Of every team in serious running for the 2012 BCS National Championship, it’s hard to argue that any had more question marks entering Saturday than the Florida State Seminoles.
Understand, it wasn’t that we as college football fans weren’t buying” the Seminoles as an elite team, as much as we just wanted to see them win against quality competition. After all, while it’s never a bad thing to beat your first two opponents by a combined score of 124-3, when those two opponents just so happen to Murray State and Savannah State (neither of which are actually “states” by the way), it still leaves a lot to be desired.
Well to quote Barney Stinson, Florida State went ahead and said: “Challenge Accepted,” to the college football world, in a dominating 55-0 beat down of Wake Forest on Saturday. We still don’t know if the Seminoles are “back” as a serious National Championship contender, but for those looking for Florida State to provide a statement, they definitely did that.
For the Seminoles, the story isn’t just all those points they put up, but how they did it. For a program that ranked just 104th nationally last year, it was crucial for Florida State to establish the ground game early against the Demon Deacons early. Not only did they do that, but in the process showed off some new-found depth as well.
The star of the game was undoubtedly Chris Thompson, a senior who missed most of the 2011 with an injury, one which ironically came against Wake Forest last year. Well, it’s safe to say that Thompson got his revenge against Wake Saturday, finishing the afternoon with 197 yards and on just nine carries, thanks to back-to-back 74 and 80-yard touchdown runs in the first half. Had Jimbo Fisher not rested him for most of the second half, Thompson could’ve easily put up many more yards.
In addition to Thompson, it was also hard not to notice the evolution of James Wilder Jr. a former five-star recruit who struggled as a freshman last season. Well, for whatever struggles he had in 2011, Wilder seems to have found his groove in Tallahassee, and finished Saturday with 93 yards on the ground. With the emergence of Wilder, it has relegated last year’s leading rusher Devonta Freeman into a back-up role, as he finished the afternoon with just six carries.
As for everything else, it’s hard not to praise the defense as well. We all knew this would be one of the best units in college football entering the 2012 season, but on Saturday, not only did they match the early hype, they exceeded it. Florida State held Wake Forest to just 126 yards of total offense, and just 1 of 16 third down conversions.
Of course there are still concerns for Florida State as they get set to enter the meat of their ACC schedule. Chief of among those concerns remains quarterback E.J. Manuel.
Look, whenever anyone beats a team 55-0, you’ll always be nitpicking to find problems, but something still just didn’t seem totally right with Manuel Saturday. He completed just 15 of 24 passes and most of his deep balls looked wobbly and off target. In addition, while the offensive line is much improved from last year, they weren’t always able to get a good push in obvious run situations. That might not matter against Wake Forest, but to beat the Clemson’s and NC State’s later in the season, it might.
Regardless, it was a signature day and a signature win for Florida State. The Seminoles might not have beaten one of college football’s best teams Saturday afternoon, but they did take one step closer to proving to America that they themselves are elite.
In the process, they may have taken one step closer towards a trip to the 2012 BCS title game.
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