Atlantic Division Preview – The Case Against…Florida State

As college football season approaches, I noted how difficult it was to pick someone to win the ACC’s Atlantic Division. On the flip side, I could easily argue the case against every team. The “slow season” for Wolfpack news is an ideal time to explore this in more detail. Earlier in the week, we talked about Clemson. Today, by popular demand, we look at another group of recent underachievers – the Florida State Seminoles.

College football is unique for its unforgiving nature. Just one slip in focus can torpedo an entire season, with no guaranteed shot at redemption. And nothing makes such a slip more likely than distractions and drama. And do the Noles ever have more than their fair share of that. As SFN discussed back in March, an academic cheating scandal resulted in probation for numerous FSU programs. Football escaped major punishments, but the NCAA did propose removing more than a dozen victories from the record of the last Bowden standing.

While this is ostensibly good news for the Noles, it’s highlighted a rift among the university and its boosters. It’s been widely speculated (despite the pending appeal) that Florida State found a silver lining in forfeiting wins rather than scholarships. Papa Bowden and Joe Pa have been essentially daring each other to retire or die for the past decade, as they grind out 8-9 win seasons and seesaw the NCAA record for career victories. Paterno has had more success of late, and forfeiting victories would leave Bowden with much less incentive to keep hanging on. Whether they’ll say it out loud or not, it’s safe to say that a large portion of Seminole fans and decisionmakers would like to get on with the Jimbo Fisher era. You can see evidence of that in FSU internet rumblings against Chuck Amato, who is almost certainly out of a job once Bowden rides off into the sunset. There is a certain shelflife in having a “designated successor” on staff (especially when very big egos like Bowden’s and Fisher’s are involved – without any “loyalty” due to a historically strong working relationship), and Florida State is exceeding that.

Clearly, the players aren’t immune. Further, a divided coaching staff isn’t going to perform optimally. The Noles no longer have an overwhelming talent advantage like they did during the previous decade – so when they have an “off” week in terms of performance, focus, or both – they lose. It’s been enough to keep them out of the ACC championship game the last three years, and I don’t see that changing in 2009. Florida State blog “Scalp ‘Em” agrees with my assessment.

If you want more “hard” analysis, I would point to the schedule. They get a tough draw out of the Coastal, missing both Virginia and Duke. FSU also gets two tricky early games – the always ugly season opening slugfest against Miami (punts and turnovers galore – great TV!) returns in 2009, plus a September 19 trip to Provo to play a tough and, ahem, mature, disciplined BYU team. The contrast will be striking, and the penalty yards will be astronomical. Lose those two games, and the tension in Tallahassee will transition from a rolling boil to an exploding inferno. And even if the early land mines don’t trip up the Noles, there’s a late four game stretch that will be difficult to survive intact – at UNC (Thursday night), vs. NC State, at Clemson, at Wake.

FSU also must replace it’s most valuable (IMHO) offensive player from last season, deadly kicker Graham Gano. The Noles certainly don’t beat Miami last season without Gano’s leg, and maybe not NC State, either. And everyone knows about the Seminoles’ history of placekicking heartbreak.

Last but certainly not least, you have the penalties. CFN’s preview notes that FSU lost 937 yards to penalties in 2008, compared to 593 for its opponents. Penalties have always been part of the Seminole “swagger” (which Chuckles imported to NC State for a few years), but losing 30 yards a game makes a real difference when you’re no longer the league’s 800-pound gorilla smashing weak opponents into submission.

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

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11 Responses to Atlantic Division Preview – The Case Against…Florida State

  1. CaptainCraptacular 07/17/2009 at 11:15 AM #

    Are you saying there’s no loyalty from a strong working relationship between Fisher and Bowden leading to tension due to the shelf life factor or the opposite? I’ve heard of no tension there and to the contrary Fisher has an extremely long working history with the Bowden family going back to his college years.

  2. VaWolf82 07/17/2009 at 11:36 AM #

    FSU lost alot of starters off of their defense…which wasn’t a world-beater last year (basically in the middle of the ACC). Tomahawk Nation dissects last year’s rushing defense here:

    Part One

    Part Two

  3. BJD95 07/17/2009 at 11:58 AM #

    ^^ I didn’t know about that past – I was speaking more to coming from another school with the “designated successor” title, rather than being a longtime assistant who is bequeathed such a distinction.

  4. CaptainCraptacular 07/17/2009 at 12:02 PM #

    I believe there are upperclassmen replacements for many of the lost starters. The subs on the 2 deep always see plenty of action during the season, so if FSUs defense has problems at least it shouldn’t be from lack of experience.

  5. CaptainCraptacular 07/17/2009 at 12:30 PM #

    One very interesting stat buried at the bottom of that CFN preview was 3rd down conversion %. The Noles converted 46% of their 3rd down chances on offense while only allowing 26% on D. If they approach that same level of efficiency on both sides of the ball this year that portends very good things for the Noles.

  6. choppack1 07/17/2009 at 12:38 PM #

    I wonder how many defenders returned from FSU – one of the articles enclosed in the link stated that they could lose 13 on their 2 deep.

  7. packalum44 07/17/2009 at 1:01 PM #

    FSU is my favorite to win the Atlantic with us finishing 2nd. Ponder is the 2nd best QB in the league. They are deeper and more talented than us at most positions (this won’t be the case in 2-3 years). However, we are more disciplined and better coached. I still give them the edge.

    The third best team is Clemson. Doubtful they win for the reasons mentioned in your previous article.

    But who the hell really knows. That’s why we play the games! Go to hell FSU. Go Pack!

  8. CaptainCraptacular 07/17/2009 at 1:09 PM #

    ^^ from the projections I’ve seen, on defense FSU will start 6 seniors, 2 juniors, and 3 sophmores. Experience should not be a problem.

  9. Sam92 07/17/2009 at 1:58 PM #

    interesting. that’s the first thought i’ve given to a “shelflife” for jimbo fisher as designated successor, but when i think about it from an FSU fan perspective, i agree.

    jimbo fisher must be hoping bowden retires sooner rather than later, because each succeeding season of mediocrity makes jimbo fisher look dimmer and dimmer. will the FSU fanbase revolt with say two more seasons of subpar performance? not a great audition on jimbo’s part

  10. CaptainCraptacular 07/17/2009 at 2:38 PM #

    Sam check the stats I posted in the Clemson thread, FSUs offensive performance took a large step forward in 2008 and was the top scoring offense in the ACC. They return all of the offensive line. It’s grossly inaccurate to rate Fisher’s performance as ‘subpar’. FSU fans and alums I know (and living in fla I’m around plenty) are happy with the gains that Fisher and Trickett have been responsible for on Offense. There’s no fan revolt on the horizon in that regard. Fisher, Andrews, and CTC are all extremely loyal to Bowden individually. Loyalty to Bowden is what brought Fisher to FSU in the first place.

  11. howlie 07/17/2009 at 3:47 PM #

    I thought there were players lost for this year in the cheating scandal and other bowden-boys-will-be-boys spring substance abuse/crash/theft/cheating adventures?

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