Last year, Florida State’s toughest opponent – by far – was Auburn, which the Seminoles beat, 34-31, in the national championship game. This year – at least for now – the Seminoles toughest opponent is themselves.
“Last year, nobody expected them to do what they did; now they know,” legendary Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Now they have the target on their back. Everybody that plays them, it’ll be their No. 1 game. (Jimbo Fisher is) going to catch their best game every time he plays. He’s not going to catch (anybody) looking ahead. Of course, the biggest challenge to me is not letting the boys be complacent. I bet you he’s talked to them over and over about complacency, but I know when we got on those long runs at Florida State back in the ’90s and the late ’80s, it was complacency that was our biggest enemies – when your boys think all you got to do is walk out on the field (to win). And I know that he has preached that to his players. The question is, are they listening?”
How do you know if they are or aren’t?
“You don’t,” Bowden said, cackling. “I’ll tell you how you know. When you kick that dadgum football off, about the third play (of the game), you know. I’ve been in that. I’ve been in that as a player, and I’ve been in that as a coach – where you’re playing somebody and you’re heavily favored and you really don’t have your mind (right). You think you’re going to walk out there and they’re going to lay down and all of a sudden they punch you across the nose a couple of times. And all of a sudden you say, ‘What in the world have we got here?’”
The Seminoles found themselves in that exact situation during their season-opener this past Saturday, as unranked Oklahoma State gave them all they could handle in a neutral-site game in Arlington, Texas. Florida State surged to a 17-0 lead, but Oklahoma State cut it to 17-10 at halftime. The Cowboys actually got within 27-24 in the fourth quarter, but Florida State hung on for a thrilling 37-31 win.
Jameis Winston, who is seeking to join Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman winner, finished 25-of-40 for 370 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also had a breathtaking 28-yard third-quarter touchdown run that involved hurdling a teammate and juking a defender all in one motion.
The Seminoles (1-0) host Citadel in their home-opener this Saturday and have a bye before hosting Clemson (0-1) on Sept. 20.
The scare against Oklahoma State notwithstanding, Florida State is a safe bet to qualify for the College Football Playoff – provided it plays up to its potential.
“Florida State has the talent,” Bowden said. “I think they have the talent to run the table like they did last year. (If they get) a couple of bad breaks, it won’t happen – but I think they do have that kind of talent.”
And it’s not just Winston, either. His top target, Rashad Greene had 11 catches for 203 yards and a touchdown against Oklahoma State. Nate Andrews, meanwhile, had a nifty pick-six to give Florida State a 10-0 lead midway through in the first quarter.
“Now it’s a matter of (whether) their minds (are) on straight,” Bowden said. “Are they determined to be better? Are they wiling to work harder than they did last year? Because they’re going to have to play even better than they did last year if they expect it to happen again.”