Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Light at the end of the tunnel, finally

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That is how many days passed between Florida State losing to Oklahoma in the 2001 Orange Bowl, starting the Lost Decade, and Florida State’s win over South Carolina in the Chick-Fil-A bowl.

That is also how long it’s been since FSU fans could unequivocally head into the offseason with a bright outlook towards the future of Seminole football. Despite winning ACC titles in the Lost Decade, you could never escape the ever creeping feeling that FSU was heading down. First came Miami ending the Noles’ 54 game unbeaten streak in 2001, followed by The Streak the Canes laid on the Noles. Then, just as Miami began to fade, Urban Meyer took over at Florida and proceeded to lay whoopin after whoopin on FSU.  By the end of the decade, the Noles finished with a 6-13 record vs their arch rivals.

However, it was in the ACC that FSU truly saw it’s reign challenged. The Noles lost just two ACC games during their first nine years in the league. They then proceeded to lose 41-9 to an unranked North Carolina team, and it seemed that mystique was lost forever. As many have pointed out, prior to 2010, the Noles had gone 16-16 in their last 32 ACC games.

The Seminoles will finish the year with 10 wins and a Top 20 ranking, once considered a birth right, for the first time since 2003.  More importantly, the kinds of losses that FSU fans had come to expect didn’t happen this year. In losses to Oklahoma and Virginia Tech, FSU can say they lost to the better team.  Some fans will contend that the losses to NC State and UNC were inexcusable, but they were far from the embarrassing losses to Wake or Maryland.

Russell Wilson just took the NC State game over, and FSU once again was handed a raw deal from ACC schedulers with a road Thursday night game. As for UNC, the Tar Heel team FSU faced was the closest thing to the Pre-Agentgate team UNC would field all year.

But enough reflecting on the past. This is supposed to be about the light at the end of the tunnel, not the Decade of Darkness that preceded it. In February, FSU will sign one of the top recruiting classes in the country and add to the stockpile of young talent in Tallahassee. Depth will be added to the defensive line, hopefully ensuring last year’s steep pass rush decline won’t happen next year.

Speaking of the defense, next year should see the real fruit of Mark Stoops’ labor. We saw a preview of that in the Chick-Fil-A bowl, with FSU’s defensive backs providing good coverage and causing interceptions. However, next year should be a real treat. How far this team has already come from the dismal units from 2008 and 2009.

When the Summer preview magazines roll out, FSU will be a near unanimous pick to win the ACC. For the first time in a long time, that will be because of the talent and coaching that is present, and not the teams that came before them.

Now, whether or not that will come to fruition will rest on the shoulders of EJ Manuel. But we’ll talk about that later. Just enjoy this FSU fans, it has really been awhile.

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