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The Times' college football countdown: No. 11 Florida State

With a somewhat cushy schedule, the Seminoles will have to prove they deserve to be at the top in the Bowl Championship Series.

August 18, 2012|Chris Dufresne
  • Will Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher lead the Seminoles to the Atlantic Coast Conference title this season?
Will Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher lead the Seminoles to the Atlantic… (Phil Sears / Associated…)

Like a beauty pageant mom, we threw our Tallahassee Lassie out on stage last year.

At preseason No. 5, though, the kid just wasn't ready.

Florida State finished 9-4 and didn't win its division of the Atlantic Coast Conference, whose champion lost the Orange Bowl by 37 points.

Some would argue a No. 11 doesn't do this team justice. One noted pundit, Phil Steele, has picked Florida State to win the national title.

Part of that logic is a cushy schedule that doesn't have Florida State leaving the state until its Oct. 6 trip to North Carolina State.

Out-of-conference testers such as Oklahoma are off the docket, replaced by the likes of Murray State and Savannah State. Florida State also gets Clemson and Florida at home.

This is the kind of schedule that used to get Western Athletic Conference pretenders laughed at as they tried to make their cases for national credibility.

Does Jimbo Fisher have Florida State headed toward the top? Yes, we think, but this year we're putting the team in a 10-step program that will make the Seminoles earn everything they get.

It's hard to imagine, even at undefeated, that Florida State could make the Bowl Championship Series title game ahead of an unblemished champion from the Southeastern Conference, Pac-12, Big 12 or Big Ten.

With a few breaks, though, Florida State could make things very interesting.

The defense, ranked No. 4 nationally last season, should be just as good, but maybe not better without star cornerback Greg Reid. He was kicked off the team for violating team rules, and this week Reid enrolled at Valdosta State.

"It was our rules, what we go by," Fisher said at an early-August news conference. "It had to be done."

Fisher says the program prides itself on recruiting multidimensional players who can fill in during any given crisis.

Fisher: "We have plenty of options."

Brandon Jenkins' decision to postpone his NFL career gives Florida State one of the nation's top defensive line units.

The offense, conversely, needs a Botox injection. It finished 77th last year overall and No. 112 in rushing.

The team returns talented but inconsistent quarterback EJ Manuel.

The senior has started 17 games in his career, but also missed seven with injuries. His career touchdown-to-interception ratio of 24 to 18 keeps Seminole fans up at night.

Manuel says he's ready to live up to expectations.

"We see it as an opportunity, not a burden," he said.

Florida State received a nice off-season pickup when it signed Penn State tight end Kevin Haplea.

Fisher said he did not poach Penn State for the player … "Kevin called us."

Florida State just happened to have its 85th, and last, scholarship available.

"It's like getting a free agent," Fisher joked. "We had cap room."

Florida State hasn't won an ACC title since 2005. Gone are the days when it ripped through the conference like a hot knife through a buttered biscuit. Bobby Bowden lost two league games in his first nine seasons in the conference.

The first calendar circle is Clemson at Florida State on Sept. 22.

If Florida State wins that one, start paying attention.

The countdown so far: The countdown so far: 25. Notre Dame; 24. Texas Christian; 23. Utah; 22. Kansas State; 21. Louisville; 20. Boise State; 19. Clemson; 18. Stanford; 17. Michigan State; 16. Oklahoma State; 15. Wisconsin; 14. Nebraska; 13. Arkansas; 12. West Virginia.

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