Florida State won’t go away.
Maybe that’s because Seminoles football coach Jimbo Fisher has done a better job coaching his team this year than in either of the past two seasons despite the records and titles collected in the 2013 or 2014 seasons.
Fisher’s work at changing the culture of the program, which was sullied in recent seasons with arrests and court cases involving players and women, has translated to victories on the field despite losing 11 players to the NFL Draft from last year’s roster.
That ugly culture the past two years is why so many college football fans wanted to see Florida State go away. Even the College Football Panel allowed the Seminoles to slip in last year’s CFP rankings from No. 1 to No. 3 without losing a game. The 2013 national champions also didn’t receive the customary visit to the White House.
It’s true the unbeaten Seminoles (5-0, 3-0 ACC Atlantic) have gone unchallenged by a ranked opponent this season, but that’s not to discount the work Fisher has done to hold this team together. The latest victory came in a rivalry game when records can be thrown out. Florida State beat Miami for the sixth straight time with a 29-24 victory in Tallahassee.
Let’s remember the season could have fallen apart before it started when two players were arrested in incidents involve bars and assaulting women. Running back Dalvin Cook was suspended but later reinstated when he was cleared by a jury. An incoming freshman quarterback was dismissed from the team before fall camp began.
But since then, with each week has passed without an arrest and with a victory. Fisher’s effort to rehabilitate the program’s image in the post-Jameis Winston era that was sullied by the Heisman Tropy-winning quarterback’s on-and-off-field antics appear to be working.
The Seminoles are now ranked No. 11 in the latest AP poll and remain on a path toward a conference showdown with No. 5 Clemson (5-0, 2-0 ACC Atlantic) on Nov. 7 at the Tigers’ Memorial Stadium.
The level of competition remains questionable no school among the Power 5 conference outside of the ACC opponents in addition to no ranked opponents. The combined mark of the five vanquished teams is 12-15. With the exception of Miami (3-2, 0-1 ACC Coastal), which has lost two straight, none of the five has a winning record: Texas State (1-4), Sun Belt; South Florida, (2-3), AAC; Boston College (3-3), ACC; Wake Forest (3-3) ACC; and Miami.
Florida State still has an immense talent in Cook at running back. He broke off a 94-yard touchdown run in a 24-16 win at Wake Forest and a 72-yard score among two TDs against Miami. His Miami performance of 22 carries for 222 yards came despite hurting his hamstring a week earlier against Wake Forest.
One reason for Cook’s success is he hasn’t been the lone weapon. Fisher has gotten the most out of quarterback Everett Golson, the inconsistent transfer from Notre Dame that has been taking care of the ball.
Golson was 25 of 33 for 291 yards with a touchdown without an interception or a fumble against Miami. Fumbles had been his problem last year at Notre Dame. Golson also executed an option pitch to Cook for a 23-yard touchdown run.
The Seminoles balanced their offense with 291 yards passing and 248 rushing. They committed seven penalties, but for only 42 yards. They also overcome only 3 of 10 on third-down conversions.
Florida State has kept alive its 27-game winning streak in conference play. It’s also kept alive its streak of weeks without and arrest. The two are very much related.
Clemson is a prime conversation topic in the CFP projections, while Florida State remains in the picture if it keeps winning and others tumble.
Duke (5-1, 2-0 Coastal), Pitt (4-1, 2-0 Coastal), North Carolina (4-1, 1-0 Coastal) are closing in on bowl eligibility. N.C. State (4-2, 0-2 Atlantic) also is close with four wins, but a discouraging two-game losing streak has raised red flags. Third-year N.C. State coach Dave Doeren’s ACC record dropped to 3-15.
Five other teams have three wins with half the season remaining: Syracuse (3-2, 1-0 Atlantic), Wake Forest (3-3, 1-2 Atlantic), Boston College (3-3, 0-3 Atlantic), Virginia Tech (3-3, 1-1 Coastal) and Miami (3-2, 0-1 Coastal).
The teams needing a second-half surge are Louisville (2-3, 1-1 Atlantic), Georgia Tech (2-4, 0-3 Coastal) and Virginia (1-4, 0-1 Coastal).
Last year 11 ACC teams earned bowl bids: Florida State, Clemson, Louisville, N.C. State, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech, Pitt, North Carolina and Duke.