Florida State coach Bobby Bowden probably didn't think things could get much worse after the Seminoles ended their regular-season slate with an embarrassing 45-12 loss to archrival Florida.
Well, think again.
Following a second look into an academic misconduct case that surfaced toward the beginning of the season and ended temporarily with the suspension of two players, all Bowden wanted for Christmas was the rest of his football team.
While the university will not release the names of the players involved in the case due to federal privacy laws, 25 Seminoles on scholarship will not travel to the Music City Bowl in Nashville because of the academic investigation, other violations of team rules, or injury.
The list includes 11 players who have starting experience this season and several key reserves, as the Seminoles find themselves one injury away from being in serious trouble Monday against Kentucky.
Oh, and 11 walk-ons stayed home, too.
In an illustration of Florida State's newfound depth problem, senior long snapper Garrison Sanborn saw some time at defensive end last week.
"Naturally, we're having to make a lot of adjustments," Bowden said. "You have 22 positions out there, and some you'd be more concerned about than others. We have some guys playing positions they haven't played before. Not many, but some.
"I think we'll be competitive—where it hurts you is depth. We've just got to stay healthy."
Taking the hardest hit will be an FSU defense that already has its hands full with quarterback Andre' Woodson and the high-powered Kentucky offense.
Mickey Andrews' squad will have its four leading tacklers, including linebackers Derek Nicholson and Geno Hayes, but will be without starting strong-side linebacker Dekoda Watson and his backup, sophomore Marcus Ball.
The defensive line is FSU's biggest question mark. The 'Noles will be without five scholarship defensive lineman who contributed this season, including starting tackle Budd Thacker, starting defensive end Neefy Moffett, and key reserves Letory Guion, Paul Griffin, and Justin Mincey.
With good size, 6'6", 222-pound reserve safety Kenny Ingram has moved to strongside linebacker, while freshman Kendall Smith and sophomore Recardo Wright will contend for a starting role. At nose tackle, Emmanuel Dunbar and Kendrick Stewart will compete for playing time.
The lack of depth puts a lot of pressure on senior Andre Fluellen and both starters at end, who won't have the luxury of FSU's traditionally deep rotation against Woodson and Kentucky.
Against Florida, the Seminoles struggled to control the line of scrimmage and rush the passer, mustering only one sack. As a result, they gave up more than 500 yards of offense for the first time since 2004.
In the secondary, Florida State will have both safeties and lead cover man Tony Carter, but will be without starting corner Patrick Robinson, who leads the team with six interceptions. Speedy junior Michael Ray Garvin will replace Robinson in the lineup.
"We still have the talent to beat anybody," Fluellen said at the prospect of losing so many players. "I'm not really worried about that. I'm (still) confident we can go up there and win."
Offensively, the Seminoles keep most of their key personnel, including starting quarterback Drew Weatherford, running back Antone Smith, the team's top three receivers (including versatile playmaker Preston Parker), and kicker Gary Cismesia, their leading scorer.
However, the offensive line finds itself dangerously thin. FSU will go into the Music City Bowl without starters Daron Rose and Jacky Claude, and without starting tight end Charlie Graham and his backup, Caz Piurowski.
Redshirt freshman Evan Bellamy and senior David Overmyer will fill in the starting lineup for offensive line coach Rick Trickett, while freshman standout Rodney Hudson could slide from guard to tackle.
FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said some of the team's shortcomings can and will be compensated by using different schemes and formations, but the changes will almost certainly hurt a unit that has struggled to execute, even with the right personnel, all season.
Backup quarterback and former Seabreeze High standout Xavier Lee, who already served a two-game suspension earlier in the season for academic reasons, will also not be traveling with the team.
"We'll be just fine," Weatherford said. "We'll go out and compete like we always have. There are a lot of guys who have opportunities now who haven't had them in the past, and they'll get a chance to show what they got."
If one thing is for certain, many are eager to see what exactly the Seminoles "got" left come game time.
BY THE NUMBERS
36: FSU players not traveling to the Music City Bowl for reasons including the academic misconduct case, violation of team rules, and injury (25 scholarship, 11 walk-ons).
11: Those not traveling who have starting experience.
56: FSU players who participated in their last game, Nov. 24 vs. Florida.
18: FSU players who played vs. Florida but are among the 36 players who will miss the Music City Bowl.
7: FSU starters vs. Florida who will miss the bowl (LT Daron Rose, RG Jacky Claude, TE Charlie Graham, NT Budd Thacker, RE Neefy Moffett, SLB Dekoda Watson, RCB Patrick Robinson).
4: First-time starters who will take their place (TE John Frady, RG Evan Bellamy, NT Emmanuel Dunbar, SLB Kendall Smith).