The Florida State Seminoles' first month of the 2011 season hasn't gone nearly as well as the 'Noles faithful had hoped. With a record of 2-2, there have been some clear winners and losers for FSU through the first four games of the season.
Coming into the season, a best-case scenario for Florida State would be to sit at 4-0 at this point and be in the thick of the national championship conversation. The worst-case scenario, honestly, is about where they are right now.
Let's take a look at the contributing factors that have led the Seminoles to where they are so far in 2011, for better and for worse. Here are the winners and losers from the first month of the season.
Coming into the season, there appeared to be a very real possibility that quarterback Clint Trickett was never going to see a meaningful snap at Florida State.
E.J. Manuel was poised to take over after paying his dues behind first-round draft pick Christian Ponder, and Manuel would have two years to try to take the program to the next level. Then in early August, the Seminoles secured a commitment from the top-rated high school quarterback in the country, Jameis Winston, who would likely take over when Manuel left Tallahassee.
Trickett's luck changed when Manuel was knocked out of the Oklahoma game with a shoulder injury. Trickett nearly engineered an FSU comeback against the Sooners and then started the game against Clemson. Trickett has played well enough that if Manuel struggles at any point, the Seminoles may have a quarterback controversy.
Fortunately for Florida State, their two toughest games of the season are probably behind them. Oklahoma was obviously the best team on their schedule, and the second hardest game of 2011 came down to either playing at Clemson last week or at Florida the last game of the season. The way Clemson's been playing, I am going to give the Tigers the nod as the tougher game.
That being said, the Seminoles should be favored in every game between now and their trip to Gainesville. Florida State faces Wake Forest, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina State, Boston College, Miami and Virginia before closing out the season against the Gators.
If everything goes well, the 'Noles could very well be 9-2 heading into their season finale.
Florida State's lack of discipline has been a serious issue in their two losses this season. This has manifested itself in the form of penalties.
Against Clemson, the sheer volume of penalties doomed the Seminoles as they were called for 11 penalties totaling 124 yards. In the loss to Oklahoma, FSU shot itself in the foot with untimely penalties, including one that brought back an early touchdown that could have changed the whole complexion of the contest.
Penalties are a direct result of discipline, which is an issue that falls squarely on the shoulders of the coaching staff.
Florida State ranks 115th in the country in rushing yards per game. The Seminoles are the kind of program that should never rank 115th in anything football related.
With an average per game rushing total under 80 yards, there is plenty of blame to go around as to why the ground game is struggling so badly. Some blame has to go to the running backs and offensive line. Tying into the last slide though, some blame must also fall on the coaching staff.
The play calling hasn't shown enough of a commitment to running the ball to keep opposing defenses honest. Furthermore, it is a huge question mark as to why James Wilder Jr. isn't getting more snaps at running back.
If Florida State continues to lack any sort of offensive balance, the Seminoles' once-promising season could quickly turn into another disappointing campaign.