Is Florida State hype for real? You bet your flaming spear it is
Say what you want about the financial disparity that exists between the ACC, the SEC and the Big Ten.
The revenue gap is real. And it is significant.
But contrary to what the folks in Tallahassee have been saying over the past few weeks, especially those on the school’s Board of Trustees, it’s not an insurmountable roadblock to putting an elite, championship-caliber football team on the field.
The proof is in the Seminoles’ performance against LSU on Sunday.
Coach Mike Norvell’s team was faster, deeper, more physical and just plain better on both sides of the ball than its SEC opponent. Once it stopped self-destructing by eliminating the late-hit penalties that plagued it during an even 1st half, FSU put its foot on the accelerator and left the stunned Tigers agape in their rear view mirror.
The Seminoles’ 45-24 victory in Orlando wasn’t just a win.
It was a symbolic planting of Chief Osceola’s flaming spear into the turf of college football’s national landscape. An emphatic statement that the hype they’ve generated since the end of last season is justified.
And that they’re a legitimate threat for a spot in the College Football Playoff come December.
While they might be crying poor, these Seminoles have the potential to become filet mignon on a Mickey D’s budget.
Is FSU back?
Just ask Brian Kelly, Jayden Daniels and the rest of the Tigers what they think.
They’re still trying to figure out what hit them during a 2nd half in which the Seminoles put points on the board on all 5 of their possessions, scored 31 unanswered points and outgained them 281-92 before a final window dressing touchdown drive in the final minutes.
“I told them before today they’re built for a stage like this,” Norvell said afterward. “That 2nd half was a glimpse of what I think this team can do.”
It was an incredibly dominating performance made all the more impressive by the comparison to last year’s meeting in New Orleans, in which FSU needed a blocked extra point after time expired to escape with the victory.
Many of the same stars who contributed to the 2022 win that proved to be the jumping-off point for the Seminoles’ ascendency toward the national elite were even better in Sunday’s rematch.
Quarterback Jordan Travis launched his Heisman hype by passing for 342 yards while becoming the 1st FSU player since the school’s most recent trophy winner Jameis Winston in 2013 to throw for 4 touchdowns and score another in the same game.
Receiver Johnny Wilson caught 7 balls for 107 yards, many of them on 3rd down conversions. Edge rusher Jared Verse wreaked havoc in the LSU backfield all night, although the 1 sack he appeared to have recorded was negated by a review that ruled the play an incomplete pass, while linebacker Tatum Bethune led the team with 9 tackles and cornerback Renardo Green picked off a pass.
FSU leads the nation with 87% of its production from a year ago still on its roster.
But as good as that returning core is, it’s Norvell’s transfer portal additions that have elevated the Seminoles to an entirely new level.
Many of those newcomers were on full display against the Tigers.
Michigan State receiver Keon Coleman made an immediate splash by catching 9 passes for 122 yards and 3 touchdowns – two of which came on jump balls in which he outfought LSU defenders for possession in the end zone.
HAVE A DAY KEON COLEMAN?
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 4, 2023
South Carolina tight end Jaheim Bell scored twice, one on a 44-yard catch and another on a jet sweep and cornerback Fentrell Cypress provided the same tight coverage that made him an All-ACC performer at Virginia.
The combination of returners and impact transfers has given the Seminoles the look of a college football fantasy team come to life.
And as Travis told ESPN’s Holly Rowe on the field after the game, “We’re just getting started.”
If it’s true that the most improvement that a team will make during a season is between Week 1 and Week 2, FSU’s next opponent Southern Miss might as well start bracing for impact right now.
The next big test for the Seminoles will come in 3 weeks when they travel to Death Valley to challenge defending ACC champion Clemson in what could be the 1st of 2 epic showdowns for league supremacy.
In the meantime, they can take at least a little measure of satisfaction in that their opening game performance helped back up the boasts of their Trustees by enhancing the value of their brand on a national scale.
The irony is that in doing so, they also helped bolster the national profile of the conference their leaders so desperately want to leave. While at least partially debunking the theory that a revenue gap doesn’t automatically translate into a talent gap.