Florida State’s one big problem

On Twitter @TheStudentSect
Author @TheCoachBart

Florida State football has a problem if it plans on playing in the CFB Playoff extravaganza here in about a month and a half.

When you think about it, we change very little in our basic reasoning from the moment we become old enough to understand right and wrong and then how we approach it going forward.

You stick your hand in the cookie jar or candy drawer just enough times before you realize you get in trouble every time you do that, so you either try doing it when no one’s around, give up entirely, or do what most of us do and see how far you can stretch that rope.

If you can’t have straight-up candy, maybe you kick the tires on trying to get potato chips or other not-all-that-healthy snack foods. But the point is, for the most part, from age 2 to age 100, people try to figure out how much rope they have in almost all situations and relationships.

Which brings us back to Florida State football.


The Noles have become one of those “Pick your own ending” books from the mid-1990s, back when people still read books on paper. You’d come to the end of a chapter and basically have to make a decision: do I want the character to go into that door, this cave, stay where they’re at, etc.?

Whatever path you chose would alter the story, though in the end, it was mostly the same. Villains cannot win in children’s books, I am convinced.

FSU is like that book, dipping into its endless satchel of close-call endings leading in wins. To go 20 down on the road this weekend, turn to page 43. If you want to give Boston College a 42-yard-field goal in the rain with very little time left in a tie game and go from there, turn to page 78. If you want to go down big early to Miami, turn to page 109.

The last page always sees the story ending the same way, but eventually, it won’t.

Yes, FSU keeps pulling them out, but eventually, you go cracking into the liquor cabinet enough times, someone catches you pouring apple juice back in their suddenly half-empty bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

FSU’s Two Face act by half is something to behold. The Seminoles have trailed five times this season for a cumulative -44 points in the first halves of those games. They have gone on to outscore the opponent in each of those games (Clemson, North Carolina State, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Miami) by a cumulative 91 points.

That’s a truly remarkable statistic.

The worry is the one that probably existed as Jimbo Fisher’s biggest challenge coming into this season: with new leadership in spots, how would the team respond to being everyone’s “biggest game” circled on the schedule? How would they match that intensity on a weekly basis, defending a championship and being the hunted, instead of the guys with the rifles looking for dinner?

FSU knows she’s getting mad about him being out until all hours of the night howling at the moon, but the Seminoles just keep going out because she hasn’t changed the locks yet. One has to wonder when she’s going to call the locksmith.

FSU waited until the bitter end against Boston College, not coming out completely flat-footed but also not putting the Eagles away in the second half, as per usual. If you watch Florida State, it’s almost like something just clicks with the Noles, as if at some point they say, “Well, I guess we should go win now, because it’s getting a bit hairy,” almost like a cat stalking prey and knowing it has no chance to get away, just sort of wondering when to pounce.

The problem is that college football teams aren’t willing, ambivalent prey. Eventually, FSU is going to get gotten if it doesn’t watch out.

How do you fix it? How do you go against human nature? How can the Seminoles gain that feeling of how terrible they’d feel if they lost without actually feeling it, so they know to wake up early and avoid it? It’s hard to tell in the first place, and just as hard to tell if it’s even possible.

However, this late in the season, the margin for error is nil. Florida, a team in a transition phase with one more game to play for its outgoing coach, knows the locksmith’s number. Beware, FSU. This isn’t always a kid’s choose-your-ending book. It’s not mandatory that the ending has to be a happy one.