Baby Got Less Back Than Expected

FSU Yds/Play OppYds/Play Scoring Margin* Turnover Margin
2009 6.4 6.7 +0.1 +1
2010 6.0 4.9 +11.8 +4
2011 6.6 4.3 +16.6 -8


(* Per game.)

The Florida State Seminoles were supposed to be back this season--maybe not quite mid-1990s back back, but still they had a lot of believers after last year's run to the ACC championship game. Here Jimbo Fisher may have been a victim of his own early success, with the hype and pressure magnifying the inevitable frustrations as the disappointment has mounted. Coaches can't seem to win for winnin'. You build slow, there's impatience. You find your way ahead of the curve, and, justifiably or not, expectations can blow up on you.

Which is not to say that the atmosphere is overly hostile in Tallahassee these days--at least I don't think it is--or that the Seminoles have necessarily played as poorly as their record. And had anybody seen this Clemson transformation coming, Florida State wouldn't have been such a decisive preseason pick to win the division. The Seminoles were competitive in both of their big September games, losing by a total of 15 points to Oklahoma and the aforementioned Tigers. The real confidence-shaker was the stumble in Winston-Salem, but even there it's tough to find significant red flags. Florida State outgained Wake Forest overall and per play, but they finished -5 in the turnover department. In other words, they got Grobed.

The overall picture still looks like progress on paper. Granted, the patsies on the non-conference schedule factor into these partial-season stats more signficantly than they do in the previous, full seasons. But I think it's fair to say they're getting there. (There being mid-90s back back.) Fisher's defense has only gotten bigger and better, while they seem to be in fine shape at quarterback for years to come after freshman Clint Trickett acquitted himself well in relief. The recruiting speaks for itself.

As for this weekend, I'm having trouble locating my optimism. It should be the toughest test yet for NC State's slow-to-improve offensive line, because while the Seminoles have had trouble forcing turnovers, they've had little problem getting to opposing quarterbacks. On the other side, the Pack defense still has a lot to do to make a believer out of me; David Amerson can't be there to catch everything.

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