Saturday, December 16, 2017
Colleges

Championship in hand, FSU aims for more

PASADENA, Calif. — It wasn't long after Florida State receiver Kelvin Benjamin hit the Rose Bowl turf after his winning touchdown in Monday's 34-31 BCS title game victory over Auburn that he began to cry.

The Seminoles' 14-year climb back to the top of college football was finally over.

"I can say that now, man," Benjamin said. "We are the best in the land."

Their celebration lasted long into the night.

Rashad Greene ran into the stands with a cardboard cutout held together with packing tape that read "National Champions." Plant High product James Wilder Jr. scooped garnet and gold confetti into his hands.

A handful of Seminoles in black championship hats gathered in one corner of a jubilant locker room to watch ESPN's highlights of one of the wildest finishes in BCS history.

"I envisioned this before I even committed here …" running back Devonta Freeman said. "Now that it's happening, it's just amazing."

But now comes the hard part.

Staying there.

"Like I say, we're not interested in being a great team," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said Tuesday, after accepting national championship trophies from the BCS, Associated Press and others. "We're interested in being a great program, and we want to be around for a long time."

Both FSU and Fisher have been in this situation before.

After their first national title in 1993, the 'Noles rattled off seven consecutive ACC championships. They followed their 1999 national championship with an appearance in the national title game at the Orange Bowl.

Fisher was an assistant under Nick Saban at LSU when the Tigers stumbled after their 2003 national title. They broke in a new quarterback and finished a 9-3 season with a loss to Iowa in the Capital One Bowl.

"It's human nature, you take winning for granted," Fisher said. "You take success for granted, and how hard it is to grind and win football games. You can't lose that edge. If you ever lose that edge, that chip on your shoulder, you're just another team."

If FSU retains that edge, the Seminoles seem poised to have a chance at making a run in the new College Football Playoff.

FSU could return as many as 16 of the 22 starters from Monday's game, including defensive MVP P.J. Williams, special teams hero Kermit Whitfield and quarterback Jameis Winston.

Winston will be in an unprecedented situation: Trying to follow up as a Heisman Trophy winner and the undisputed leader of the national champions as a 20-year-old sophomore.

"The thing about Jameis, he's a team-oriented guy, and he's not worried about the NFL or anything else," Fisher said.

Early Vegas odds believe FSU has a shot at following Alabama as back-to-back champions. The gambling site Bovada lists FSU as an early favorite for 2014 at 11/2 odds, ahead of the Crimson Tide (13/2) and Stanford (9/1).

"It's like the reckoning," Fisher said. "Things are getting back in order again."

Fisher said he was so drained from the game that he almost fell asleep in his hotel-room chair Monday. His voice was still hoarse Tuesday morning, and he said he couldn't lift his long-awaited crystal ball trophy if he wanted to.

But rest will have to wait. Fisher plans to give his staff a day off before getting back to recruiting and securing a class ranked fourth nationally by Rivals and ESPN.

"We've got to get going," Fisher said. "It's time for another one."

Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.

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