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October 10, 2012

Florida State Has a Chance to Restart Enthusiasm Over Next Two Weeks


All week in Tallahassee a somber undertone has punctuated Florida State's 17-16 upset loss to NC State. The fanbase, Florida State's students, alumni, boosters, fans, the city itself have all been hurting. 

The season's not over, but for the 24 or 48 hours following the game, it may as well have been for most Seminoles fans. 

On Monday morning Jimbo Fisher did little to help things by failing to acknowledge the gravity of the damage done by losing to the Wolfpack. Instead he roiled fans by telling them he was "more encouraged than discouraged," walking back some of his statements following the game on Saturday by saying he had no regrets about his playcalling and then asking the media rhetorically how many unbeaten season the school had in its history (one).

"So what are the odds you're going to lose one?," Fisher tacked on.

On Wednesday night, he clarified that comment, saying he only meant that, "everything was fixable." A statement that is both true in a football sense, and false in another one.

While Fisher is right, and his comments might even come across as a great point in another context, they did little to engender much good will because the facet of the loss fans are most disappointed with– more so than even the losing to a two-score underdog– was the fact it knocked Florida State out of the chase.

There's a high likelihood that while FSU's football problems are fixable, the damage done to their title hopes is not.

FSU was number 3, they had their whole season right in front of them and they stumbled.

That's what fans were most hurt about and it was the one point Fisher failed to acknowledge this week. Fan enthusiasm, national attention and respect for the program were peaking. Now they've all taken a hit.

But this is where Fisher and the Seminoles can start to turn things around and reinvigorate the enthusiasm level for FSU in the fanbase and nationally.

Fisher wasn't wrong when he said everything was fixable, or that it's a 12-game season or that Florida State still has plenty left to accomplish. All of that was accurate, FSU does have the potential to be a top five team in the country, that didn't evaporate Saturday night. When they play up to snuff, the Seminoles can hang with any team in the nation.

Oftentimes the best team at the end of the season, the one who is playing the best football, isn't unbeaten and ranked first. Leonard Hamilton says it so much that the phrase gets worn out, but it's a process. Where you start isn't necessarily where you finish.

Winning a national championship is as much about consistency as it is about being the best team in the nation. The two teams with the best records and the two best teams in the country are oftentimes not one in the same. 

Just look at last year's Alabama team, LSU came into their house and beat them 9-6 in a very physical, evenly-matched game. But the Crimson Tide grew so much as a squad that by season's end they dominated that same Tigers team 21-0 in the championship game. 

Teams grow, talent levels don't remain static all season, entire groups mature and gel and get better.

What Fisher said following the loss was completely right, but it speaks to a different definition of success.

And that wasn't what fans were trying to hear less than 48 hours removed from having to bury their title hopes.

But as I've written all week, the Seminoles can get themselves back up on the horse. While their only remaining national title hope is likely beating an undefeated UF team that goes on to win the SEC, they're going to have chances to rise back up the polls and be relevent by year's end once again.

But now comes the hard part. Avoid the letdown against BC and go out and beat Miami.

The Seminoles effectively have two weeks to jump-start their season before a stretch run with road dates in Blacksburg and College Station and a visit from the rival Florida Gators.

Boston College, much like NC State should have been, is a game Florida State must have. But now, frankly, style points matter. The best way to further turn off a fanbase that seems to be transitioning into the acceptance stage of their football grief is to mail in a sloppy performance against a BC team that hasn't won an FBS game all year.

Florida State needs to drum the Eagles, come out on fire, execute well all game and handle their business. A sloppy performance where BC hangs around and scores on a few big plays isn't going to resonate well with fans or voters. 

This is a bit of a shell-shocked fanbase, for the past decade teams have turned one loss into several, so Seminoles fans will be looking to see whether they're getting the team from the first four weeks or the one who showed up the last two.

What Jimbo Fisher said is true, but now the Seminoles need to prove it's applicable to them and that they are headed in the right direction. That they are growing and progressing as a team.

Because based on the way the team has trended that past two weeks, that's debatable right now.

A strong win over BC and a good road trip to Miami would have FSU back at 7-1, likely in the lower half of the top ten headed into the last third of their season. 

That's exactly what the Seminoles need to buck the funk from last weekend's loss and get the enthusiasm level back up for Florida State football. If all goes well, in a couple weeks people around the country will be riding high again on Florida State.

But now FSU has to prove its back on the right track, and the next two weeks will be crucial.



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