It says a great many things about the FSU program that this will be remembered as a season of underachievement.
After all, the Seminoles are ranked 10th in the country. They have a shot at 10 wins. Dalvin Cook was eighth in the country in rushing. Demarcus Walker was tied for second in sacks. Tarvarus McFadden was tied for first in interceptions.
Still, for a team that has won a national title and been in the playoffs in recent seasons, this wasn’t quite acceptable. The ‘Noles lost to Louisville, badly, and dropped games to North Carolina and to Clemson. They won four in a row at the end of the season, but by then, much of the stretch run the team anticipated had disappeared.
That’s why tonight’s Orange Bowl game against Michigan has a hint of relevancy. The Wolverines are rated No. 6 in the nation, and only a double-overtime loss to Ohio State kept them out of the playoffs.
The game itself is intriguing in its matchups. Cook will go against the nation’s second-ranked defense, featuring Jabrill Peppers. Jimbo Fisher and Jim Harbaugh are both alpha coaches.
A clue as to how tonight might go? Think about the red zone. FSU leads the nation, scoring on 52 of 54 trips (42 touchdowns). On the side, Michigan is the nation’s second-best red zone defense, allowing only 68 percent of scores.
There aren’t many teams that can justify disappointment to a top 10 finish with 10 wins. FSU is one of them.
If FSU can take advantage of a Michigan defense that has struggled recently against the run, it will take much of the stain off of their season. Not all of it – the program’s standards to too high – but some. It’s been a long time since the loss to Clemson, and the thoughts of next season — when quarterback Deondre Francois returns — are cheery. This could be remembered not as a season of underachievement, but one of building.
Game time is 8 p.m. in Miami.