Wednesday, January 17, 2018

FSU No. 1 and acting like it


Florida State's Jimbo Fisher had one of those looks that a football coach gets when his team doesn't do what it is supposed to do.

You know the look. Furrowed eyebrows, gritted teeth, clenched fists, looking like he was about to light into somebody.

It was the second quarter and one of his players had decided he was going to start the play a couple of seconds ahead of his teammates.

And, so, Jimbo had that look.

Actually, come to think of it, Jimbo had that exact same look a few other times Saturday night.

This was not, you see, a vintage performance by his Seminoles.

Their quarterback, who still should pick up the Heisman Trophy this coming weekend, was just a touch off for much of the night and threw two interceptions.

Their receivers, perhaps as fine a group as there is in the country, had a few drops and a few more ragged routes.

And the Seminoles, the top-ranked team in the country, came out a tad sloppy and arrogantly flat, like a team that thought the game was going to be played on paper instead of a field.

So how bad was it for the Seminoles? Well, they only won by 38 points against the No. 20 team in the country.

Pretty crummy, eh?

Florida State's convincing 45-7 victory over Duke in the ACC Championship Game showed two things.

One, FSU is far from perfect.

And, two, it doesn't need to be anywhere near perfect to kick the stuffing out of pretty much anybody.

Oh, there is one more thing. This is the best college football team in the country.

"We're not champs," Fisher said.

That's true. They're not champs.


Give it a month.

Maybe they haven't played a challenging schedule. Maybe they come from a conference that is better known for basketball than football. Maybe they haven't played an elite team all season.

Frankly, forget the maybes. All those things are true.

Yet you watch this team carve through defenses and stonewall offenses and demolish everything in its path and you just don't see how anyone in the country can beat it.

Have you seen how dominant this team has been?

FSU won one game 80-14.

And another 63-0.

And 62-7.

And 54-6.

And 59-3. Twice!

Then there was Saturday night.

Okay, so Duke isn't exactly Bear Bryant's Crimson Tide, but still, the Blue Devils were ranked 20th in the country. They had won eight games in a row, including a solid victory over Miami. They were, after all, good enough to win their division and get to the conference's championship game.

And Florida State destroyed them, to the surprise of absolutely nobody. If anything, you probably thought it was going to be even worse.

"Offensively, we were out of synch," Fisher said.

Jameis Winston threw for more than 300 yards and had a hand in four touchdowns, while setting a slew of ACC and freshman passing records for a season. FSU rushed for more than 200 yards. The offense rolled up more than 550 yards.

Not bad for being out of synch.

Imagine how bad it would have been if FSU actually showed up in the first quarter.

"It doesn't matter about adversity," said Winston, whose offense was held without a first-quarter point for the first time all season. "We don't care about adversity."

The defense, meantime, made Duke's offense look like high-schoolers, allowing only 239 yards and a meaningless touchdown with a minute left in the game.

"Our defense was the key," Fisher said. "This is one of the best defenses I've ever been around."

This is, by far, the best team Fisher has had in his four years as head coach in Tallahassee, although some actually thought that the FSU teams to really watch were a year or two down the line.

This season, to be honest, is a bit of a surprise. No one anticipated Winston being this good and the 22 starters for the ACC title game featured only seven seniors.

Next year is supposed to be the year for FSU.

But now the Seminoles are one victory away from locking up the third national championship in the program's history. In a month, they will head to Pasadena, Calif., for the BCS national title.

Who will they play?

Does it matter?

For the record, it's going to be Auburn, a team of destiny that's about to run into a team of domination.

When asked about heading to Pasadena, Fisher grinned and pumped his fists in the air.

It was some look.

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