Evaluating Florida State: Are They for Real?

Another year, another relatively weak schedule for the Florida State Seminoles.

At 6-0, this “perfect” isn’t perfect, and head coach Jimbo Fisher would be the first to tell you that.

With their first three ACC match ups of the season against Boston College (3-4, 7th in ACC Atlantic), Wake Forest (3-4, 5th in ACC Atlantic), and Miami (4-2, 4th in ACC Coastal), FSU won each game in unimpressive fashion, posting an average margin of victory of nine points.

It’s not their fault the competition in the ACC has been underwhelming, but the strength of schedule or lack thereof for the Seminoles makes it hard to trust their undefeated record.

That being said, they are shamelessly unbeaten, and only a digit in the loss column can take that away from them.

What bodes well for the Noles is the noticeable improvement they made last week against Louisville. After trailing 7-6 at halftime, the Noles offense began to fire on all cylinders, pulling away from the Cardinals in route to a 41 to 21 victory.

Anyone who watched that game saw flashes of a REALLY good looking team with talented skill players across the board on offense. That’s exactly what they are, at least on paper, and we should see more production out of this potentially explosive offense throughout the rest of the season if they can keep improving.

“We just got to keep evolving. This team just keeps evolving into what it does…we’re a work in progress,” head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We got to learn to trust the process.”

Quarterback Everett Golson had his best game as a Seminole thus far, throwing for 372 yards and three touchdowns against the Cardinals.

Golson has been regarded as a special playmaker since his days at Notre Dame, but had not scored multiple touchdowns in a game for the Noles since the opener against Texas State. This could be a sign his confidence is rising, as well as his understanding of the offense and his playmakers around him, and that’s good news for Florida State.

He’s also making smart (although some may argue timid) decisions with the football, and has yet to throw an interception.

Running back Dalvin Cook has been a one man wrecking crew all-season-long, and is the Seminole’s most consistent player. Against Louisville, Cook piled on 223 yards on 26 total touches and two touchdowns. With 955 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 110 carries in six games, this Heisman candidate sophomore is running with a purpose.

That’s 8.7 yards per carry and 159.2 yards per game, for those of you who care more about football than mathematics.

Another key development; Everett Golson looks to have found a go-to target in the passing game, and his name is Levonte “Kermit” Whitfield.

You might remember Whitfield from the Nole’s national championship win in 2014 against Auburn, where he returned a 4th quarter kickoff 100 yards for a game changing touchdown to give them the lead.

The guy is blazing fast, and as you may have heard, speed kills.

FSU co-offensive coordinators Randy Sanders and Lawrence Dawsey must have finally figured this out, because Whitfield’s touches have seen a significant increase in the past two games.

Whitfield only had 11 total catches the first four games of the season.

In their last two games, against Miami and Louisville, he racked up nine catches in BOTH games. Those touches have produced 267 receiving yards and one touchdown over that span.

Whitfield now leads the team in catches (29) and receiving yards (397), has the longest touchdown reception (70 yards), and is tied for second in receiving touchdowns with two on the year.

On the defensive end, Florida State has continued to play aggressively in recent weeks. They’ve had increases in sacks and tackles for loss, and their stout rushing defense has continued to help the Seminoles dictate game-flow.

Miami and Louisville were swallowed by Florida State on the ground, gaining only a combined 119 yards. Even more impressively, the Noles have allowed only one rushing touchdown all season.

Their defense has taken a hit with news of starting safety/nickelback Trey Marshall being done for the season, after suffering a torn biceps tendon against Louisville. He will undergo surgery, and Jimbo Fisher says he could return for the postseason.

Marshall was sixth on the team in tackles with 21, and is one of the team’s best run defenders. The effects of his absence will be difficult for the Seminoles to overcome, no matter what they choose to do in their game-plan.

Especially facing a Georgia Tech offense that leads the ACC in rushing yards, and that game is next on the schedule.

“Marcus [Lewis] can play star, he can play corner, he can play safety, you know we still go the ability to move Jalen [Ramsy] in if their playing well outside,” Fisher said. “I mean there’s a multitude of things we can do and will do at that position.”

Taking all of that into account, they still have to beat a quality team in a meaningful match-up before they’re considered serious title contenders. Their only games remaining that fit the bill are road games against Clemson (currently 6th in the AP top 25) and Florida (currently 13th in AP top 25), and Fisher knows this.

If they can win out from this point on, and play well against the only legit competition on their schedule, then we’ll know if Florida State is for real.

To hear audio on the story, click below:

Jimbo Fisher on Trey Marshall

Fisher on replacing Marshall

Fisher on the importance of their remaining schedule

Fisher on mistakes made against Louisville

Fisher on the Noles being a work in progress

 

 

About Elgin O. Rucker

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