FSU in driver's seat after marquee win
September, 23, 2012
By Heather Dinich | ESPN.com
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- If there is one penalty that didn’t trouble Florida State on Saturday night, it was excessive celebration.
Following Florida State’s 49-37 win over Clemson in what was arguably one of the biggest and best ACC games in the past decade, the No. 4-ranked Seminoles shuffled back to their locker room in rather tame fashion. There were no chants, no chops, no chest bumps. Just the kind of giddy grins you’d expect from a bunch of kids who won a big game in the backyard. Less than an hour later, they were already talking about South Florida.
That focus, they say, is the reason Florida State was able to overcome a 28-14 deficit on Saturday night and use a 35-3 run to take the lead in the Atlantic Division standings with a 2-0 start in conference play.
“Last year was different,” said cornerback Xavier Rhodes. “Last year we was all about winning the national championship and winning the ACC. We weren’t worrying about our next game. We came together as a team and realized that. When we realized that, we said we’ve got to stop worrying about the future and worry about the present. Right now, it’s South Florida.”
Good luck, South Florida.
On a day in which No. 2 LSU struggled to beat Auburn and Michigan had six turnovers in a loss to Notre Dame, the ACC had two top-10 teams that looked like top-10 teams. Florida State and Clemson put on an offensive show with 1,093 total yards, but the Noles separated themselves in the second half with their stingy defense and Heisman-caliber quarterback play by EJ Manuel. While the majority of the pregame talk focused on Clemson’s offense against Florida State’s defense, the Seminoles proved they have an offense to match it and racked up 667 total yards.
AP Photo/Phil SearsChris Thompson ran for 103 yards and two scores and added 79 yards on eight catches for FSU.
It was a game -- and a win -- worth bragging about.
Florida State, though, moved on before the parking lots were even empty.
“Tomorrow, nobody will be here,” Manuel said. “It will be back to normal in Tallahassee, just move on to the next game.”
Of course, with each win the next game gets bigger. By knocking off the defending ACC champs, Florida State not only became the team to beat in the conference, it also took another step closer to muscling its way into the national title game. Alabama has established itself as the most dominant team in the country, but No. 2 is certainly up for debate. Florida State, which must still play rivals Miami and Florida, along with a Thursday night road trip to Virginia Tech, doesn’t have an easy path to the ACC championship game, but the Noles are in the driver’s seat.
“It’s a head-to-head win against them, which is an interdivisional game, which is always bigger,” coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I call them 'double-whammies' because if there ever is a tie, you’re ahead, but we’ve got a lot of other games in this division to play, too. There will be some other teams that have a say-so in this thing.”
None of them, though, are ranked. And none of them have looked as good as Florida State and Clemson. Even Coastal Division favorite Virginia Tech has already fallen out of the Associated Press Top 25 after last week’s loss to Pitt. And with Georgia Tech’s 0-2 start, Florida State shouldn’t just win its division; it should win its first league title since 2005.
South Florida first, though.
“We’re 4-0 and that’s all it is,” Fisher said. “We’ve got a critical game next week at South Florida. We’ve got to get ready for that and put this one behind us very quickly and move on.”
The Atlantic Division standings, though, will make it hard to forget -- especially for Clemson.
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
Final Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 Final Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21 Final North Carolina State 34 UCF 27
Final Cincinnati 17 Virginia Tech 33 Final 15 Arizona State 36 Duke 31 Final Miami (FL) 21 South Carolina 24 Final/OT Boston College 30 Penn State 31 Final Nebraska 42 24 USC 45
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State