By: Nicholas Austin-Holliday
At this time last season Florida States football team still had plenty of questions. They had just come off of a win against Boston College where they fell behind in the first quarter 14-3 and then went on a 45-20 run to end the game. Fans were calling for the head of then defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and his new scheme and the media was wondering if FSU was legit. All of those questions would be answered the following week when Maryland came to Doak Campbell to face the Noles and were crushed 63-0. FSU’s defense completely shut down the Terrapins and Jameis Winston and the offense continue on their menacing tear through every defense they had already faced and would face the rest of the season.
What many fans, media, and football watchers have yet to accept is that this is not the 2013-2014 National Championship team. Teams change from year to year and you are not assured the same results as the previous season no matter how much talent and experience they return. Yes the Heisman trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston is back, the team’s leading receiver for the last 3 seasons Rashad Greene is back, and the five star defensive end Mario Edwards Jr is back plus a plethora of talented players. That in no way means they will have the same success as the previous year’s team. Last season the Noles went out hunting a championship and prove to everybody that they were the best but this year they are the hunted. They have a huge bullseye on their back and they will get every opponent’s best effort to knock them out of their #1 spot.
We are now four weeks into the season, FSU currently stands at 4-0, but they do not look like the #1 team in the nation. Their defense has been very shaky so far, just recently giving up 24 points in the first quarter to NC State, the most in program history. They allowed the Wolfpack to gain 520 yards as Jacoby Brissett played out of his mind and really opened a lot of eyes. The Seminoles defense last season was built on pure ferociousness and fans are expecting the defense to turn the corner and become just as dominant as last season but once again this is not last year’s team. What must be remembered is last year’s team had current NFL players such as Timmy Jernigan, Lamarcus Joyner, and Telvin Smith so a drop off in production should have been expected because you can’t just replace that talent and production year after year. If the current defense can get healthy and perform anywhere close to the level of last year’s defense it’ll be a success and they will fare much better the rest of the season.
Offensively everything starts up front with the offensive line where FSU has five senior starters but they have not performed anywhere close to the level that was expected. With projected first round picks left tackle Cam Erving and right guard Tre Jackson leading the way and NFL prospects right tackle Bobby Hart and left tackle Josue Matias the line should be dominant and they aren’t. They will need to play at a much higher level the rest of the season to give FSU a chance because the running game has not looked good and Winston must be protected being that he is the best quarterback in college football. This offense will be good but in no way can it be compared to last season’s offense which set conference and national records because this is not the same team as last season. Even though Winston is back players like Kelvin Benjamin, Kenny Shaw, and Devonta Freeman are now in the NFL so a step back in production should have been expected just like on the defensive side. The offense has had to bail the defense out of games this season and vice versa but all three phases of the game need to get on the same page if they want to be included in the four team playoff at the end of the season.
While enjoying the season and everything that Florida State football brings to the table just remember to temper your expectations. If you keep comparing this team to last season you are only setting yourself up to be disappointed. Just think about this, how often does a team have one of the greatest single seasons in the history of college football and then have a team the following year that is on the same level? The answer to that is slim to none. Embrace this team for what they are and what they will become throughout the remainder of the season, enjoy the ride, and remember that THIS IS NOT THE SAME TEAM AS LAST YEAR.