With Florida State preparing for Saturday's game against visiting North Carolina, you can't help but think about what could have been for the Tar Heels were it not for an agent-related scandal.
Three top players were lost for the entire season — DT Marvin Austin, DE Robert Quinn and WR Greg Little — while 10 others have missed part of the year for receiving improper benefits from an agent or for their possible involvement in an academic misconduct case that is still being investigated.
UNC is 5-3, 2-2 in the ACC. It was a trendy pick to win the league this year and was No. 18 in the Associated Press preseason poll.
"There's a lot of bad decisions guys can make out there, a lot of bad positions people can place themselves in," FSU QB Christian Ponder said. "It's a problem (unscrupulous agents) out there that exists, and it's really up to us as student-athletes to be the ones to say no to certain things. … It's really up to us to be the ones to know what we can and cannot do."
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, who has told his players that he must clear any contact with agents rather than leaving it to the agent to talk to the compliance office first, said he and his staff constantly talk about deleterious "outside influences," including agents.
"We do that in our life skills and part of our mental conditioning is dealing with those issues and talking to the kids constantly about people trying to get to you," he said. "You're constantly trying to educate the young men so they make proper decisions about what they've got to do and who they're around."
He applauds a suggestion that the NFL suspend a player found to have taken an improper benefit while still in school, which might provide the financial deterrence. But he added that there also must be harsher penalties for agents.
Things to come? With FSU needing to drive the length of the field in the final moments last week at North Carolina State, it showed that the no-huddle offense worked well. Might it do that as a base, a la Oklahoma, rather than as a necessity to beat the clock?
Well, Fisher said the team is relatively thin at receiver and tight end, which isn't conducive to a no-huddle. Another factor is that FSU's offense has done a good job of eating up the clock and, even when not scoring, has moved the chains enough that P Shawn Powell and the coverage team have kept opponents facing a long field. Those factors, in turn, have helped the young defense.
"Everybody says, 'Why don't you use no-huddle all the time?' " Fisher said. "We can do it, if we want to. … If we had done that the other day, we might have scored more or we might have gotten a couple three and outs and got them the ball more."
Moving on up: With 6,211 career passing yards, Ponder is sixth in school history, and he needs 162 to pass Danny Kanell for fifth place and 168 to pass Gary Huff. Chris Weinke holds the record of 9,839.
Numbers game: FSU is averaging 16.77 yards on its kickoff returns, last out of 120 Division I-A schools. The Seminoles are averaging 11.43 yards on punt returns, 29th in I-A.
Bowden honored ... again: Former FSU coach Bobby Bowden has been named the 2011 recipient of the Amos Alonso Stagg Award, which recognizes the person "whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football."
Bowden, who turns 81 on Monday, will receive the award that was first given out in 1940 during the American Football Coaches Association's awards luncheon on Jan. 11 in Dallas.
"I'm excited about it," he said. "I've been to the American Football Coaches Association's conventions through the years, and I've been proud of the men who have won this award. I never thought that I'd win this award, let alone be considered."
Call him Commissioner: Nick Maddox, a Seminoles RB from 1999 to 2002, beat a four-term incumbent to win an at-large seat as a Leon County commissioner on Tuesday night.
Brian Landman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3347. Follow his coverage at seminoles.tampabay.com.