Gumbel's Machine: No Excuse Needed

Florida State is now poised to have maybe its best season in the last decade, and the play of Anthony McCloud in the middle of a loaded defensive line is a big -- figuratively and literally -- reason why.

As Chief Osceola and Renegade prepare to make their electrifying charge through Doak Campbell Stadium, Seminole Nation appears to be overflowing with excitement for its three-month journey of Saturday obligations. Fans reschedule their lives -- and rightfully so -- around the FSU football season.

What's that? Your son's birthday party is next Saturday? Sure, I'll be there. Wait... Does FSU have a home game? Oh, um... I don't think I can make it. Something came up unexpectedly.

Similar conversations take place every Fall, whether it's a dinner date, a speaking engagement, a church function -- you name it. If it happened on a Saturday that coincided with an FSU game, someone was making up an excuse for his absence. Whether the fib was elementary or elaborate, football passion took over. We can't leave a Saturday game unseen.

Of course, certain FSU seasons may have sent fans into Seminole secrecy, when they tell friends and family that they aren't worried about their team but then enter each week with fingers crossed hoping for victory. Other recent seasons may have driven fans away from the stadium and forced them to watch at home so that no one else sees how painful a 7-6 campaign can be to ones that witnessed the dominant ‘90s.

However, this season Seminole fans should be able to punt those worries, pocket those excuses and return to the days of bragging rights and garnet-and-gold swagger. Jimbo Fisher's boys plan on putting out a 2011 body of work that fans will want to talk about for quite some time. This year's squad appears to have the talent and firepower worthy of counterbalancing the boasting done by FSU's SEC counterparts.

One 10-win season, a Chick-fil-A Bowl victory over South Carolina and a top recruiting class has made a world of difference in just nine months.

For the first time since perhaps the 2005 ACC Championship season, the Seminoles actually enter a year with a roster and gameplan good enough to make even the most fickle of FSU fans confident that big wins are on the horizon.

Now, it's hard to have big wins without big players.

Junior nose guard Anthony McCloud is a big player who has tackled a top spot on this year's defensive line. Think of him as a heavier version of Clemson's preseason All-ACC selection, Brandon Thompson. Both starred on the high school level in Thomasville, Georgia, just a few years ago. Both now play pivotal roles for top ACC contenders. McCloud will officially get to start Week 1 against ULM next to defensive tackle Everett Dawkins. The 6-2, 311-pounder appears to be on the verge of a breakthrough. He could have a Brodrick Bunkley-like impact on FSU's defense.

Academics grounded his Seminole dream almost immediately after high school, so the Thomas County Central grad was forced to go the junior-college route at Itawamba. After two years there, McCloud is now ready to make Seminole fans aware of No. 92.

Last season, the man nicknamed "Amp" had two sacks, three tackles for a loss and 35 total tackles in 14 games. Expect to see those numbers "amplified" as the Seminoles continue to rise back into national prominence.

The best part about it all? McCloud is just one of the incredible stories on a 2011 roster dripping with players eager to perform.

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Simply put, when you get an invitation to a Saturday event that doesn't involve football, feel free to be honest. You shouldn't have to make up excuses. Don't go with the fake doctor's note or unexpected car trouble. And please don't say you "have to go see a man about a horse."

Although with Chief Osceola and Renegade, that's technically not untrue.

Instead of the lies, excuses and football insecurities, simply say that you already have plans to witness perhaps FSU's best season in the last decade.

Based on the loaded roster, the philosophy of the coaching staff and the structure of the schedule, that, my friends, is no lie.

Then again, if you have a friend that actually scheduled something non-football related on an FSU game day, you may have to re-evaluate that relationship.

Elton Gumbel is a sports anchor and reporter for WCTV in Tallahassee, as well as a regular contributor to

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