Monday, January 22, 2018
Sports

Fennelly: Evaluating the Florida State-USF 'showdown' in light of the Louisville debacle

TAMPA — Perhaps we didn't properly explain the fundamentals of the showdown plan.

USF held up its end well enough.

Florida State didn't read the instructions.

So the surging Bulls host the Seminoles after FSU had its molecular structure rearranged by Louisville.

Saturday, high noon, Raymond James Stadium, doesn't have that showdown feel at the moment.

Oh, well. Give it a few days.

USF roared from 17-0 down at Syracuse to a 45-20 win. Rodney Adams made three touchdowns, Marlon Mack made two. USF is 3-0, just where it wanted to be leading into the game with FSU.

But FSU's national championship dreams virtually disintegrated in a mortifying 63-point flash of light. The Seminole tumbled to 13th in the new Associated Press poll (Louisville went from 10th to third). Louisville dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson followed through on both if those threats while becoming a Heisman Trophy favorite. FSU's defense, already fighting injuries, now must overcome embarrassment. No Seminoles team ever surrendered more points. 63-20 and it wasn't that close.

Jameis, if you've got a pregame speech lying around, bring it to the game Saturday.

You've got a bunch of puppies on your hands.

Playoffs?

Playoffs?

Where's Jim Mora when you need him?

The real question now is which Seminoles team Jimbo Fisher brings to Tampa. Will it be an angry, wounded beast out for redemption or a humiliated squad that has packed it in?

My guess is you'll see angry and wounded.

The FSU loss takes a little of the shine off Saturday's game. It's not quite the catapult that USF imagined. The Bulls can crash the Top 25 with a win over FSU, but the perception will be that they merely knocked off reeling Florida State. I'm not even sure the Big 12 will watch the game.

By the way, it remains beyond my comprehension that USF couldn't crash the real TV listings last Saturday. UCF was on. FAU was on. FIU was on. Not USF. When someone says, "I think you need an app," you're in trouble.

A win Saturday would still be major doings for Willie Taggart and his Bulls. A win Saturday would be a coming-out party. In some ways, beating a desperate FSU team would be as impressive as knocking off No. 2. FSU hasn't lost two games in a row since 2011, when it was last out of the national rankings.

Okay, knocking off No. 2 would have been bigger.

This is still a great opportunity for USF. A chance for Bulls quarterback Quinton Flowers to display his dual-threat skills, a chance for Adams and Mack to show off USF's triple threat. Really, no one has truly stopped the Bulls offense in a long time.

FSU's defense has to crawl from the grave. And Dalvin Cook, once a Heisman hopeful, must join this season. Remember, he ran for 266 yards and three touchdowns when FSU beat USF in Tallahassee last season. FSU redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois needs to get off the deck after Louisville. I think beating FSU represents a tall order for USF.

Any time Florida State comes to Tampa is a big deal. The Seminoles have played the Bulls here only one other time, in 2012, a 30-17 FSU win.

Beware of Florida State. They're cornered.

Beware of USF. They're out to turn the corner.

Showdown enough.

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