FSU had a lot to going on last week on and off the field as it prepared for its game against NC State. As many as 30 players missed parts or all of practice and the game last week due to injuries or the flu bug that has swept through Tallahassee and really the state the last two weeks. The Seminoles, who lost 28-14 to the Wolfpack to fall to 3-6 on the season, were without starting quarterback Jordan Travis and starting guard Dillan Gibbons. The defense fared much better without any starters missing the game but no one knows for sure just how healthy even the players that played were. And it is safe to assume that some of those individuals played sick.
Of course, the Wolfpack, at least because of injury, were not operating with some of there best players too. That being said, FSU did play with a lot of fight and determination regardless of how well it may or may not have played on either side of the ball or on special teams. The week leading up to the game and the NC State game gave all of us a lot to think about heading into week 11 of the college football season. And just like every week during football season, I can’t wait to see what FSU and college football have us thinking next week. But here is what is what is on my mind nine games into the Seminoles’ season and 10 weeks into the college football season.
#PassiveAggressive. FSU’s defense did give up three long touchdown passes of 62, 45 and 43 yards to NC State on Saturday and those plays were three of the most critical of the game given the ultimate outcome. That being said outside of those three plays FSU continues to get better against the pass and defending the big play. Going into the UNC game four weeks ago the Seminoles ranked 109th in pass plays given up of over 20 yards (20) and 103rd in passing defense where they were giving up 256 yards per game. FSU has improved to 84th in pass plays given up of over 20 yards but have allowed just 11 such plays combined against UMass, Clemson and NC State. They have also improved to 73rd in the country in pass defense, where they are now giving up 235 yards per game. Are they playing as good as they want to? Probably not, but they are playing better. The stats and the eye test tell you that.
#PurdyBadTiming. Quarterback Chubba Purdy announced last Wednesday that he was leaving the team and entering the transfer portal. Now I don’t know that Purdy would have been available even if he had remained on the roster last week because of the flu bug that swept the team. I imagine had he been he most assuredly would have played if not started the game for FSU. Purdy’s timing was bad for his former team and himself. FSU could have used him on Saturday and he could have used FSU. Purdy would have benefitted from more playing time, as unexpected as it might have been, against NC State or anybody else FSU’s schedule more so than he would sitting in his apartment wading through choices of a new college home. There are probably layers to this story and it wasn’t just one thing that led to his decision to quit before the season was over. Often in these situations playing time is the major contributor to any player jumping from one school to another. I could be wrong and I am just reading the tea leaves but the timing makes me wonder if for some reason Purdy was under the impression he wouldn’t play much or at all if Travis and Milton where both available for the Seminoles the rest of the season. And that could have been, at least from Purdy’s perspective, telling of his prospects for next season with Seminoles. Then again he has been around the program long enough to know that given the health issues of Jordan Travis and McKenzie Milton that there was more than an outside chance he would play in the last four weeks of the season. His sticking it out until the end of the season could have been a win-win for both sides regardless of where Purdy calls home next football season. Sometimes the Portal giveth, sometimes it taketh away.
#YoungGun. The perfect example of why Purdy should have stuck it the whole season for FSU might be found with the Seminoles’ next opponent. Coming into the season Miami quarterback De’Eriq King was thought to be the guy to make the Hurricanes’ offense go. However, King was lost for the season after getting hurt during the third game of the season. Insert freshman Alex Van Dyke, who had led Miami to four wins in his six starts this season. And the Hurricanes’ offense, which hadn’t scored more than 25 points with King as the starter, has now scored at least 28 points in all of Van Dyke’s starts and has scored 31 points or more in its last four ACC games. Van Dyke has completed 64 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,877 yards, 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Van Dyke got his chance and has more than likely proved himself to be Miami’s quarterback of the future. Purdy didn’t stick around long enough to take advantage of his.
#SightForSoreEyes. FSU’s offense has been anything but easy on the eyes against two of the ACC’s best defenses in Clemson and NC State. Its running game has been MIA the last two weeks, having totaled roughly 100 combined yards on the ground against the Tigers (65 yards) and Wolfpack (38 yards). And while I am sure Mike Norvell and Kenny Dillingham will he happy to have Jordan Travis back this week they may be even happier to see Miami’s Manny Diaz-coached defense, which ranks 85th in country in total defense and 48th in rushing defense. It was just a month ago that FSU was averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground and ranked as the 28th best rushing offense in the country. It has no fallen to 39th in that category and that includes the rushing yards (365) from the UMass game. When you factor out Jacksonville State and UMass, the Seminoles rank 54th in rushing offense. Its safe to say FSU hasn’t lived up to its potential the last several weeks. It will need to be able to run the ball against Miami to win the game and it should be able to run the ball against them.
#FourthAndNotYourFriend. Mike Norvell has already made a name for himself among FSU fans for his propensity to gamble for just about anywhere on the field in fourth-down situations. And this past Saturday he did it again and not unlike in a few other games this season that aggression trumped awareness. On fourth-and-4 with 8:16 left to play in the game, with his defense playing well and the ball on FSU’s 43, Norvell tried to pick up the first down instead of punting to flip the field and try to give his defense a chance to make a play or get a three-and-out and possibly better field position. The Seminoles didn’t convert and three plays later NC State put the game away when the Wolfpack took a 28-14 lead with 7:53 left in the game.
It was at least the third time this season a failed fourth-down conversion has immediately been followed by FSU’s opponent scoring a touchdown. It happened against Notre Dame, extending its lead from 11 to 18 points, and against Louisville, where it extended the Cardinals’ lead from 10 to 17 points. These decisions didn’t singularly cost FSU any of those games and the timing of the fourth-down decisions against the Irish and the Wolfpack standout a lot more than the decision about when to go for it against Louisville.
Norvell did have a great deal of success in fourth-down situations at Memphis. However, fourth down has not been kind to FSU this season. They rank 126th out 130th teams, having converted just 5 of 17 of those opportunities. There is a time and place for aggressiveness and there is a time and place for awareness. When you take these chances they need to work. More times than not, they haven’t. Success or failure on fourth-down chances often times has the same effect on a team’s momentum as does a turnover or blocked kick. They sure are fun to talk about, regardless of the outcome.
#TheGrassIsNotGreener. Jacksonville State pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the college football season in week two when it knocked off FSU. It was the first time the Seminoles had been beaten by an FCS team since before Coach Bowden took over the program in 1976. Most head coaches from an FCS program that knocked off a brand-name program in any given season would most likely receive a raise or contract extension — if not both. That is not the case with Gamecocks coach John Grass, who was let go by JSU this weekend. JSU is 4-5 on the season with losses to Central Arkansas, Sam Houston, Kennesaw State, UT-Martin and UAB. Grass was 72-26 in his almost eight full seasons at JSU.
#MiamiVice. The FSU-Miami game has not had a significant impact on college football on a national level but it sure has impacted the men leading these programs of late. The Seminoles’ loss to Miami two years ago was the final straw for former head coach Willie Taggart, who was fired after losing to the Hurricanes in 2019. That shoe is more than likely on the other foot in Saturday’s matchup. Manny Diaz has been under fire since the season began and got a less-than-stellar statement of support from his AD a couple of weeks ago. There are many who believe that Diaz will be coaching for his job on Saturday and that a loss to a 3-6 FSU could be the last straw for the Miami head coach.
#ShadeTreeJunior. A win over the Hurricanes could help FSU with its recruitment of Marvin Jones Jr., who will be on campus this weekend for his official visit. If I were FSU coaches I would have another jersey retirement ceremony at halftime for his father. Senior and Junior are two completely different football players but the younger Jones has a real chance to have a significant impact on the field for whomever he signs with in December, just like his dad did as a freshman.
#ACCAction. This week in the ACC I will still walk the Pickett-Line and will take Pitt over UNC on Thursday night. I also like Syracuse over Louisville, Boston College over Georgia Tech, Duke over Virginia Tech, NC State over Wake Forest, Notre Dame over UVA and Clemson over UConn. For the first time all season I have NC State representing the Atlantic in the ACC Championship game and will stick with Pitt to represent the Coastal for now.
#PlayoffPicks. Since the college football playoff committee will be meeting later tonight to release their latest Top-25 and ultimately the four teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, so I thought I would play along. So my top-four, in order, would be: Georgia, Oklahoma, Oregon and Cincinnati. My first two out would be Ohio State and Notre Dame. If this was an eight-team playoff, seventh would be Alabama and eighth would be Michigan State. In the proposed 12-team model, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Wake Forest and Ole Miss would round out my top 12.