopes were eradicated in north Florida.
“Alright, so the national championship isn’t going to happen now. But maybe we can get to that other BCS game in Miami and try to redeem ourselves a little.”
The ‘Noles put their loss to the Wolfpack behind them, and Fisher tried to get them focused on the ACC championship. Per the Orlando Sentinel:
I don't dwell on things like that. NC State doesn't mean anything to me. That's over with. You learn your lesson and you move on. It's about who you are. If negativity motivates you, we've got a problem. If you're not mature enough to understand that's how you've got to play, then we're not the team that we need to be.
Florida State got through the rest of their conference schedule, blowing out Boston College and Duke, beating up on rival Miami in South Beach and sneaking a win by Virginia Tech on a Thursday night game in prime time, where they've historically struggled. The again-Top 10 Seminoles were building their reputation with voters back up, even if they couldn’t impress the computers.
And then the Gators came to town.
The lone SEC defense the Seminoles faced thoroughly confused an offense that had faced middle-of-the-road defensive squads all year. The Gators game-planned extremely well and the ‘Noles simply were not prepared. The Gators scored 24 straight points in the second half against a worn-out defense that was injured, stretched thin and gassed.
Relinquishing a fourth-quarter lead against your archrival is not the way to captivate voters and earn national respect.
“Alright, the Gators got us. We can still win the ACC and get to the Orange Bowl, though.”
The Seminoles left their own Doak Campbell Stadium with their tail in between their legs but were looking forward to a chance to show ACC dominance in the Dr. Pepper ACC Championship Game.
It turned out to be a laugher. A 6-6 Georgia Tech team subbed in for Miami, who self-inflicted a postseason ban. Georgia Tech was just happy to be there—they knew they had no chance at winning.
But they almost did.
The Jackets stumbled out of the gate, and the ‘Noles jumped to a 21-6 halftime lead. The Seminoles looked to be cruising to the Orange Bowl.
Georgia Tech held Florida State scoreless in the second half, however, and almost sneaked out of Charlotte with a BCS Bowl berth as a 7-6 team. Instead, the 6-7 Jackets will face USC—another disappointing team—in the Sun Bowl as the only team in a bowl game with a losing record.
So since September, the ‘Noles had gone from national title hopefuls to barely scraping by a .500 team on their way to becoming conference championships.
“Whew! At least we’re back in the BCS. Maybe we’ll play another great team and have another shot to prove ourselves.”
Wrong. So, so wrong.
After a season full of negative commentary about the ‘Noles’ inability to wade through their more-than-reasonable schedule, the newly-revitalized team was told they would be facing…Northern Illinois?
The MAC acquired their first-ever BCS bowl berth when the Huskies sneaked into the Top 16 of the final BCS standings, ahead of the Big 10 winners, Wisconsin—the first time a non-AQ school has ever finished ahead of an AQ conference winner.
It only fits that Florida State gets stuck playing the team who made it in solely on a technicality for their season finale. With the roundabout way that NIU made it to the Orange Bowl, it’ll be easy for the ‘Noles to overlook the Huskies.
They had better be careful, though. NIU boasts some serious offensive firepower behind a potential candidate for the 2013 Heisman in quarterback Jordan Lynch, who led the nation in both rushing and total yards.
Yes, the ‘Noles made it to Miami. Not in their preferred bowl game, but in a BCS game nonetheless. Even with a win in the Orange Bowl, however, Florida State fans will be thinking about what could have been.
Those outside of Tallahassee will see this year’s campaign as a step in the right direction—and to a certain degree it has been.
But to those who say, “Maybe next year!”—we Florida State fans will tell you that we have been saying that for years.
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