TALLAHASSEE — More often than not in recent seasons, Florida State has faced an unpleasant reality at this point in the football season: Few of its preseason goals were still attainable.
In fact, the Seminoles needed a win in their penultimate regular-season game in 2006 and 2009 simply to reach six wins — the magic number for bowl consideration.
But as they head into their 11th game this season, at Maryland, the Seminoles (7-3, 5-2) are still in position to win the Atlantic Division and reach the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 4 in Charlotte, N.C. (They must win and North Carolina State must lose at North Carolina on Saturday or at Maryland on Nov. 27.)
If the Seminoles win the division, they also will play for a Bowl Championship Series berth in the Orange Bowl.
"It's more fun," senior LB Mister Alexander said of practices under these circumstances.
In more recent times, mid November could be a grind if the big prize was say, the Emerald Bowl or Music City Bowl. Nice cities, San Francisco and Nashville, but they're not the destination a team with the tradition of FSU targets in the preseason.
"It gives you motivation," redshirt sophomore DT Everett Dawkins said.
Another annual goal for the Seminoles is to win the mythical state title. Last season, they lost to Miami, Florida and USF. This season, they routed the Hurricanes and might be favored to end a six-game skid against the struggling Gators.
"The opportunities are there for us," redshirt senior QB Christian Ponder said. "We can still have a successful season and have an opportunity to, maybe, finish with 10 wins. If everything goes right, it can be a very successful season."
Historical footnote: Win No. 6 last season came against Maryland, 29-26.
"We're very fortunate," first-year coach Jimbo Fisher said. "I don't know what percentage of teams are still left out there that have those kind of things out there for them."
Best-kept secret: While fans raved about the arm strength QB EJ Manuel showed in Saturady's win against Clemson, Fisher said the third-year sophomore probably couldn't have thrown the ball as well as recently as last month.
"We had some issues with his arm as far as getting it back (to full) strength," he said, referring to Manuel's offseason shoulder surgery that kept him out of spring practice. "He was practicing one day a week there for a while."
Manuel said it wasn't until October when the soreness was gone and, "it really started to come together," as folks saw on Saturday in the 16-13 win.
Brooks on agents: Former FSU and Bucs star Derrick Brooks, who was at last week's game for a ceremony retiring his No. 10 jersey, offered an interesting take on problems created by agents (think North Carolina or Southern Cal and Reggie Bush) and the specter of a pay-for-play demand involving the recruitment of Auburn QB Cam Newton.
"The underlying issue with all of these is one thing — college players need some extra support. Period," he said. "I think if you look at every situation, that's a common theme or the common thread that no one wants to talk about. As long as it doesn't get discussed, you're going to continue to have problems."
Brooks didn't shy away from his involvement in the Foot Locker scandal (in which players went on a shopping spree at the athletic supply store using money from agents) that came to light after the 1993 championship season.
"We kind of gave birth to the extra-benefits rule," he said.
Oh, Okaro: Freshman F Okaro White, the former Clearwater High standout, is averaging nine points (on 52.9 percent shooting from the field and 75 percent from the line) and 4.3 rebounds for the Seminoles (3-0). Not bad, especially when you consider he's backing up Chris Singleton, a candidate for the Naismith Trophy as the nation's top player.
"Okaro's giving us everything he has and then some," coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We're very pleased with him. He's been consistent in practice all year. We're happy to see him where he is now, and he's only scratched the surface of his potential."
Brian Landman can be reached at [email protected]