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BSD: How has Jimbo Fisher been able to get the 'Noles back to prominence? We hear that he's following a Saban-esque model, but is that truly it?
TN: The Saban approach, or "The Process," is definitely part of FSU's return to prominence. When Fisher took over after Bowden's ouster, the Florida State program lagged behind the best in the country in terms of modernity. Jimbo immediately set out to upgrade FSU's facilities (namely the indoor practice facility), increase support staff, implement top-level nutrition and strength and conditioning programs, and change the way FSU managed its roster. Florida State now has a top-notch program three years later, and the results are showing. The biggest factor, though, has been the recruiting. Against Clemson, all four starting defensive linemen were former 5-star recruits. That's absolutely nuts. The Seminoles have amassed a ridiculous amount of talent on the defensive line and in the secondary and have a bunch of NFL players on offense, as well.
Then there's the quarterback. People have asked us about what separates this team from last year's, because the overall talent is pretty comparable and the ‘Noles lost 10+ players to the NFL in April. There are contributing factors, but the primary answer is Jameis Winston. He's just a transcendent player who understands what FSU is trying to do on offense and makes the guys around him better. The guys believe in him and the team believes in itself. A special player at quarterback can elevate a team to elite status for a few years, but Jimbo's modern program has assured that the Seminoles can play at a very high level even after his departure.
BSD: What would have to happen for Wake Forest to actually be hanging around in the fourth quarter on Saturday?
TN: A lot of things. I think FSU would have to be completely flat on the road for a Wake noon game. While I don't think this is impossible, and certainly think we might not see the sharpest FSU team, I don't think this year's group is as susceptible to that as those of years past. I mean, it would have to be a complete and utter flop. I think Wake would have to win the turnover battle by 5 or more. Josh Harris would have to break 4 or 5 50+ yard runs. FSU would have to give up multiple big plays on special teams and probably suffer some injuries. In short, it would have to be just about the flukiest game FSU has played in the history of its program. One of our writers tweeted this today: since 1997, only 7 teams of 673 (1%) have lost outright as 31.5+ favorites. Particularly without Campanaro, this is a tough road to hoe for Wake.
BSD: Those "We want 'Bama" chants the other night were interesting. Do you really? What about Oregon?
TN: It's funny, our staff has been discussing this all week over e-mail. There are arguments for wanting to play Alabama and to end the SEC title streak, particularly since FSU fans live in close proximity to SEC mouth breathers. It would also do even more for recruiting, since the ‘Noles compete against SEC programs for almost all of its players and SEC programs love to play the conference card against Florida State. It's also true that this would be the toughest matchup for FSU. Nick Saban with a month to prepare is a frightening proposition for anybody, and the Tide can play along the line of scrimmage with the ‘Noles, for the most part. It would be an awesome game from a football geek perspective, because so much of what Jimbo does on offense seems to be in response to a Saban-style of defense.
Oregon would be a fun game as well. We think FSU matches up pretty well with the Ducks, even though they're a great football team. A month to prepare for them would benefit the ‘Noles, and the defensive line would probably give Oregon some issues. Plus, FSU's defensive personnel matches up better against spread teams than pro-style. We think roughly similar things about Baylor and Ohio State, since the Ducks are the best of those types of teams on both lines of scrimmage. All in all, we're not going to complain about getting to play anybody for a national championship. It's such a huge accomplishment, and one never knows if the opportunity will ever come along again.
BSD: Are there any worries in Tally about a sophomore slump for Famous Jameis? He may be the best quarterback I've seen in ten years.
TN: To the extent that there are, and I don't think there are many, they have more to do with the people around him that FSU will be losing to the NFL. There's a real chance that the ‘Noles will lose all three of their outstanding receivers to the League, as well as two of its top running backs. FSU's center will be departing, but the line should be fine. Again, Florida State is recruiting very, very well, and its success this season has only bolstered it. I guess one could question how much better Jameis can really get. There's room for improvement in tempering his over-aggressiveness at times, but there aren't many things he doesn't do well. The kid is a savant at quarterback. He sees what he's supposed to from defenses, goes through his progressions extremely quickly, and throws the ball terrifically. He can escape pressure and run when he needs to, and has all the physical tools one could want. I don't think that there's a pervasive worry about Jameis as a sophomore from FSU fans, aside from the fact that it may be the last year we get to see him in garnet and gold.
BSD: Will the Golden Girls be making the trip? The stands will be empty after halftime, so any entertainment will be welcomed.
TN: Sadly, I believe that the full contingent of FSU entertainment will not be making the trek to Winston-Salem. The usual spirit squad will be there, and there's no shortage of talent therein, but the numbers are lacking. My advice would be to try to enjoy watching a player who could well be recognized as a college football great and Heisman trophy winner and try to win the tailgate. I think y'all definitely stand a chance there.