Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2013.
As part of our 2013 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.
Team: Florida State Seminoles
Opponent: NC State Wolfpack
Last Year: Loss, 17-16 at NC State
This Year: October 26, vs. NC State
Yes, Florida State lost two games last year, and one of them was to archrival Florida. But this — the major upset loss to NC State on the road — was the one that likely hurt the most for ‘Noles players and fans alike. After beating highly-ranked Clemson in front of a national audience just two weeks prior, FSU suddenly looked flat in comparison to its no. 3 national ranking. With a manageable schedule, it appeared everyone was willing to push fears aside though; the Seminoles were set to compete for a national championship for the first time in more than a half-decade. And then the offense went overly conservative in the second half. The Wolfpack made the plays they needed to late in the contest. And we were left with a downtrodden, upset FSU team, a beleaguered conference and this indelible .gif.
The Seminoles course-corrected immediately following the loss — hi, 51-7 drubbing of Boston College — but the issue of Jimbo Fisher’s overly conservative play-calling at times never truly went away. One could argue it’s what kept the contests against overmatched Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech teams so close, and maybe what kept Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl for at least a half. It’s certainly what drove now-Miami offensive coordinator James Coley out of Tallahassee, being handcuffed by Fisher calling plays. So while the personnel is certainly different — both teams have new starting quarterbacks and offensive coordinators this year — there’s still plenty to learn from last year’s loss that can help bring FSU success against the Pack in 2013.
For one, the game is at home for Florida State, so right away, it’s a bit of a leg up. Weird things happen in Raleigh, as we saw last year, and the home crowd at Doak Campbell should provide a better atmosphere for the ‘Noles. The rest, however, is all up to the aforementioned play-calling. FSU obviously has a superior defensive group, but they did last year too. What stopped them last season was failing to execute when they could’ve had the game in hand. A look at the play-calls last year:
First half: Pass (18), Run (15); Florida State 16, NC State 0
Second half, before final drive: Pass (12), Run (17); NC State 17, Florida State 16
First of all, they only ran 62 offensive plays. Second, if you look through the play-by-play breakdown of the game, you even see the distinct point at which they stopped trying to move the ball and simply seemed bent to eat up clock. And it didn’t work. Even when they were passing the ball, Manuel’s completions tended toward short yardage, save the early parts of the game (a bit more aggressive) and the end (desperately trying to score). Gone was the team that put up 49 points against Clemson just two weeks earlier. In its place was a group that couldn’t exploit an NC State secondary that was regularly burned by opposing receivers.
This season, there’s hope that the offense can leave this sort of performance behind them. Jameis Winston appears to have all the same athleticism EJ Manuel had at quarterback, and with an experienced receiving corps, plus talented running backs, you’d think the sky’s the limit. But it all depends on Fisher. If he can open up the playbook and attack when necessary, this team should blow the doors off several opponents — most notably, NC State. If not, it could be another long slog against the Wolfpack this year.