FSU rolled over UMass on Saturday 59-3 and now heads into what is likely to be the most difficult part of its schedule with games coming up against Clemson, NC State, Miami, Boston College and Florida. The quick win over the Minutemen and the Seminoles riding a three-game winning streak heading into the home stretch of its schedule has given us all a lot to think about with a trip to Death Valley up next for FSU. Here are some of my thoughts about the Seminoles both looking back at their Homecoming win and ahead to the challenges that await for what looks to be a maturing football team.
1. Heavily favored and with Clemson up next on the road it was important FSU operate like a finely tuned and reliable Rolex watch against an outmanned UMass team. And it did just that against the Minutemen.
2. The only acceptable outcome from the UMass game was a blowout win that was coupled with a dominant performance by FSU from start to finish. That is just what it did from the outset against the Minutemen, who likely wouldn’t have scored at all in the game had it not been for Travis Jay fumbling the game-opening kickoff and giving UMass the ball on the FSU 26 yard-line, which resulted in field goal. That type of performance validated wins over Syracuse and North Carolina while continuing to build confidence as the team prepares for Clemson this week. A game that now, at the very least, seems to be a more evenly matched contest than it was thought to be in the preseason. Heck, some might even say it is now a winnable game for FSU.
3. The decisive and early outcome against UMass also gave Norvell the chance to play almost anyone he and his staff wanted to and they did for the most part. It was important to get some of the more inexperienced players some playing time in a game with the long-term future in mind but also may pay some dividends if there is attrition on either the first-team offense or first-team defense.
4. With the ever persistent concerns about Jordan Travis being able to stay healthy because of his style of play, and of course not knowing for sure how McKenzie Milton’s leg may feel from one week to the next, we had been wanting to see one or both of FSU’s second-year freshman signal-callers, Chubba Purdy and Tate Rodemaker. We thought we might see one or both against Jacksonville State but we all know how that played out. We did get to see them against UMass. Purdy did not disappoint, completing all five of his passes with two going for touchdowns. He looked very comfortable running the offense. Rodemaker was put in the game with about four minutes left but strangely enough wasn’t allowed to throw a pass. C’mon, coach, at least let him throw something out in the flat and tell the receiver to run out of bounds or fall down. Give the kid a chance to, you know, do what quarterbacks do, throw the ball.
5. When you try to watch everyone, you really aren’t watching anyone. But a couple of other young guys that “flashed” to me were Omarion Cooper, who played in the secondary early in the game and finished with three tackles. Offensive guard Zane Herring saw his most extensive action of the season and had a nice fold-block after pulling but the running back ran inside of the block instead of outside.
6. The Seminoles need to find three wins over their last five games in order to qualify for a bowl. And as daunting as that task is, it doesn’t appear to be as tough as we thought it might be in the preseason based on the way FSU has played in its last three games and with Tigers, Hurricanes, Eagles and Gators not quite living up to their preseason billing. The math is fuzzy because, as we have all learned this football season, you never know what you are going to get from one week to the next from just about any college football team.
7. You can find me among the throng of people who have jumped on the FSU-has-a-chance-against-Clemson war wagon over the last three weeks. And I do think they have a very good chance of pulling off their second straight road win as a double-digit underdog.
8. But if FSU is to win, and it’s a big but, the Seminoles must find balance offensively. They must find both consistency and big plays in the passing game to defeat the Tigers. Travis has thrown a combined 23 passes over his last two games and only once this season attempted more than 19 in a game. His stat line against Clemson will have to look more like his numbers from the Syracuse game (22 of 32) if the ‘Noles are to pull off the upset.
9. I have a feeling if we are going to see Milton on the field for FSU again this might be a good week. He has played in a lot of big-time games and the Seminoles could benefit from that experience against Clemson if it struggles to find success in the passing game with Travis.
10. Another key to upsetting the Tigers will be the availability of offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons and Devontay Love-Taylor. Gibbons was hurt against UMass, and Love-Taylor didn’t play in the game. Needless to say I like FSU’s chances with the pair in the starting lineup much more than if they are out.
11. This would also be a great week for one of FSU’s wide receivers to have a career or breakout game.
12. Confidence and momentum can be a funny thing in football. FSU seems to have it, Clemson doesn’t. Stay tuned.
13. Speaking of confidence. I agree with FSU defensive coordinator Adam Fuller. You have to stress Clemson’s offense and especially its quarterbacks early and often. Get this done and you have a good chance of keeping Dabo’s dauber down.
14. The college football coaching version of silly-season has arrived early this year. LSU, USC, Texas Tech, Washington State and Georgia Southern are all open. I am not sure if this is a byproduct of athletic directors wanting to make a change early because of the early signing period in December, unreal expectations of these schools’ administrations and fan bases or a combination. But there is something in college football’s water. Matt Wells, who was fired by Texas Tech yesterday, was 5-3 this year and was only in his third season in Lubbock. That plank just keeps getting shorter and shorter for college football coaches. Right, wrong or indifferent coaches have to prove they can win faster than ever. I am not sure what the politics are in Lubbock, but firing a coach who seemingly has his team more competitive than they were before he took over the program and with a winning record this season shows you just how crazy the business has become.
15. As far as forecasting the ACC Championship game after week eight of the college football season, I will continue to Wake up with Demon Deacons in the Atlantic and walk the Pickett line with Pitt in the Coastal. Wake Forest is the only team in the Atlantic who is undefeated in conference play (4-0) with everyone else on that side of the conference having at least two losses in ACC play, outside of NC State, which still has just one loss. Wake and NC State will meet head-to-head in two weeks. Pitt is the only team in the Coastal still undefeated in conference play at 3-0, while every other team on their side has at least two losses. They do still have to face Miami and UVA, both who trail the Panthers with two losses and they have already beaten Virginia Tech.
With that in mind this week I will take: Pitt over Miami, Wake over Duke, Virginia Tech over Georgia Tech, Syracuse over Boston College, Louisville over NC State, Virginia over BYU and Notre Dame over North Carolina.