FSU Football: What a difference a year makes

AP Photo/John Raoux
AP Photo/John Raoux

It has been almost a year since Sports Illustrated writer Pete Thamel slaughtered the Florida State football program as a complete fraud, unable to get over the hump. Now, they’re 60 minutes of Saturday night football in Charlotte from the national championship game.

Thamel wrote the Shot Heard ‘Round Tallahassee from the Orange Bowl, where the Seminoles had just finished off Northern Illinois, 31-10.

“The Seminoles turned a walk-in-the-park matchup into a cement-boot slog through quicksand,” he wrote, not entirely incorrect in his assessment. He went on to compare FSU to a person who talks too loudly on his or her phone in a restaurant, and some imaginary moron in a hotel who can’t figure out how to use an electronic room key.

I guess that means the Seminoles’ play was really bothering him.

It’s unlikely Thamel still feels the same way about Florida State, but it’s remarkable to look back and see how far the ‘Noles have come in less than a year. They haven’t played down to a single opponent on their schedule, leading some of the brasher talking heads to suggest FSU hasn’t played a schedule strong enough to earn a spot in the national title game.

(Also read: Jameis Winston cleared of charges … so why didn’t I feel better?)

Saturday night, the Seminoles have a chance to finish the drill. For the first time since 2000, FSU can finish its schedule without an inexplicable loss on the slate. For once – and this has taken a while to get used to – the fans in Tallahassee have no reason to believe they’ll slip up.

Shouts out to what Duke has done this season. They’re a very solid football team, and they’ll give Georgia a real challenge in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Seriously, they will.

But Florida State is a completely different animal. Slow starts against teams like Wake Forest and North Carolina proved to be no big deal, but the chronically-slow-starting Blue Devils are likely to find themselves in a huge hole early, and a comeback probably won’t be possible. If it’s still a close game at the end of the third quarter, they have a shot, but the odds of that happening are similar to the chances I make it to Pasadena for the BCS Championship game in January.

(I won’t be there.)

Thamel finished his Orange Bowl recap by urging voters to keep Florida State out of the top 5 when they filled out their ballots for the 2013 preseason rankings in August. The voters listened, but this season, it’s Florida State, not Thamel, who will have the final say.