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Takeaway Thursday: Reflections on FSU’s season, coaching carousel

FSU’s 2021 football season has come and gone in what seems like the blink of an eye. And what a season it was, filled with the high of beating in-state rival Miami in the midst of a late-season run that had the Seminoles a victory over Florida away from qualifying for a bowl and the lows of an 0-4 start to the season that included a loss to FCS program Jacksonville State. Our opinions and beliefs about Mike Norvell’s second FSU team changed with each passing week in what was a roller-coaster ride of a season, where the Seminoles won five of their last eight games. Here are some of my takeaways from the last week of FSU’s season as well as of the 2021 regular season.

  1. Where did the time go? It seems just like yesterday we were all eagerly awaiting the start of fall camp. There is little doubt that, as we get older, time seems to move just a little bit quicker. But for me the college football season seemed to move at the speed of light. I am looking forward to the bowl games and the College Football Playoff but already dreading the looooooong nine months between the end of the 2021 season and the start of 2022.
  2. After disappointing and sometimes uncompetitive performances dating back to the 2018 season we wondered if the 2021 version of FSU football would be a team that Seminole fans could be proud of. It was. We wanted to see fight and determination return as a trademark of FSU football. And we did. The Seminoles lost three games by three points (Notre Dame, Jacksonville State, Florida) and another (Louisville) by just eight points. In fact, there was only one game all season (Wake Forest) where FSU was soundly beaten. As Osceola publisher Jerry Kutz indicated during the preseason the progress of this program in 2021 was not going to be completely represented by the results on the scoreboard. FSU is certainly moving in the right direction coming out of Norvell’s second season based off the fact it won five of its last eight games and by the effort put forth by a team that had some shortcomings that were going to limit its potential.
  3. My preseason prediction: FSU would finish 6-6 and possibly 7-5 if everything went its way. FSU should be 6-6 and should be preparing for a bowl game. And it prevented itself from ultimately reaching the six-win mark because, well, it didn’t play prevent defense against Jacksonville State on the last play of that ballgame. Granted a play here or a play there against Notre Dame, Florida or Louisville, and FSU might have gotten another win — but beating the Gamecocks should have been a lock. That said, this year’s team came really close to maximizing what the Osceola staff thought was its potential from a win-loss standpoint.
  4. Jermaine Johnson ran away with the voting for ACC Defensive Player of the Year by some 47 votes and he should have. He was clearly the most dominant defender of any of the four players who received votes. If they had an award for the most outstanding graduate transfer for 2021 he would certainly run away with that award from a conference standpoint and possibly nationally. I think his performance likely surpassed what the Seminoles’ coaching staff thought he might be capable of entering the season. Now the tough part — replacing Johnson.
  5. College football is a quarterback-driven sport and Pitt’s Kenny Pickett is more than deserving of winning the ACC Player of the Year honor, but very surprised that Jermaine Johnson finished behind UVA quarterback Brennan Armstrong.
  6. My sense of things is that FSU Athletics Director David Coburn went from reluctantly taking the AD’s job several years ago to really enjoying it. He certainly has left the athletics department in better shape than he found it. Wishing him the best of luck in his retirement. As far as his replacement goes, it sure would be nice to see former FSU football players Magdi El Shahway, an Associate AD at Georgia, or Martin Mayhew, the General Manager for the NFL’s Washington franchise, get an opportunity to run the Seminoles’ athletic programs if they choose to pursue. Both outstanding leaders and people.
  7. Looking ahead, the football game I am looking forward to next season is FSU’s matchup against LSU, which is now led by head coach Brian Kelly (formerly of Notre Dame).
  8. Kelly is either really smart or really crazy to take a job in the SEC on the side of the conference that features Nick Saban at Alabama, Jimbo Fisher at TAMU, Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss, Mike Leach at Mississippi State and Sam Pittman at Arkansas. You can’t question his willingness to compete, the competition will be tougher year-in and year-out, on the field and off. Whether he is smart or crazy, he is a really rich man. As if…
  9. You can either accuse Lincoln Riley of running away from the competition he would have ultimately faced in the SEC at Oklahoma or you could accuse him of being smart enough to know when to make an exit. Winning a conference championship in the PAC-12 at USC will be much easier than winning the SEC year-in and year-out. Instead of having to beat Alabama, TAMU, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Arkansas, Auburn and Texas (or at least all but two of those teams depending on how the conference is reconfigured), Riley now just needs to beat Utah, Arizona State, UCLA, Colorado and Arizona on the Trojans’ side of the conference. He will of course have to deal with Oregon and often-solid Washington program but it’s a much easier path to the College Football Playoff. Something tells me he did really well on his SATs.
  10. Here are my conference championship game picks: I will take Utah over Oregon, Alabama over UGA, Oklahoma State over Baylor, Houston over Cincinnati, Michigan over Iowa and Pitt over Wake Forest.
  11. Thank you for letting me share some thoughts with you each week again this season. It is always a fun exercise and hope that it helped facilitate some of your football conversations this season.