These are two of the biggest "trap" game scenarios in all of sports: the lookahead game, and the letdown game.
Get caught looking ahead? Teams have proven they are capable of losing.
Get too caught up in a huge victory or a rattling defeat? Teams have proven they are capable of losing.
This week, No. 4 Florida State must avoid any sort of letdown against USF, a team that has lost two straight headed into their matchup Saturday in Tampa. But nobody in Tallahassee should be taking the Bulls lightly. Though they are a heavy underdogs, USF has been known to get itself fired up for these in-state games much more than it does for its Big East competition.
Florida State knows that all too well, having lost to USF in 2009. But there is an added factor going into the game this year, and that is Florida State coming off such an emotional victory over No. 10 Clemson. Much in the way the Tigers have to focus on Boston College this week and not let their loss beat them twice, Florida State has to make sure it keeps its "foot on the gas" as coach Jimbo Fisher said earlier this week.
Winning one game to put itself in control of the Atlantic Division does not a season make.
"It matters what you do next week," Fisher said. "Can’t take the points from last week. Can’t take anything. You’ve got to go do it every week. You’ve got to crank it up. And we’ll see the maturity of our team. We’ll challenge them. We’ll talk about it. We’ll address it. I won’t hide it. I want to see if we can take that step."
For Florida State to show that is is a more mature team, and a different team than in years past, it has to be able to dominate a game like this one, against an overmatched opponent. Fisher is right. There cannot be time for lolly gagging, not with so many implications on the line this season.
A loss in this game does nothing in the ACC standings, but destroys any hopes at a national championship spot. Mediocre play and a close win could even cost the Noles in the eyes of voters. And in a world where polls help determine who ends up playing for a national championship, continuing to impress voters is critical.
"We need to learn how to respond to winning a game of significance and coming back with a great week of preparation and a great game the very next week," Fisher said.