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In about a 20-minute span on 10/19/2014, we learned everything about the college football season … and nothing at the same time.
Florida State-Notre Dame will turn out to be one of those nights when you wake up the next morning with your buddies and you’re all in the living room in basketball shorts guzzling Gatorade and saying about last night, “That was great, wasn’t it?”
But this is college football, and when two top-5 ranked teams (according to MEANINGLESS, YES, POLLS) meet, you’re bound to learn something about the way this season will unfold. So you did, and this is what you learned …
1. Florida State is still Florida State, in spite of itself: Search far and wide, and you won’t make any sense of Jimbo Fisher and staff taking the air out of Ship Jameis Winston late with one offensive possession to put the game away and instead choosing to run the football into the line, thus giving Notre Dame’s white-hot offense the ball near midfield and a chance to win. When you have the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, you let him win the game in any situation, especially when he’s throwing darts, as Winston was in the second half. But in the end, the highest compliment you can give any team regards its resilience. Florida State still has that.
2. In the current climate of college football, both of these teams should be playing for a title as of right now. Notre Dame shouldn’t be docked a bit for losing at Florida State. Who are you taking to win in that hornet’s nest, let alone at night? The Irish did all they could to pull the shocker, even defying the odds on fourth and 18 when it felt like that was pretty much the ballgame had they not converted it. It was fate. These were two of the elite football teams in the country playing at a high level against one another, going toe to toe. Two years ago, yeah, this is a playoff elimination game. But this is the newly minted CFB Playoff, and if there’s a loss to be excused, this is it. If you’re going to excuse the 2011 Alabama-LSU snooze-fest, certainly you can excuse two teams who played good football. This wasn’t a game won or lost on failings; this was a showcase for playmakers. Both look like top four teams to me tonight.
3. The offensive pass interference call at the end of the game was the right call, but it wasn’t consistent. When you coach, you don’t necessarily ask officials to be right or wrong all the time … just consistent. Nobody wants a game to start out physical; you adjust, and then all of a sudden, every hand check is called in the second half and you rewrite your game plan. The Call (yes, capitalized) will be scrutinized forever (pretty much), and it was the right call, but it happened earlier in the game as well with no call being made. So a coach plans for that and how he expects the officials to see a play. Yes, that’s a point of emphasis in the NFL and has been called plenty this season, but it needs to be called consistently if it’s going to be called at all.
Here’s the video of the play, best viewed by clicking on the hyperlink in the tweet:
Check out this video #espn http://t.co/QjZTW9sC8l
— The Student Section (@TheStudentSect) October 19, 2014
4. Brian Kelly was elite tonight; Jimbo Fisher was not. Kudos to Kelly, who pushed all the right buttons all game long. Even in two failed first- half fourth-down attempts, it showed he believed in his guys, and that’s galvanizing later on in a game. Consistently, Kelly tested FSU’s defense deep and then had his way with the Seminoles on second down. Consistently, Notre Dame man-balled FSU with the run game. Consistently, Kelly believed in his guys to make the play and rolled those dice, which always leads to added confidence for players in what they’re doing.
Yet, the great thing about sports is that it’s not an art fair. There are winners, and there are losers. Florida State ends up winning and asserting itself as a team that just … come hell or high water … will figure it out, even in spite of itself. Notre Dame ends up losing, but in a perfect world, sacrificing none of its profile for doing so.
This will be the test of the CFB Playoff committee. There’s only such things as “good losses” in college football. Two of the four best teams in 2014 played tonight. One had to lose. Your serve, college football …