The year is 1999.
The D-I College Football landscape is at the pinnacle of a new era known as the BCS.
The Y2K bug is the 'scariest offense' on earth, but not far behind are Bobby Bowden's Seminoles.
Chris Weinke, Travis Minor, Peter Warrick, Laveranues Coles, Marvin Minnis, and Ron Dugans.
No Wide Right. No loss to Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Nothing.
Fast-forward eight seasons...
Bobby Bowden has just witnessed his heir-apparent complete his first full season as Offensive Coordinator, and the program seems to be falling apart at the seams. Boosters are desperate to breathe the life-blood of victory back into the college football gridiron. None of it seems to be working.
The team of the 90's, once untouchable, is now a glimmer of it's former self. Mark Richt is gone, so is Chuck Amato, and the mighty 'Doak' is no longer even capable of a sellout.
Gone are the days of being ranked as the #1 Party School by Playboy and Princeton Review. Gone are the days when UF fans cringed at playing in Tallahassee—knowing their regular season would end with a loss.
Gone are the days of Ward, Weinke, Busby and Kanell. Gone is the 54 game home game streak without a single loss.
Gone is the power, the dominance, and the swagger—that once dominated an entire national landscape for 14 straight seasons.
The Game of the Century (1993), The Choke at the Doak (1994), 5th Quarter in the French Quarter (1995), the Rematch (1996, '97), the Battle in the Desert (1998), and the first Wire-to-Wire Perfect Season (1999)?
This, and this alone, is enough to take the breath out of the most dedicated FSU fan.
After all of the tradition Bobby Bowden so proudly built, nepotism would suggest there is no reason to hope. 'Nepotism'—a word Bobby Bowden himself used to describe the fickle boosters who ousted his son as Offensive Coordinator, demanding a suitable replacement.
It is now 2009, and while this FSU team is in no way the same powerhouse it once used to be; slowly, a base of believers are beginning to think that the moves made in 2006 and 2007 have promise. A lot of promise.
Odell Haggins. Rick Trickett. James Coley. Lawrence Dawsey. Dexter Carter. Jody Allen.
Among the acquisitions made in the past few years, these men were all brought in with a few major goals in mind. Intended to beef up recruiting, the coaching staff now firmly in the driver's seat was designed to provide the necessary pieces it took to win championships (not just one, but many) and allow Bobby to retire knowing the program is in very capable hands.
Many football critics (and I emphasize 'critics') have grown to label FSU as a school that will never make it back. What these critics are not seeing is a slow, steady transformation that has been methodically planned and executed.
When a program has been reduced to poorly coached players, fans with very exuberant expectations, and fickle alumni, a purification period became a must. Unlike the laws of nature; in College Football, occasionally a program must completely burn itself of the old, to start anew. A program sometimes needs to purge itself, before it can 'rise from the ashes.'
2008 gave FSU fans some reason to hope, but it also reminded them that if there is reason for hope, they should also recognize their dreams won't be realized in just one season. Keep hope alive 'Nole fans, but be patient.
Here are a few key facts to consider regarding FSU's 2008 campaign going into 2009.
FSU's 4 losses in 2008 were by a combined 52 points, 30 of which came at the hands of UF—for an average of 15 points. Ignoring the blowout loss to UF, FSU lost it's other three contests by a combined 22 points—an average of 7.3 points.
FSU did not allow a single touchdown against Wake Forest, a game in which 22 players were serving a suspension. They also held Maryland to three points the week prior to the UF game. Maryland was ranked 64th in passing offense, just 3 places behind Florida.
FSU won its seven segames against D-I opponents by 116 points for an average margin of 16.5 points.
For the first time since 2000, FSU will have an uncontested upper-classman quarterback in Christian Ponder, a solid running game with 4 backs capable of breaking the 1,000 yard barrier (Thomas, Jones, Pressley and Pryor), and an offensive Line that could impress most NFL Defenses.
FSU has plenty of reasons to be hopeful, confident—and sooner or later, replenished with swagger.
When the transformation is complete and coaching Legend Bobby Bowden has long since rode off into the sunset, many fans will look back at 2009, and with any fortune, will remember how FSU emerged from the ashes to truly recapture their glory...