At 6-1 and 4-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, FSU is in position to put an exclamation point on the season and are in full control to accomplish ALL their goals for the season(ACC Championship, beat UF and Miami, BCS Bowl Game).
It is one thing to talk about it during the long, long pre-season, it is quite another to actually be in this position. How did we get here? At this point it appears that Head Coach Jimbo Fisher has pulled all the right strings.
He started by hiring a brilliant coaching staff. Anyone want to question the hiring or Mark Stoops, Greg Hudson, Eddie Gran, Vic Viloria, or D.J. Eliot now? .....we did not think so. While the season is not over, these guys have clearly done an outstanding job thus far and are a large part of the success.
Coach Fisher continued by 'setting the tone' in terms of off the field incidents and what is expected of the players when he did not hesitate to tell two starters, Jarmon Fortson and Nigel Carr, to pack their bags. Compare this to Urban Meyer allowing Chris Rainey back this week to play against Georgia. Well, it is easy to see why UF is up for the 'Fulmer Cup' every year and why we will not have that problem at FSU going forward.
His next test was dealing with the blowout loss at Oklahoma where FSU simply did not play a very good game. It would have been easy for the team to lose confidence, particularly the defense. Instead of that taking place however, the team responded with strong performances against BYU, Wake Forest, Virginia and most importantly Miami. We are going to give a pass to an uninspired performance vs. Boston College(still a win).
So we sit in position where a win on Thursday night pretty much clinches a berth in the ACC Title game (we would need to lose twice while some other team like Clemson won all their games---or the impossible happens and Maryland wins out). North Carolina State has shown a pulse, particularly offensively, but there is a reason the men in the desert have FSU favored on the road---we are simply better.
In fact there is a strong case that FSU will be the favored team in each of their remaining games(including a possible ACC title game). That situation changes the dynamic of a season of "getting back on the map" to a season that "could be special". Let's face it, in today's college football world, a conference championship and BCS bowl game win is the 2nd best thing that we can accomplish. Factor in that our loss is a "good one"---no shame losing on the road to a top 10 team-- and this season could surpass even the most optimistic of projections.
Are we putting too much pressure on this team? No we are not. We are not saying that this SHOULD happen, just that the possibility exists and playing to our increased expectations would mean that it certainly could. And everyone around the program from the head man to the assistant's to the players to the people on the peripheral deserve a ton of credit right now.
Miami was set up to have a big year, they had more talented experience returning and this was the year "the 'Canes are back". They botched that chance when they laid an egg vs. Ohio State and FSU. Sure they could win out, but this season will always taste "sour" to their loyal fanbase because of the loss to rival FSU.
Make no mistake this season can turn "sour" very quickly. A loss to NCSU would do that and would change the dynamic from controlling our destiny to needing help(mainly someone beating NCSU). A loss to UF, under any circumstances, will put a damper on the season, but we will cross that bridge when we get there. So much can happen in a month's time......just look to Gainesville where UF has gone from the penthouse to the outhouse in three weeks.
You have to take each game one by one; it starts this week. As fans, you want it all and you want it right now. That is seldom the case in a re-building process, however the best of both worlds is winning WHILE re-building.....that is exactly what FSU has done thus far.
FSU is riding a five game winning streak entering Thursday's game, the experience on the team needs to let the youngsters know that it "is not this easy", that they need to continue to fight. One quarter of bad ball can result in a loss. The "fight" has to be there every play of every game.
We think there are three key's to taking advantage of FSU's current position:
(1) The running game must remain as effective as it has been. Ponder is banged up and we need to be able to count on a steady running game.
(2) The defensive line must continue their impressive play.
(3) The team must stay in the "now" and not get caught up in what "could happen" and instead "make it happen".
Barring a disaster down the stretch, it is clear that this program has seen it's darkest days and is on the rise. A strong finish will not only put an exclamation point on the season, but will set FSU up for next season......and you need to look no further than this year's rankings to see the value of "momentum". FSU is currently ranked ahead of ONE one-loss BCS team(Oklahoma State). Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Stanford, Nebraska, Arizona!, and Oklahoma are all ranked ahead right now. A strong finish gives FSU the opportunity for "poll position" next year.
In a few years we will look back at this time and say "we closed like a freight train in 2010" or "we let a golden opportunity slip through our fingertips". Which one will it be? Only time will tell, that is why you play the games......one by one.