It hasn’t been a good 12 months for Florida State.
The football team stumbled to another 7-6 record. Wholesale changes to the offensive coaching staff led to an offense that was if anything slightly worse. The Semis lost to Miami 37-29 and to Florida 45-12. At the end of the regular season, a large academic scandal broke out involving several different teams that resulted in large suspensions for the bowl game and the first three games of 2008.
The FSU recruiting class was rated in the top ten by Scout and Rivals, headlined by dual threat QB E.J. Manuel. The lift from that was tempered by offensive star WR/RB Preston Parker getting arrested and suspended for the first two games.
To circumvent deal with the suspensions, Bobby Bowden and FSU decided to schedule two I-AA teams to begin the year: Western Carolina and Chattanooga. They’re not just I-AA teams, they’re bad I-AA teams. They went a combined 3-19 last year.
The problem at FSU right now is not talent, at least according to those who track these things. Over the past five years, FSU is in the top ten of programs in terms of bringing in talent according to Scout and Rivals. In this year’s Athlon preview magazine, an anonymous opposing assistant coach is quoted as saying, “I still think they’ve got the best players probably in the conference. I mean, they are really, really talented.”
The most glaring problem has been quarterback. Forget not having someone the quality of Chris Weinke, the last consistent and reliable signal caller at the school, they haven’t even had another Danny Kanell. Having Jeff Bowden replace Mark Richt certainly didn’t help, but the overall player development at Florida State just hasn’t been up to snuff.
That brings us to this year. Drew Weatherford is presumed to be the starter at quarterback, but Christian Ponder’s strong play at the end of last season could help him take the job at some point. One would also figure Manuel would get some snaps somewhere since the fans will want to see the jewel of the new recruiting class play. This is all nice, until you remember the old adage: if you have three quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks.
FSU will begin the season with two I-AA opponents, which brings their possible win total against I-A competition down to ten.
Wake Forest comes to Tallahassee in the third game when Parker comes back but while the academic scandal suspensions are still in effect. Given that Wake has won the past two against FSU (including a 30-0 beatdown in Tallahassee in 2006) and that eight Seminole starters will be out, the Demon Deacons will almost certainly win that game.
Florida State will also have to play at Clemson. Tommy Bowden sure seems to have figured his dad’s team out as he’s won four of the past five games in the series. Clemson also has the most talented and deepest team in the conference, so I don’t see much of a reason why Florida State will win this one either.
Then you have the final game versus Florida. The game is in Tallahassee, which almost by definition means the Gators will not play at their best. UF has won the past two in Tallahassee by seven points each but prior to that hadn’t won there since 1986. It will be uncomfortably close for those in orange and blue, but Florida outclasses FSU by such a large margin at this point it’s difficult to see a win for the home team.
That puts FSU down to seven possible wins against I-AA opponents. There will probably be a game where no one riding the garnet and gold quarterback carousel can get anything going, resulting in another loss. That leaves the Seminoles with just six wins against I-A competition.
It’s possible, though certainly not guaranteed, that Florida State will return to national prominence under the Jimbo Fisher administration. For now though, it’s going to be another long, disappointing season in Tallahassee.