Wednesday, August 27, 2014
#Dallas2Dallas will define FSU's season
By Jared Shanker
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- At the beginning of this week, Florida State was still celebrating the hashtag #Dallas2Dallas. It's been the motto all offseason for a team that opens its season in the home of the Dallas Cowboys, the same place the first College Football Playoff championship will be held. It's even printed on the athletic department's Cowboys Classic flyer.
By the end of the day Monday, the trending topic was now taboo. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher put the kibosh on the hashtag during a team meeting before practice.
Earlier Monday, I asked Fisher if the #Dallas2Dallas promotions set Florida State up for a championship-or-bust season in Tallahassee, if anything short of a return trip to Jerry World would be deemed disappointing.
Dallas2Dallas is even printed on the athletic department's Cowboys Classic flyer.
"I'm not worried about the national championship. I'm worried about playing well," he said. "Our goal is to be in the national championship every year. I want this team to be the best it can be, play as good as it can and we'll live with the results.
That's often not how the fans -- at least the most vocal -- and the media -- at least the most vocal -- operate, though. If you believe Las Vegas, the Seminoles are the slight favorite to win the national title. If you believe the polls, the Seminoles are the prohibitive favorite, garnering all but nine of the first-place preseason ballots in the two polls combined.
But with all of the preseason hype -- magazine covers, double-digit June point spreads and draft experts salivating at a roster stocked with NFL talent, none greater than at quarterback -- the 2014 season, like it or not, will be defined by a north Texas city more than 800 miles west of the Florida capital.
I'm not saying it is fair. It's not. It's irresponsible to expect perfection from a team, but that's the college football world where we reside. Fisher acknowledged being a preseason No. 1 is much different now than it was 20 years ago. Hours after the Seminoles hoisted the crystal ball in January, the train championing Florida State's repeat chances already left its Pasadena station.
Last month, Nick Saban was peppered with questions about Alabama's consecutive losses to end the season. Forget the Crimson Tide were a missed field goal from potentially playing for another national championship, there was the palpable sense that 11-2 was not good enough in Tuscaloosa, and the identity of the program, which has won three of the last five BCS titles, needed to be reshaped.
At ACC media days in July, Fisher waxed nostalgic about the era pre-dating the BCS and Bowl Coalition, when there was not always a guarantee No. 1 would play No. 2 to crown a definitive champion. "It mattered if you won the Orange Bowl or the Sugar Bowl or the Cotton Bowl or the Rose Bowl, you had a great year," he said. "Now, we went 12-2 and won the Orange Bowl and won our first ACC [championship in 2012], we act like it's not a big deal."
Fisher said without that 2012 season, the national championship wasn't possible. But now Florida State is among the elite, the program some believe is poised to earn the dynasty distinction. That top tier, for example Alabama, Oregon, Oklahoma (Bob Stoops has dealt with unreasonable expectations for years) to name a few, are judged by national titles.
What Florida State does have is a locker room that proved in 2013 it could isolate itself from outsiders. Over the last few days, Fisher has asked his team not to "eat the cheese," his way of telling his players to sniff out the bait, to not buy into the hype. He said he feels "really good" about how his team has received the message, and he will continue to drill it in their heads.
"We're just going to take it one day at a time, one game at a time and eventually we'll reach Dallas. That's how he told us to approach it," defensive lineman Derrick Mitchell said.
Added senior Christian Green: "Us as players, we know it's a grind every day. We know that this week is our first game and we have to focus on Oklahoma State."
When I asked Fisher about #Dallas2Dallas, he smiled and joked the Seminoles will be in Dallas on Thursday. So many others have already booked their return.