Chance for Florida State Seminoles to seize the day — and the future — in ACC Championship Game

CHARLOTTE, N.C.

It was the morning after one of the greatest nights of his professional life, and Jimbo Fisher was in a rush.

He had recruits to see. He had a game plan to prepare. Mostly, he had momentum to seize.

Coming off a victory against Florida, as well as the clinching of the Atlantic Division crown, this is the precipice on which Fisher and Florida State began this week. The Seminoles may be playing Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game tonight, but they also are playing for much, much more.

FSU is playing for rosters in years to come. The Seminoles are playing for television exposure. They are playing for the kind of momentum that this university has not had for a long while.

"The object here is to build a program, not a team," Fisher said Friday at a pregame news conference. "That's hopefully what we're talking about, being able to play championship-caliber football and doing it consistently."

We tend to think of momentum as an on-field phenomenon. A big stop. A long play. A critical fumble. And, in a way, that's what this season has been for Florida State. The most important turnover the Seminoles have had in years.

FSU is threatening to become relevant again at a particularly opportune moment. Florida is coming off its worst regular season since the 1980s. Miami has fired another coach and is being publicly rejected by candidates again.

Granted, it's not as if the world witnessed a return to vintage FSU overnight, but you can make the case that this team is the best the state has to offer in 2010. The Seminoles have a nationally televised conference championship game tonight with a chance for an Orange Bowl berth, and the program's highest season-ending ranking in years.

And that's why the significance of tonight's game goes so far beyond a line in the league's history books.

For Florida State to get back to national prominence, it has to become competitive again in the state. And ever since Urban Meyer arrived at Florida, that concept was looking bleak.

At the same time UF was collecting two national championships and a Heisman Trophy under Meyer, the Seminoles were struggling to stay in contention for division crowns in a weaker conference. Even though FSU was posting winning records, it may have been the greatest disparity between the two programs in a generation.

And that's why the victory against the Gators was so critical for FSU. It put the Seminoles back in the conversation. It meant Fisher could greet recruits with a smile this week while Meyer had to come armed with explanations. And if FSU can knock off Virginia Tech tonight, it means Fisher has another two months to sell recruits on a program that's on the upswing.

"Kids are very excited because they see the direction," Fisher said. "What people want to see is the place I'm going is heading in a direction where I want to go. Everybody wants to be part of a winner.

"The high schools kids … that were here were excited. They saw the environment in Doak Campbell. It's been great."

Naturally, there is far more to the equation than one victory against UF and one potential ACC title. Florida still has advantages that FSU may never know. The Gators have more tradition, more money, more sets of eyeballs. You can pretty much assume Florida will be better next season, and that means the Seminoles have to be prepared to build off of this season.

So, yes, FSU is playing for the 2010 ACC title tonight, but the Seminoles are already imagining the fallout in years to come.

"We're trying to get ourselves back on the map and become relevant again," quarterback Christian Ponder said on a conference call. "Obviously we want to make it to a BCS bowl, and very few teams get to make that. So, if we do, hopefully people will start to take us a little bit more seriously."

The process began last Saturday. Up until that point, it had been a nice but not a particularly distinguished season for Florida State.

Then FSU knocked off Florida. And Maryland upset North Carolina State to put the Seminoles in tonight's game.

Now, Florida State has a chance to take another step. To win a championship, and turn a few more heads.

To keep a grip on the momentum the Seminoles seized last week.

Chance for Florida State Seminoles to seize the day — and the future — in ACC Championship Game 12/03/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 3, 2010 10:55pm]

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