Few doubted what would happen in the least-anticipated top-10 showdown in Florida State-Miami history on Saturday night.
The Seminoles – one of the three teams most discussed in the hunt for the BCS Championship Game – entered as 22-point favorites. They played accordingly on their way to a 41-14 victory.
Now comes the most important question: Was the win convincing enough?
The question sounds absurd on the surface for “enough style points” to be in discussion for a team playing an undefeated rival ranking No. 7 in the nation. Yet it must be asked.
As much as Florida State has garnered national respect, Miami has failed to do so because of unimpressive wins. The contest didn’t seem so much like a showdown as it did a death march.
Plus the two teams Florida State finds itself chasing – top-ranked Alabama and No. 2 Oregon – play highly-ranked rivals next week. Alabama hosts No. 13 LSU, a program with far more cred than today’s Miami. The Ducks travel to No. 5 Stanford for a Thursday night showdown.
So back to the question: Was Florida State impressive enough in its 41-14 dismantling of No. 7 Miami?
ESPN BCS expert Brad Edwards expects the answer to be yes… for now.
Edwards projects the Seminoles to leapfrog Oregon for the No. 2 spot in the newest batch of BCS rankings, due out Sunday evening. However, Oregon’s remaining games against Stanford, Oregon State and the Pac-12 South champ loom, giving the Ducks ample opportunities to impress and reclaim the No. 2 spot if they don’t lose.
Florida State’s first-half performance certainly didn’t scream “automatic selection” to the title game if Alabama and Oregon remain unbeaten. QB Jameis Winston, one of three Heisman Trophy favorites, threw a pair of costly interceptions to set up Miami’s only 14 points of the game. Still, the Seminoles led 21-14 at half.
In the second half, Florida State ran away.
RBs James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman each scored their second touchdowns of the game during a decisive third quarter.
From there, the stats told the story. Florida State converted 11 of 15 third downs; Miami managed just 4 of 12. The Seminoles possessed the ball for 38 minutes to the Hurricanes’ 22. FSU ran for 192 yards while allowing just 83.
In words or in numbers, Florida State dominated when avoiding turnovers. Even with the turnovers, the Seminoles still left no doubt about the top team in the ACC.
With convincing victories over Miami and Clemson under its belt, it’s worth pondering what Florida State can possibly do to surpass the Crimson Tide or Ducks if they run the table.
As has been written ad nausea, none of this would matter next year when the four-team College Football Playoff comes into existence. However, that answer is simply to avoid the conversation at hand.
Florida State finds itself in the same situation as Auburn in 2004: Hopelessly trying to crack into the top two when the teams ahead of it during the preseason. (However, Ohio State opened the year at No. 2 and has fallen to No. 4 despite remaining undefeated).
In the end, there was nothing the Tigers could do to jump USC and Oklahoma – instead futilely relying on someone, anyone to upset one of the giants. It didn’t happen. Auburn got left out of the title game.
Florida State – as well as Baylor and Ohio State – could find itself in the same boat.
Now all that’s left is for Florida State and the other two to pour it on the competition in hopes of being the prettiest girl in the pageant.