Takeaway Tuesday: Addition by subtraction, buy-in and bowling

Another week of the college football season has come and gone and in true 2020 fashion week 11 of the college football season might be remembered as much for what happened off the field as it was for what happened on it.

A lot of the news from the past week in college football took place before we even got to this past weekend’s slate of games. Ultimately there were 14 games cancelled or postponed across the country due to Covid-19, the most since the season started, and a trend that is continuing with five games already cancelled or postponed in week 12. We also saw news made off the field across the country and in Tallahassee with more players opting out for either the remainder of the season or their careers.

FSU and its fans learned on Wednesday that quarterback James Blackman and wide receiver Tamorrion Terry would no longer play for the Seminoles. They also learned that defensive tackle Marvin Wilson and offensive tackle Devontay Love-Taylor were lost to the season due to injury. We also learned that prior to the game against NC State that FSU would be without its best offensive player, quarterback Jordan Travis, for the game as well as defensive tackle Cory Durden, among others. Beating the Wolfpack was going to be a healthy challenge with a full roster but with a true freshman, Chubba Purdy, starting at quarterback and four of the five starting offensive lineman being redshirt freshmen or true freshmen this was likely to be a painful growing experience for a very young football team. FSU would ultimately fall to NC State 38-22 in a game that was over on the scoreboard at halftime but not necessarily on the field.

The week that was in college football gave us a lot to think about and here are 12 things I think, I think about FSU and college football coming out of the weekend.

  1. I think of all the personnel FSU lost for the season last week that one that had the biggest impact on the team was the loss of Love-Taylor. And one thing I know is that I would not have said that if these four players had been lost prior to or even a couple of games into the season. Love-Taylor exceeded any expectation of how I thought he might perform this season. He might not be the most athletic of FSU’s starting offensive lineman but he was arguably its best. His knowledge and experience will be missed by a very young offensive line the remainder of the season.
  2. There were some things I saw that I wasn’t crazy about on Saturday night, during plays and after but as a whole you can’t say that this undermanned team didn’t compete for the entirety of the game. While its frustrating that this is one of the few positives coming out of this game, it does show growth for a team that looked listless in a blowout loss to Miami earlier in the year. And with the losses of two players last week that were considered to be among the team’s best coming into the season, and without Travis and Love-Taylor, there where questions about how this team might respond against NC State if things didn’t go well on the scoreboard. But the team played hard throughout the contest and I think that shows progress for Mike Norvell’s team and unfortunately that is the measuring stick right now for this proud program. But when you are outmanned, displaying the fortitude to fight despite your circumstances says a lot about players as individuals and as a team.
  3. Some FSU fans and media have unofficially anointed Purdy as the answer to the question as to who is the Seminoles’ quarterback of the future. After his first start, I think FSU has a very good prospect to work with for the future. The moment didn’t look too big for Purdy, who showed decent arm strength, good decision-making and, while maybe not as dynamic as advertised by some, he does have the ability to buy time in the pocket or make things happen with his feet. That being said I would like to see more of both he and Tate Rodemaker before the season ends before I can say he is a quarterback with the potential to carry a storied program like FSU on his shoulders, but he looks to be a very solid prospect that will need better players around him, especially at wide receiver, than he has now. I think that’s true of whoever is the Seminoles’ starting quarterback the rest of this season and next.
  4. Having said all that I still think a healthy Travis gives this 2020 FSU football team the best chance to win. The questions now for Norvell is who do you start if both Travis and Purdy are ready to go against Clemson. I think we are likely to see both this weekend.
  5. I think a lot of people were concerned about the level of “buy-in” with the decisions of Blackman, Terry and Wilson not to play the rest of the season but I think the play of senior linebacker Emmett Rice is a sign that players are buying into what the new staff is trying to build. Rice has gotten more comfortable in Adam Fuller’s defense as the season as gone along and he has also gotten better and more productive each week. There are certainly other examples of other upperclassmen buying-in but Rice’s buy-in has shown up in the form of production.
  6. I am not expecting a miracle against Clemson on Saturday — the Tigers are a 34.5-point favorite for a reason. They are an exceptional football team but one thing Fuller and Norvell need to resolve to have a chance to beat Virginia and Duke is its ability to defense the pass. FSU’s last two opponents, Pitt and NC State have completed 73.3 percent of their passes (45 of 61), and that number will have to go down drastically each of the next three games if the Seminoles are to exceed two wins on the year. These numbers are being put up against a secondary who defensive backs coach Marcus Woodson said in the preseason was among the deepest and most talented groups he had ever coached. For the season opposing ACC offenses have completed 67.1 percent of their passes against FSU. That ranks 107th in the nation of 126 teams to play at least one game. And there are only seven teams who have given up a higher completion percentage to its opponents who have played at least six games this season.
  7. Some of it may be because of the opponent but I think some of it may have to do with who is on the field for the Seminoles on defense. FSU has played much better against the run the last two weeks. After giving up 184 yards and 265 yards on the ground to North Carolina and Louisville, respectively, the Seminoles gave just 148 yards on the ground to both Pitt and NC State. Prior to the last two games, FSU’s best performance defending the run against an ACC team was when Georgia Tech was held to 161 yards rushing. Robert Cooper, Fabien Lovett and Dennis Briggs give Fuller and Norvell some solid pieces to build the front seven around moving forward. This is more evidence that FSU’s underclassmen are buying into the new program. You might have to look hard but there are some positive things happening on the field.
  8. I knew there would some head coaches that would lose their jobs this season but I thought it would be limited in scope and that we would likely not see any firings until the season was completed but I was wrong. South Carolina started the 2020-21 version of the coaching carousel on Sunday when the Gamecocks informed Will Muschamp his services were no longer needed. With South Carolina on the clock in finding its next head coach you would have to think other AD’s and power brokers at other programs who are contemplating change might speed up their decision-making timeline. And there are probably some schools to keep an eye on given either on-field results or off-field issues, including Vanderbilt, Michigan, Kansas, Tennessee and now LSU. I am certainly not saying that these schools will make a change, resources could be an issue for some of these programs given the Coronavirus pandemic, but these are schools that either I am hearing are considering making a change or have been reported to be considering making a change. For what its worth I think Muschamp deserved another year.
  9. I am not sure how many bowl games will ultimately be played this postseason but I did some bowl projections after this weekend that had teams currently with losing records forecast to go to a bowl. One of those teams was Georgia Tech (2-5), who Jerry Palm of CBS Sports has headed to the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa. That could be because the Yellow Jackets mathematically still have a chance at a winning record but with games left against Miami, Pitt, NC State and Duke left for Georgia Tech it’s very likely they finish with six or more losses. If I am Norvell and FSU AD David Coburn and the ACC is willing to send a team with a losing record to a bowl I am fighting for that spot as hard as I can. The extra practices and game would go along way with a young team.
  10. I think based off the way things are going now with Covid-19 and cancellations or postponements of college football games I am going to take full advantage of the next two weeks, which features televised games each of the next five days starting tonight and eight of the next 12 days.
  11. My ACC picks for this weekend are Wake over Duke, Pitt over Virginia Tech, Virginia over Abilene Christian and NC State over Liberty.
  12. I think I am also going to have to adjust my CFB Playoff final four because I am just not sure the Big Ten will make it to the finish line of their regular season. I am not sure what the committee will do but I don’t think it’s fair to let a team that hasn’t played at least six games (I would vote that everyone should play at least eight to be eligible) but I am not sure the Big Ten or PAC-12 can get to six. So for this week my top four would be: 1) Alabama, 2) Notre Dame, 3) Clemson and 4) Cincinnati.

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