Over the last fifteen years Florida State fans have had to endure periods of six straight losses to both Florida and Miami. From 2000 to 2004 the Miami Hurricanes dominated the Seminoles, and Chris Rix became the first quarterback in NCAA history to lose to one team five times as a starter. This was immediately followed by a 2004-2009 period where the University of Florida embarrassed Florida State with six straight.
That changed in 2010 as Jimbo Fisher took over for the legendary Bobby Bowden. Since then, Florida State has won seven of the last eight games against their traditional rivals. What has led to the change?
It starts off with recruiting. For example, 2012 Florida State signed the same number of 5-star recruits (six) as they did throughout the entire 2006-2009 period and have signed sixteen overall between 2010-2013. This has led to an average team recruiting ranking nine spots higher (9) in the the 2010-2013 period than in the 2006-2009 period (18.25).
Games are not won by recruiting talent alone, however. Developing that talent has been key to Florida States resurgence. Amazingly, only nine Seminole players were drafted between 2006-2009, including only two first rounders. By contrast, Florida State had an incredible 11 players drafted in 2013 and has had 25 players drafted since 2010, including five first rounders.
That success is attributable at least in part to the quality assistants Fisher has brought to FSU. Amazingly, Florida State had to replace six coaches who took promotions at other schools after the 2012 season. The coaches he brought in were not only excellent recruiters, but were able to help the Seminoles move back to the forefront of college football and capture their third National Championship. Fisher's system has proven outstanding at getting the best out of the Seminoles' recruited talent.
The on-field results of these changes are obvious. Since Fisher has taken over, the Seminoles have outscored the Gators and Canes 257 to 128: an average of 32.13 to 16. Six of the seven FSU victories have come by double digits, four by more than 24 points.
The Seminoles have dominated the stat lines against Miami, outgaining the Hurricanes 1694–1346 over the past four games. Although the passing yards are relatively even with FSU holding a 923–899 edge, the Seminoles have dominated on the ground, racking up 771 yards while holding Miami to just 441. This differential has increased in the past two games, in which Florida State has held Miami to under 85 yards rushing. The Seminoles have also dominated the turnover margin at plus-4 during the Jimbo Fisher era. FSU has also dominated in the red zone against Miami, scoring on an incredible 95.5 percent of their 22 redzone attempts against the Hurricanes, including 13 touchdowns. By contrast, Miami has only been able to move into the red zone 13 times against the Seminoles, converting 84.6 percent of their chances with eight touchdowns.
The Noles have not been quite as dominant against Florida over this stretch as against Miami. Florida State just edges out Florida in total yards 1184–1047, and the Gators actually hold the edge in rushing yards 588–383 largely on the strength of Florida's 2012 win in Tallahassee. The Gators are well behind in passing yards, however, with FSU having nearly doubled up their rivals, 801–459. More significantly, the Seminoles have dominated the Gators in turnover margin and in the red zone. Over the past four years, Florida State is plus-5 in turnover margin and have only one turnover outside of the 2012 debacle in which the Seminoles turned it over five times. In contrast, Florida has turned the ball over 11 times, including four in each of the 2010 and 2011 games. Florida has reached the red zone 10 times in four years, converting on only seven of them, including five touchdowns. Florida State has been perfect in the red zone against the Gators with nine of their 12 red zone attempts ending in touchdowns.
Injuries and Luck
FSU's dominance over this period has been even more remarkable given the injuries the Seminoles had to deal with in 2011 and 2012. The 2011 offensive line that was initially supposed to be a team strength wound up a M*A*S*H unit, with the Noles starting four freshmen in their Champs Sports Bowl win against Notre Dame. The 2012 team lost its two top defensive playmakers in Greg Reid (kicked off team) and Brandon Jenkins (foot) early in the year and its best offensive player in Chris Thompson at midyear. Florida State's resilience in the face of these setbacks is a further testament to the program's improved depth and development.
One additional aspect of Fisher's system has begun paying dividends on this front, as Noles' use of the Catapult GPS/accelerometer system has significantly limited soft tissue injuries and helped players stay fresh, which should only help the Seminoles that much more moving forward. The 2011 and 2012 injury troubles notwithstanding, FSU has also benefited from a bit of injury luck, nowhere more obvious than at the tight end position, where starter Nick O'Leary is fortunate to be breathing after two motorcycle crashes, including one in which he was thrown over 50 feet, narrowly missing impact with the front of a bus after a car pulled out in front of him. O'Leary was able to get up and walk away from the crash and went on to set the Florida State record for most touchdowns by a tight end in Seminole history.
What you get when you combine a new recruiting philosophy with a first-rate developmental system, taking care of the football, red zone efficiency, and a little bit of luck is four years of dominance over your in-state rivals and a lot of job security for head coach Jimbo Fisher. Oh, and winning a National Championship doesn't hurt, either.