FSU Football: Seminoles owe no apologies for being #1

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Jameis Winston is leading a Florida State team ranked first in the country. (Reuters)

Despite a weak schedule, the Seminoles have earned the top spot

Following a 37-7 victory over rival Florida on Saturday that was coupled with a dramatic loss by top-ranked Alabama to arch-rival Auburn, Florida State is the nation’s #1 team for the first time since 2000 in the human polls and 1999 in the BCS.

Thanks to over 300 yards passing from quarterback Jameis Winston on Saturday that included three touchdown tosses to Kelvin Benjamin and a defensive effort that held the once-potent Florida offense to under 200 yards, the Seminoles tied a school record with their 12th victory of the season. Now, only Duke stands between Florida State and the BCS National Championship.

The schedule for Florida State has not been great. The Seminoles have not played a bowl-eligible, non-conference opponent and the ACC is improved, but once again, a less than stellar conference. Despite that, Florida State has made the most of the opportunities that it has had while others have not.

In the BCS era, style points have certainly become important and more often than not, the team with the best overall resume gets the nod in the Bowl Championship Series standings. A handful of teams would likely sit ahead of the Seminoles had they simply done what Florida State has all year and that’s take care of business.

Entering the weekend, the matchup anticipated in the national title game was pitting Alabama against Florida State. The Crimson Tide, the nation’s two-time defending national champions, entered the week as the nation’s #1 ranked team in virtually every poll. Had it not been for four missed field goals on Saturday, Alabama would still be the top team in the country. For that, there is no blame to be placed on FSU.

After Auburn’s victory over Alabama on Saturday, the Tigers will face fifth-ranked Missouri in the SEC Championship. Missouri is 11-1 while playing in the nation’s best conference, but Mizzou let a 17-point lead evaporate in 12 minutes at home against South Carolina earlier this season. Had it not been for that loss, the Missouri Tigers may be ahead of Florida State at this point. For that loss to the Gamecocks however, the Seminoles bear no blame.

Less than a month ago, there was much debate as to whether Florida State could ever jump an Oregon team that seemed untouchable. The Ducks were 8-0 and had not played a game decided by fewer than three touchdowns. On November 7th, Oregon was pushed around to the tune of 274 rushing yards in a 26-20 loss to Stanford. The Ducks failed to even show up more than two weeks later in a 42-16 loss at Arizona to fall to 9-2 on the year. Once thought to be a favorite to play in the national championship, Oregon can no longer even win the Pac-12. For that, Florida State cannot be blamed.

At 10-1, Oklahoma State has won seven straight games, has handed Baylor its only loss and can win the Big XII Conference for the second time in three years with a victory at home over rival Oklahoma on Saturday. The Cowboys’ loss however came in Morgantown to a West Virginia team that finished with just four wins.

On September 28th, the Mountaineers beat Oklahoma State with a redshirt junior quarterback named Clint Trickett, who was at Florida State last season. Trickett appeared to see the writing on the wall that the starting job in Tallahassee would never be his and transferred to West Virginia. Trickett passed for over 300 yards that day in a 30-21 victory over Oklahoma State. For that, you can’t blame the Seminoles.

What Florida State should take responsibility for is the fact that the Seminoles have shown up and dominated virtually every week. While Winston, a redshirt freshman, has become the face of the program, the Seminoles are a very veteran team on both sides of the football. With a balanced offense that averages better than 525 yards-per-game and ranks second nationally in scoring, FSU has scored at least 37 points in every contest this season.

Florida State has scored at least 50 points seven times and has broke 60 on three occasions including a school-record 80 points against Idaho just over a week ago. With a defense led by seniors Christian Jones, Lamarcus Joyner and Telvin Smith, FSU is allowing the fewest points per game this season with 11 per contest. Six of Florida State’s 12 opponents have failed to hit double digits and only Boston College back in September managed to crack 20.

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While Florida State’s schedule has been weak, the Seminoles have had three matchups against ranked opponents including two against teams in the top 10 at the time of the contest. The Seminoles’ non-conference schedule was also supposed to contain West Virginia, the same school that handed Oklahoma State its only loss, and Florida, who was a BCS at-large a season ago. West Virginia backed out of what was agreed to be a home-and-home series after joining the Big XII while Florida is in the midst of its worst season in three decades. For that, don’t blame Florida State.

What the Seminoles have done is beat three ranked teams by a combined 155-28 margin. While FSU’s 63-0 victory over then #25 Maryland is no longer as impressive, the Terrapins at the time, were 4-0 and coming off of a 37-0 win over West Virginia. Yes, that same West Virginia who is the only team to beat Oklahoma State.

Against a Clemson team and at a place where the Tigers had topped a healthy top 10 SEC team in Georgia earlier in the season, Florida State routed then third-ranked Clemson by a 51-14 score while putting up the most points ever by a visitor at a place called Death Valley. Two weeks later, Florida State handed a 7-0 Miami team that was ranked seventh in the country, a 41-14 loss by shutting out the rival Hurricanes in the second half.

It is also worth mentioning that since their losses to Florida State, both Miami and Maryland have lost its best offensive players during the late season slides for both of those teams. Miami running back Duke Johnson and Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs are two of the more dynamic playmakers in the ACC and arguably the country. Not to make excuses, but Miami and Maryland are definitely better teams with those guys in the lineup and both have been lost to season-ending injuries. For those unfortunate losses for the Hurricanes and Terrapins, you can’t blame the Seminoles.

While Florida State has certainly not played the nation’s toughest schedule, the Seminoles have taken care of what was in front of them every week. Aside from a 48-34 victory over a Boston College team on September 28th, no team has scored more than 17 points against Florida State and only Miami has lost by fewer than 30 points to the Seminoles.

In the days of the BCS where style points of utmost importance, Florida State is putting up ridiculous numbers often with the second team in for most of and in some cases, the entire second half. While the ACC is not the SEC or Pac-12, it has more bowl-eligible teams than any other conference in America and FSU is winning by an average margin of victory of more than six touchdowns. For that, you can blame the Seminoles.

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