Having never played there before, in a quirk of luck, the FSU Seminoles will play in the Rose Bowl for the second straight year. While last year was for the National Championship against a familiar Auburn team, this year the ‘Noles are in the semi-final against an unknown in Oregon. Sure they’ll have seen plenty of tape, studied the Ducks tendencies and will be prepared for whatever the Pac 12 champs bring, it’s still an unknown for FSU.
We saw that when Oregon played Auburn for the National Championship a few years ago. Oregon had an up-tempo offense, great skill players and lots of speed. But Auburn had speed and size, something the Ducks couldn’t match. Same thing with Alabama and Notre Dame. The Irish had made their way to the top of the polls with solid athletes, strong effort and good speed. But the Tide overwhelmed them from the first snap, showing speed, size and quickness that Notre Dame couldn’t match.
Odds makers have made the Seminoles more than a touchdown underdog in this game, strange for a team that hasn’t lost since 2012. Also strange for a team that averages 6’5″ and 325 lbs. on the offensive line, has a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback and a record setting wide receiver, tight end and running back. So what do they know that we don’t?
Bettors have flocked to the ‘Noles in Las Vegas sports books, figuring that a team that has found a way to win games they’ve been behind in all year would at least be able to stay within a touchdown of just about anybody. That’s why this is such a hard game to predict. Even Head Coach Jimbo Fisher says having played in the Rose Bowl last year has helped FSU in their preparation this season. They know what to expect.
At today’s press conference, Head Coach Jimbo Fisher was asked a couple of times about being the “most hated team in America” and if he was tired of defending both the ‘Noles character and their record.
“I hate it for the kids,” Fisher responded. “I know how hard they work, what they’re like. The biggest mis-perception of Jameis Winston is that he’s a bad guy. He’s not. He’s one of the most kind hearted people ever.”
You could tell Fisher was ready for that kind of question and knew what he was going to say, but you could also tell that he was genuinely dismayed that his team has their current reputation and that all of that “noise” has followed FSU despite not having lost since 2012.
Normally a fast talker, Fisher had it going at twice his normal rate today, clearly excited to have his team in the national championship picture for the second year in a row. Having three weeks to prepare is something that he knows how to use to his advantage. He’s experienced in big games and loves to say, “It’s not about winning, it’s about working.”
While they’ve won plenty of games with a fortuitous bounce in their streak, Mark Helfrich, the head coach at Oregon was quick to point out, “You don’t win all of those games with luck. They’re just a good team, no denying that.”
Oregon has speed and quickness. FSU has size and experience and perhaps is a bit underrated when it comes to their speed. Winston is the X-Factor. If he plays well and they don’t fall behind early, the Noles will win in a walk. If not, if could be a long and frustrating night for Florida State.