Florida State Needs to Move Past a Legacy of Late-Season Failures

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersFeatured Columnist IVJune 24, 2016

Florida State kicks off the back end of its schedule with a date at home against No. 7 Miami to begin the home stretch of the season.

In recent seasons, November has been a thorn in the Seminoles' side, but with leadership and focus, this 2013 team should power through the late-season woes that plagued recent Florida State teams.

In the last six seasons, Florida State is a combined 14-10 in November with losses ranging from expected beatings by Florida teams that were just better to an in-Tallahassee shocker to Virginia in 2011. To be fair to Florida State, the 2008 and 2009 Florida teams were monsters that finished those seasons with a combined 23-1 regular-season record.

Simply put, the 2007-2009 Florida State Seminoles were just not very good football teams. Over three seasons, including bowl games, the 'Noles went 23-16 to finish the final three years of the Bobby Bowden era.

With that in mind, the focus has to be on the team's 8-3 record in November in the Jimbo Fisher era. One game a year in November is what the Seminoles have dropped while Fisher has been at the helm, and 2013 is the year the team looks to end the trend that limits its ceiling.

That means eliminating losses like the 2010 North Carolina game, where T.J. Yates threw for 439 yards and three touchdowns while UNC had no semblance of a running game.

That means avoiding losses like the one against a one-dimensional No. 4 Florida team in 2012 during which FSU surrendered a 20-13 lead in the fourth quarter by allowing the Gators to score 24 unanswered points.

That means, most certainly, not allowing the 14-13 defeat at the hands of a less talented Virginia team.

Entering November with a 7-0 record, the No. 3-ranked Seminoles are looking to buck negative trends this season. Florida State has already avoided the October losses that hurt the previous campaign. Now, with Miami coming to town, Florida State is poised to push through November undefeated.

Many are still waiting on a Seminoles collapse and will go disappointed this season. Much like "Clemsoning" has been rendered an archaic term thanks to the 2012 and current 2013 campaigns, the Florida State Seminoles are going to continue to silence the critics.

In an interview with Patrik Nohe of the Miami Herald, defensive back Lamarcus Joyner explained why this year's squad is different:

I think since my four years here this is the first brotherhood I’ve been a part of to embrace that challenge. You look at last year, you have a bunch of talent. But you have talent with no belief. We lacked leadership. No one embraced leadership.

This year, the younger guys are looking up to the older guys. [And] you have a young guy like Jameis Winston. Most of the time you’re appointed a time for leadership. He’s a natural leader. We respect that, so we follow his lead.

Leadership is the difference with this Florida State team. It is not just better than the teams it will face this November; it has bought into leadership roles and wants to win football games.

More importantly, the staff has empowered the team leaders, which helps the group run like a well-oiled machine.

This is not about Florida State being back at the top. Rather, it is Florida State just being at the top. These are not shades of Bobby Bowden's elite teams. This is something new, something Fisher has been building toward—and his plan is slowly coming to fruition.

November will not be the bugaboo that sinks the Seminoles, as it has in years past. Not because of talent, but because of Joyner, linebacker Telvin Smith, center Bryan Stork and, yes, quarterback Jameis Winston.

When a team is as talented as Florida State has been recently, the difference between winning and losing comes down to preparation and execution. The better a team prepares, the better it executes. A big part of prep is accountability, making sure that individual players do what they must to ensure that they do not let their teammates down.

Leadership and accountability go hand in hand. Young players work to be accountable to the leaders at their position groups—not just to the coaches on game days or in practice.

Thanks to leadership, Florida State will continue its push to remain in the BCS national championship race. That includes powering into November and looking to dismantle the Miami Hurricanes, a team, as ESPN's Chris Fowler points out, that is a big time underdogs in this contest. 

A rival, and an underdog, that has major aspirations of its own.


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