This was supposed to be Florida State’s year to finally break out from the mediocrity that has haunted it for most of this century. The stars seem to be aligned for the Seminoles this season: West Virginia backed out of the only early nonconference challenge it would have faced and was replaced on the schedule by Savannah State. With Virginia Tech struggling, a road game in Blacksburg in November appeared far less daunting than usual. The Florida game is at home.
And so, when FSU beat Clemson (at home) a couple of weeks ago, there was ample reason to believe it could run the table and get the ACC into a national championship game for the first time since the 1999 season — the last time Bobby Bowden’s program was still dominant.
That’s all gone now after Coach Jimbo Fisher’s team blew a 16-0 halftime lead against North Carolina State, gave up a punt-block in the closing minutes and watched the Wolfpack score the winning touchdown with 16 seconds left in a 17-16 loss that, quite simply, blows up their season.
“We still control our destiny in the ACC,” Fisher commented after the game.
This is almost as impressive as the fact that the Chicago Cubs finished ahead of the Houston Astros in the National League Central. Florida State could still represent the ACC in yet another Orange Bowl that will be watched by dozens.
Just how bad is the ACC? Consider a few of the following results:
●Georgia Tech, supposedly one of the league’s better teams going into the season, lost at home to Middle Tennessee State — by three touchdowns.
●N.C. State, the team that just beat allegedly all-powerful Florida State, lost to Miami a week earlier. That would be the same Miami team that was humiliated by Notre Dame, 41-3, in Chicago on Saturday night.
●Virginia, which came within a game of playing for the ACC championship a year ago, is 2-4 and has losses to Louisiana Tech and Duke. In the loss to Duke — this is football remember, not basketball — the Cavaliers gave up 28 straight second-half points en route to a 42-17 defeat. If Penn State had fielded a collegiate-level kicker when it played in Charlottesville a month ago, U-Va. would be 1-5.
●Virginia Tech, which has won a least 10 games for eight straight seasons, will need to finish on a seven-game winning streak — including a bowl win— to extend that streak. Right now, playing in a 20th straight bowl game appears in jeopardy even by today’s low standards, after the Hokies dropped to 3-3 by losing to North Carolina, 48-34, on Saturday. They still have to play at Clemson and at Miami, plus the home game against Florida State.
●Boston College has yet to beat a Bowl Championship Series team. The Eagles’ only victory is over Maine, and on Saturday they fell to an Army team that was 0-4 coming in, including an embarrassing loss a week earlier to Stony Brook. Coach Frank Spaziani would appear to have as much chance to survive another season in Boston as Red Sox manager — whoops, ex-manager — Bobby Valentine.