After Florida State had pulverized N.C. State Saturday 49-17, Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren made a point to seek out FSU coach Jimbo Fisher and several of his players.
Doeren had the same message for all of them: “Go win the whole thing.”
It was a classy thing to do, and perhaps an accurate prediction. For after seeing FSU for the first time in person Saturday, I have no doubt they are good enough to win the whole thing.
Good enough to blast Miami next weekend and go undefeated in the regular season. Good enough to come to Charlotte on Dec. 7 and whip whatever team is on the other side of the ACC championship game. And good enough to beat Alabama or Oregon in the title game, if the Seminoles get a couple of breaks (and can wrangle a spot in that game in the first place).
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There is no doubt that No.3 FSU has finally returned full force to college football. It led this game by a stunning 35-0 margin – in the first quarter!
The rest of the game was actually about even, but it was academic by then. FSU quarterback “Famous” Jameis Winston again made a strong case for Heisman Trophy consideration, and FSU looks solid everywhere else, too, except for its run defense.
“They are not missing anything, ingredient-wise,” Doeren said.
What is remarkable is that FSU had 11 players drafted by NFL teams in 2013 – more than any other college team, including Alabama – and is still this good. The Seminoles won national titles in 1993 and 1999, and the 80,000-plus in Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday know it could happen again.
“I think they really have the talent to do it,” said N.C. State quarterback Brandon Mitchell, whose offense didn’t get a first down until the Seminoles had rung up a 28-0 lead.
Because Florida State put this one away so early, it was fun and games for most of Saturday in Tallahassee. It was Bobby Bowden Day as the Seminoles welcomed back their legendary coach with a pregame celebration that included Bowden throwing a flaming spear into the ground at midfield. To reference Bowden’s signature word, the FSU band spelled out “Dadgum” at halftime.
Did FSU still try to pile it on after that 35-0 lead? For awhile, absolutely. The Seminoles ran a fake punt in the second quarter while clinging to that 35-0 lead – a cheap shot, I thought (Fisher defended it by saying Bowden had always told him to keep your foot on the gas).
But it worked and the drive eventually led to a TD and a 42-0 margin. What, no onside kick after that?
But, of course, it’s up to the Wolfpack to stop all of that, and they couldn’t stop anybody early. Florida State had touchdown drives of one, two, four, five and seven plays in the first quarter. It felt like an upset when an FSU player wasn't celebrating in the end zone at the end of an offensive play.
Winston had a near-perfect day (292 yards, three TDs) for FSU. And Fisher took him out halfway through the third quarter, which puts a hole in the “piling-it-on” argument.
In a statistical oddity, the last four times that N.C. State had faced a ranked FSU team, the Wolfpack had pulled off an upset. But this game harkened back to those in the series from closer to two decades ago, when FSU embarrassed the Wolfpack by scores of 77-17 and 62-3 in the mid-1990s.
Florida State is back to that level. And N.C. State has become the type of team that can get beaten by at least 14 points in three straight conference games and have people shrug their shoulders about it.
No one shrugs their shoulders at FSU except maybe Fisher, who groused: “I thought we could have played better.”
This is a Seminole team that can inspire awe. And behind Winston, its astonishing redshirt freshman, it really might go win the whole thing.