How wide is the gap between Florida State and national champion Clemson?
Or between FSU and North Carolina State, for that matter?
“Right now, we are a long way off,” former Seminole All-American and NFL defensive lineman Corey Simon said, referring to Clemson.
“We did just come off a five-win season. Worrying about Clemson right now is a moot point.”
The Tigers became the first Division I/FBS team to finish 15-0 since Penn in 1897 with their 44-16 rout of No. 1 Alabama Monday night.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said “there’s no doubt” his team should be in the conversation for college football’s best team ever.
FSU, of course, is in that conversation.
The Seminoles’ 2013 national-title team (14-0) averaged 51.6 points and won by a margin of 39.5 under coach Jimbo Fisher.
They beat Auburn 34-31 in the BCS championship game as Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left.
The Seminoles’ 1999 national-title team (12-0) was the first in NCAA history to go wire-to-wire as the country’s top-ranked team in the Associated Press poll.
FSU averaged 37.1 points per game and throttled Virginia Tech 46-29 in the Sugar Bowl behind sizzling receiver Peter Warrick.
That same season coach Bobby Bowden won his 300th career game in the first father vs. son coaching matchup (Clemson’s Tommy Bowden), celebrated his 70th birthday and 50th wedding anniversary and embraced his first season in 40 years as a coach.
Bowden turns 90 this year.
“That fooled everybody,” Bowden said of Clemson’s performance.
“I felt like Clemson was capable of beating them but I didn’t think it would. I thought the Alabama magic would somehow win.”
The Crimson Tide didn’t have enough hats or rabbits.
Some FSU fans may wince, but Clemson did the ACC proud Monday.
The Tigers won 13 games by 20 points or more and the legend of quarterback Trevor Lawrence has just begun.
Clemson certainly stands today as the nation’s preeminent program.
“They are a talented team, a lot similar to us in (1999),” said former Seminole Snoop Minnis, a receiver on the 1999 team.
“They were a confident team. You can tell they have worked hard and are a disciplined football team. You could tell they have a real love for each other. We have to get that “we” attitude back. We have a lot of talented guys. But we have too many individuals on the team.”
FSU coach Willie Taggart’s first season in Tallahassee was a mixed-bag, and that’s being polite.
Taggart said the right things, but the underlying problems inside the program surfaced.
Taggart is part of that equation, too, and there is significant pressure on him to make improvements.
He has made one coaching change with the addition of offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, and three others are in the works.
This program needs to be better organized and managed across all levels. The “look-at-me” player mentality – while it’s an issue nationally – must be curbed, somehow. Entitlement has chipped away at FSU’s soul, soured fans and even angered former players.
“Look at what I am sacrificing for the program,” Simon – a member of the 1999 team – explained this generation’s posturing.
Clemson appears to be built for the future. Taggart’s vision is a good one, but it must come into focus this season. He went into the offseason saying he would re-evaluate every facet of his program. Improving culture and developing players have to be fast tracked. I am not sure if FSU can afford to be patient – even if Clemson was with Swinney.
Bowden pointed to Clemson’s dominance along the offensive and defensive lines, Lawrence’s passing touch and poise and Swinney’s coaching. Bowden’s son Tommy hired Swinney at Clemson – and Swinney served as the Tigers’ interim head coach when Bowden was fired with six games remaining in the 2008 season. Bowden recommended Swinney as his replacement.
There is so much history between these programs. Unfortunately, once a primetime showcase, FSU-Clemson is no longer on the national radar. It feels as if the Tigers are light years away after Monday’s win over Alabama for their second national title in three years.
Clemson has flipped the script on FSU, which had it going so good, for so long.
“The game is so further advanced now in terms of skill players and what players have to adapt to,” said former Seminole and NFL offensive lineman Brett Williams, a freshman on the 1999 title team.
“I never knew how to pass block until I got to FSU. It’s just a different game now. I am happy to see Clemson do well. They (Tigers) are unreal and that quarterback is special. He’s on Jameis Winston’s level in terms of his football IQ. But he (Taggart) doesn’t need to focus on chasing Clemson.
“We have to win more games.”