Florida State Football: Keys to a Repeat in 2014
Florida State have been national champions for barely a week now.
So, of course, it's only natural that we start talking about their potential for a repeat next year.
The Seminoles are expected by many to be the preseason No. 1 going into next year, so they'll have a chance to repeat a feat that only FSU has accomplished: go wire-to-wire, staying undefeated and No. 1 the whole season, all the way down to the championship game.
With the addition of the College Football Playoff, it will be harder, but here's what Florida State must do to repeat in '14.
Manage a Much More Difficult Schedule
One of the biggest knocks against Florida State this last season was their schedule, which to the SEC elitists was perceived to be weak. But, much to their pleasure, FSU's slate of opponents is kicked up a couple of notches in 2014.
The Seminoles start off the year against Oklahoma State in a neutral site game in the Dallas Cowboys' stadium, and then play Clemson, Florida and Notre Dame at home while also traveling on the road to face off against Louisville and Miami.
The new championship format may allow for FSU to slip up in one game if it's early in the season, but the Seminoles' best bet is to match the 2013 team and go undefeated.
Replace the Losses
Florida State will be replacing a multitude of key players, some who are graduating and some who are leaving early.
The biggest names include wide receivers Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin, running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., linebacker Telvin Smith, defensive end Christian Jones, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, defensive back Lamarcus Joyner and center Bryan Stork.
Jimbo Fisher has created a program which is set to reload, not rebuild, and the biggest test of the program will be replacing the talent lost from the 2014 and '15 classes. Big recruiting classes year in and year out, in addition to talent all around, will ease the pain from the talent gone,
Be Prepared to Win Three Straight Postseason Games in a Row
From now on, if a team wants to be crowned national champion, they'll have to grind it out in three postseason, neutral-site games.
Florida State will have to play first in the ACC Championship, then a semifinal in either the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl and finally, the championship game in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
A grind like that will take utmost preparation from both players and coaches, since it's very likely that none of those three teams will play the same kind of football.
There will be week-long breaks in between each matchup, but layovers allow the possibility of rust creeping in. Winning a title is no longer beat your conference championship game opponent and then have a month to prepare for your bowl opponent. You've got to earn it now.
Stay Hungry, Stay Passionate
There are plenty of teams that won a championship and go on to become satisfied. They figure if they already won it once, then it should be a piece of cake winning it all again.
Nick Saban has done a fantastic job of instilling the opposite mindset into his Alabama teams, who never believe that their work is quite done. Florida State needs to employ this same approach; now that you're a champion, go out and prove it again.
This can have a backlash as evidenced by the 2009 Florida Gators.
Tim Tebow has said that his team, the defending 2008 champs, were more stressed about staying undefeated than actually winning games, and it all came to fruition when they were blown out by (who else?) Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
Jimbo Fisher has proven himself to be one of the top coaches in the country, and maintaining the right team mindset will be crucial in a repeat.
Dominate Week in and Week out
Want to be the best? Play like the best.
There is no other team in college football that dominated like Florida State in 2013.
Throw out schedule complaints if you want, but the saying goes, "it's not who you play, it's how you play," and the fact of the matter is, nobody matched Florida State's level of play in their championship year.
It's a tall order to ask a team to somehow match or be better than the team that won a national title, went undefeated, had a Heisman trophy winner and set the NCAA record for points scored in a season, but this will be key to a Florida State repeat.
Dominating opponents adds confidence, as well as showing that a team is truly playing and growing together. Struggling to put opponents away isn't a sign of a championship team. Obliterating anybody who crosses your path? That might be one.
This is all easier said than done, and in the next eight months before football season starts, anything can go wrong (or right) for the 'Noles. But if FSU wants to add a fourth trophy in Tallahassee, accomplishing these goals would be a good place to start.
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