The Daily Nole

On My Mind Monday: How Many Times Has FSU Football Started Unranked and Finished Ranked?

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We’re two weeks away from the release of the preseason AP Poll, but as far as Florida State goes, it isn’t likely to be much different than the Amway Coaches Poll.

For the first time since 2008, FSU will begin the season unranked. This led one to wonder how many times in years past that the Seminoles began the year unranked, only to finish in the final polls.

The answer is seven and will review each year shortly. It should be noted however, that there wasn’t always a preseason Coaches Poll and final rankings used to come before bowl games. The Associated Press only ranked 20 teams from 1936 to 1961 and then just 10 from 1962-67. In 1968, the AP Poll went back to ranking 20 teams before ultimately expanding to 25 in 1989.

Without further ado, here are the seasons in which FSU began the season unranked and finished in the final polls:


Record: 9-1-1; defeated Oklahoma in Gator Bowl, 36-19
Final Ranking: No. 11 in UPI Coaches Poll
Key Players: Steve Tensi, QB; Fred Biletnikoff, WR; Winfred Bailey, DB
Overview: In year No. 5 under Bill Peterson, Florida State would notch its first-ever ranked finish in 1964. The lone blemish on FSU’s record was a 20-11 road loss at Virginia Tech. The Seminoles played Houston to a 13-13 tie. Led by the passing combination of Steve Tensi and the nation’s receiving leader Fred Biletnikoff, FSU won a then program record nine games. Winfred Bailey finished with a team-high seven interceptions to lead a defense that allowed less than eight points per game and pitched four shutouts.


Record: 7-2-2; tied Penn State in Gator Bowl, 17-17
Final Ranking: No. 15 in UPI Coaches Poll
Key Players: Kim Hammond, QB; Ron Sellers, WR; Dale McCullers, LB
Overview: Bill Peterson’s 1967 team rebounded from an 0-2-1 start to go 7-0-1 in its final eight games, capped with a Gator Bowl tie against a top-10 Penn State team. Quarterback Kim Hammond ranked second in the nation in passing yards while Consensus All-American Ron Sellers led the nation in receiving yards. Dale McCullers led the defense with an ungodly 180 total tackles. Aside from notching ties with top-10 teams in Alabama and Penn State, FSU capped the season with a 21-16 victory over No. 18 Florida — its first-ever win in Gainesville.


Record: 8-3; lost to LSU in Peach Bowl, 31-27
Final Ranking: No. 14 in UPI Coaches Poll
Key Players: Bill Cappleman, QB; Ron Sellers, WR; Walt Sumner, DB
Overview: The 1968 Seminoles may have been the most explosive offensively in school history at the time. Quarterback Bill Cappleman passed for a then FSU record 25 touchdowns while Ron Sellers led the nation in receiving yards and touchdown receptions. FSU capped the regular season with four straight victories and scored at least 40 points in the final three games. The Seminoles closed the year with a 40-20 victory over No. 10 Houston in Jacksonville before falling to LSU in a heartbreaking 31-27 Peach Bowl loss.


Record: 8-4; lost to Arizona State in Fiesta Bowl, 45-38
Final Ranking: No. 19 in UPI Coaches Poll
Key Players: Gary Huff, QB; Rhett Dawson, WR; John Lanahan, DB
Overview: After finishing ranked three times in Bill Peterson’s final seven seasons, the Larry Jones administration got off to a strong start in 1971. Continuing Peterson’s tradition of a high-powered passing offense, FSU quarterback Gary Huff led the country in passing yards and touchdowns. The Seminoles didn’t beat a ranked team in 1971, but showed they belonged in the final polls after falling to a top-10 Arizona State team in a de facto road game during a Fiesta Bowl shootout.

Running back Larry Key was a key player on FSU’s first 10-win team in 1977. (Garnet and Great, FSU Football Archivist)


Record: 10-2; defeated Texas Tech in Tangerine Bowl, 40-17
Final Ranking: No. 14 in AP Poll; No. 11 in UPI Coaches Poll
Key Players: Larry Key, RB; Mike Shumann, WR; Aaron Carter, LB
Overview: In Bobby Bowden’s second season as head man in Tallahassee, the Seminoles had their first winning season in five years and their first 10-win season ever. FSU won eight of its final nine games with a deep cast of skill players and a defense led by linebacker Aaron Carter that held six of its 12 opponents to 10 points or fewer. The Seminoles closed the year by defeating Florida and Texas Tech by a combined 77-16 margin.


Record: 9-3; defeated West Virginia in Gator Bowl, 31-12
Final Ranking: No. 13 in AP Poll; No. 10 in UPI Coaches Poll
Key Players: Ricky Williams, RB; Greg Allen, RB; Alphonso Carreker, DE
Overview: After missing a bowl game in 1981, FSU bounced back to finish in the top-10 of the final Coaches Poll. The FSU offense featured a pair of talented running backs in leading rusher Ricky Williams and freshman Greg Allen, who rushed for an FSU-record 20 touchdowns. After an 8-1 start, FSU dropped its final two regular season games to LSU and Florida before circling the wagons to thrash No. 10 West Virginia in the Gator Bowl, 31-12.


Record: 9-4; defeated Wisconsin in Champs Sports Bowl, 42-13
Final Ranking: No. 21 in AP Poll; No. 23 in USA Today Coaches Poll
Key Players: Everette Brown, DE; Derek Nicholson, LB; Graham Gano, K/P
Overview: FSU entered the 2008 season having finished 7-6 in consecutive years, but rebounded to notch its most wins and highest AP ranking since 2004. First-year starter Christian Ponder aided a rush-heavy offense led by Antone Smith. Defensively, Everette Brown finished with 13.5 sacks, which ranked third nationally. The Seminoles finished 13th nationally in total defense and scored five non-offensive touchdowns. Senior Graham Gano became the first FSU kicker since Sebastian Janikowski to win the Lou Groza Award.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson. Like The Daily Nole on Facebook. To pitch an idea, author a post or to learn more about The Daily Nole, email Mike Ferguson at

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