When people watch the top-ranked Florida State Seminoles, they expect to see what they saw a year ago – a squad that beats the brakes off every ACC opponent with unprecedented ease. When they don’t achieve that dominance, fans complain because it’s something they’re not used to seeing.
Florida State is struggling, and because they have a target on their backs every time they take the field, the struggle could persist all season.
But they have to stop trying to be that 2013 team if they want to stay undefeated. They have to find their own identity and put the past year, well, in the past. It’s not their fault that people expect the No. 1 team to dominate a fairly weak schedule, at least when compared to the other big-name Southern programs.
It’s also not their fault that every talking head wants to slam them with the transitive theory. Surely, NC State stinks because they almost lost to Georgia Southern. So FSU struggling with NC State should mean they don’t deserve to be No. 1. Never mind that every team plays up when No. 1 comes to town; That’s just an excuse, they’ll tell you.
But it is their fault that they’re not playing defense, especially in the opening minutes of games. FSU is allowing teams to have hope against the defending national champs, and that’s a dangerous road to go down.
(Also read: FSU tried to please everyone and it backfired)
One thing the 2014 bunch has going for them is that they might be even grittier than last year’s team. Down 24-7 after the first quarter of Saturday’s game in Raleigh, the nation tuned in to watch the rest of a game that many thought wouldn’t be competitive.
What they saw, from the second quarter on, was an FSU team that went on a 49-17 run to squash the home team’s hopes of pulling off an improbable upset. They saw quarterback Jameis Winston become the first FSU quarterback to ever throw for more than 300 yards at NC State.
Naw, I’m just kidding. They saw a Florida State team that was lucky to win. At least that’s what they’ll tell you.
Sunday is the one-year anniversary of FSU’s scary-but-gutsy 48-34 victory over Boston College on the road, which was essentially the last time the Seminoles were tested until the BCS Championship game. The Eagles hung 34 points on the Seminoles, forcing people inside and outside the fan base to question whether FSU could make a run at an ACC title or something bigger, based on their flaws.
And while the defense needs to make adjustments (or just get some key injured players back) as last year’s team did at this point in the season, claims of the offense’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. With Winston running the show, FSU is averaging 43.3 points per game, which is more than enough to overcome the defense’s deficiencies.
Winston, now 17-0 as a starter, is still completing 70 percent of his passes following the departure of two key receivers in the offseason – one of which, Kelvin Benjamin, is now shredding NFL defenses.
Oh, and in their first true road game of the season, with their backs against the wall and an undefeated Wolfpack team about to step on their throats, FSU went on a 49-17 run to close out the game.
Florida State has all the pieces to be great yet again this season. They’re certainly good enough to repeat as ACC champions and get a spot in the College Football Playoff.
But they have to stop trying to play to the expectations of the college football world, because trying to be like the 2013 Seminoles could be a fatal mistake.