By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
I’ve been a Florida State fan probably as far back as 1993, but my love for the Seminoles didn’t truly grow until I became one, attending FSU from 2002-2006. While growing up in the 90s, the Seminoles were the team to beat.
Two national championships (1993 and 1999), two Heisman Trophy Winners (QBs Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke), a number of All-Americans, NFL first round draft picks, top five finishes, and other accolades. The 1999 team even became the first team to go wire to wire as the number one team in the country.
Following the 2001 National Championship loss to Oklahoma, the wheels started coming off somewhere. Whether its an improvement in recruiting from the rest of the ACC, or just resting on their laurels by Florida State, they were a shell of their former selves.
I went to Florida State from 2002-2006, seeing the Chris Rix, Wyatt Sexton, and Drew Weatherford era’s, surrounded by the offensive leadership of Jeff Bowden, Coach Bobby Bowden’s son.
Granted, by the time I left, FSU had achieved some milestones worthy of praise for other universities. Two BCS bowl games (Sugar, 2002, Orange, 2005), Three ACC Championships (2002, 2003, 2005), and a host of All-Americans and NFL Draft picks. Since 2005, FSU started to fall under the weight of their own achievements.
Consecutive 7-6 seasons in 2006 and 2007 brought more questions than answers, but in 2008, after more ups and downs, it looked like the Seminoles had finally turned the corner, thanks to a dominanting team performance in the Champs Sports Bowl against Wisconsin, a 42-13 win that cemented a 9-4 season. They weren’t the Seminoles of old, but were instead making a name as a new brand of Florida State.
2009 brought renewed hope and aspirations for this young squad. A returning QB (Christian Ponder), with all of his lineman returning. There is a coaching staff, still led by Bobby Bowden, but designed around Head-Coach-In-Waiting Jimbo Fisher, who finally had the pieces together to form a competitive offense.
It also saw Mickey Andrew’s defense, though young, with enough talent to hold their own. Critics and pundits alike picked FSU to represent the ACC Atlantic in the ACC Championship, and people finally thought this team would get back on track to the FSU of old.
So far, as we round the one-fourth mark of the NCAA Season, FSU still looks like a team struggling to find its identity. A team reminiscent of the 2006-2008 era, who would win the hard ones, but fall flat against games they were expected to destroy.
When I look at the FSU vs. Jacksonville State matchup, a cupcake game designed to help FSU after a tough ACC matchup against Miami. Already 0-1 after a tough Labor Day matchup, the Seminoles were expected to dominate, and tune-up themselves nicely for their upcoming games. That didn’t happen.
FSU played like a pee-wee team matched up against their FCS opponents, needing two scores in the final minute to come from BEHIND and win 19-9. No doubt that a loss would have set the Seminoles back plenty in their quest to relive the glory days.
At the time, FSU played like a team that had never played football before. They rushed for a combined 78 yards, turned the ball over three times, and were inconsistent across the field. The only saving grace was Ponder’s 22-35 for 324 yard performance, and Kevin McNeil’s fumble return for a touchdown with less than a minute to go.
After this game, many thought Florida State were ways from being back, and were walking into the “Cougars” den, with a matchup against BYU on deck.
The FSU-BYU game came and went, and FSU looked nothing like the team that struggled to win their first game of 2009, or even the team that fell short against Miami in week one.
FSU put up 54 points on BYU, forced five turnovers, racked up over 500 yards of offense (300+ rushing), and, outside of a few defensive breakdowns, looked like the team everyone was talking about this season. The question remains though; which FSU team is the real team?
The season is far from over, with tough matchups against Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and the always dangerous Florida Gators still on tap. The Seminoles have the potential to win most of these games (even I think Florida will have our number this season), culminating in an ACC Atlantic title, and potentially an ACC Championship victory to go back to the BCS.
Florida State is two teams combined into one. They’re a team of dominance and winning, invoking memories of the '90s. They field the talent and have the ability to destroy any team lying in its path.
They’re also a meek team, afraid to play up to the challenge, hampered by their own expectations of winning that they fall flat, and lose games (or come close too), that they should win.
With nine games remaining, starting this Saturday against South Florida, the questions remain; which Florida State team will show up, and how long (for Seminole fans), until the teams of the '90s return?