The Daily Nole

After Similar Start, FSU Could Use 2011-Type Finish to Season athletics

Oklahoma, LSU, TCU, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Iowa. Five weeks into the college football season, there are a lot of schools that can make a convincing case for the nation’s most disappointing team. Unfortunately for Florida State fans, the Seminoles are among them.

As soon as North Carolina kicker Nick Weiler’s 54-yard field goal sailed through the Doak Campbell Stadium uprights on Saturday, reality had set in: FSU isn’t going to win the national championship. It isn’t even going to win the ACC.

For the first time since 2011 — Jimbo Fisher’s second year as head coach — Florida State is 0-2 in the ACC. For those who have followed the program for a long time or even since Fisher’s tenure began in 2010, the 2016 squad feels a lot more like one of his first teams than one of his more recent ones.

Over the previous four years, the Seminoles had reasserted themselves as one of college football’s premier powers, making a major bowl each year. In that span, FSU won the ACC three times and the national championship in 2013 with one of the most dominant seasons in college football history.

Maybe not to that same extent, but a similar type of season was expected from the Seminoles in 2016. After winning 10 games with a roster that was extremely young in a number of areas and one that had only two players who were taken in the 2016 NFL Draft, FSU was returning every offensive starter and a good portion of its defensive talent. Not taking the next step seemed unfathomable for an FSU team that seemed strong in just about every area except linebacker.

As was the case in 2010, the 2015 Seminoles appeared to be setting the stage for a bigger season to follow. With fans not knowing what to expect, Florida State won 10 games, beat both of its rivals in Florida and Miami and played in a New Year’s Six bowl. In 2010, FSU played in the ACC title game for the first time in five years and won 10 games for the first time in seven, leading the team to begin the following campaign ranked sixth in the preseason AP Poll. FSU began this season ranked fourth.

In 2011, Florida State began the year just 2-3 with a hard-fought loss to No. 1 Oklahoma, followed by high-scoring defeats at Clemson and Wake Forest. Just as it was five years ago, the 2016 campaign is already a lost cause when it comes to reaching expectations.

If there is a silver lining for Florida State, it’s that the 2011 team was able to finish strong. That team won seven of its final eight games and beat both rivals Miami and Florida to keep a stranglehold on Florida football supremacy and the recruiting battle.

As is the case with both of its rivals now, the Hurricanes and Gators were both breaking in relatively new head coaches in Al Golden and Will Muschamp, respectively. Both were in their first seasons with their programs. Current Miami head coach Mark Richt is in his first year in Coral Gables while Jim McElwain is in his second season at Florida. The 2011 team also defeated Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl to finish in the top 25.

All of that still remains on the table for Florida State moving forward this season. If absolutely everything goes right, the Seminoles could probably still win 10 games. A New Year’s Six bowl berth is probably a long shot, but isn’t completely out of the question.

Just like five years ago, the ceiling and high realistic goals set for the program entering the season are unattainable just one game into October. How Fisher’s 2011 team finished the year however, gave the program positive momentum heading into 2012, when it won the ACC for the first time in seven years and a major bowl for the first time in 13.

Finding a way to circle the wagons for the remainder of this season could have a similar effect on next year’s team, which on the surface looks to be a squad capable of being among the best in the country. With ranked teams in Miami, Clemson and Florida still on the schedule, failing to do so could result in the worst season for FSU in seven years under Fisher. That would be especially disappointing given the hope that 2016 began with.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson


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