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Are FSU and Miami already “punting” for 2019?

Matt Zemek

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Hyperbole is to be avoided at all times. Websites, columnists, reporters, pundits — everyone under the sun — must steer clear of it.

Is it hyperbolic to say that Florida State and Miami are punting on 2019? Not if you have high standards… which is a very simple and brief way of saying that the Seminoles and Hurricanes are not in position to reach high standards next season.

What is the standard FSU and Miami set for themselves? At minimum, it is to compete for division and conference championships, with high-end bowl games being regular — if not annual — occurrences. FSU and Miami should consistently reach nine wins and normally hit 10. Sure, Clemson is the big, bad bully in the ACC, and a challenging non-conference game against Florida (FSU) or LSU (which Miami scheduled in 2018) might not break the right way, but let’s look at the rest of the ACC, shall we?

Pitt won the 2018 ACC Coastal with a 7-5 overall record. No team other than Clemson made a New Year’s Six bowl. No team other than Clemson recorded 10 regular-season wins. This was a BAD ACC, folks. This was not 2016, when the league kicked butt up and down the field in both the regular season and especially the bowls.

In a bad ACC, even the worst Florida State or Miami team should win seven or eight games.

Florida State won only five. Miami won seven… but is this the absolute worst Miami can be? Manny Diaz kept the defense solid. The 2018 Canes had plenty of talent on defense and ought to have done much better than they did. Mark Richt could not coach his quarterbacks well.

All right, then — so a season slipped through the fingers of these two programs and their coaches. It happens. As bad as this year was for FSU and Miami, all these programs had to do was show in the offseason that they were ready to bounce back, ready to make relevant adjustments, ready to address weaknesses.

I know it is early in the offseason for FSU and that Miami won’t turn 100 percent toward the offseason until after the Pinstripe Bowl against Wisconsin on Dec. 27… but let me ask you: Are these teams in remotely good position to win 10 games or make a New Year’s Six bowl next season?

You could make an argument in support of a “YES” answer, but that answer mostly depends on the forces which made Syracuse the second-best team in the ACC this season. In other words, the idea that FSU or Miami could win 10 games in 2019 depends on other teams being bad. The Noles and Canes need help to reach the minimum standards those programs and fan bases rightly apply on a long-term basis.

If North Carolina State and Syracuse regress while Boston College stagnates and Louisville needs one year to adjust under Scott Satterfield, maybe Florida State could play moderately better football and somehow win nine or 10 games. Maybe FSU could make a four- or five-win jump relative to 2018 without playing that much better than 2018.

If the ACC Coastal remains stuck in the muck, with every team other than Miami continuing to carry significant flaws that lead to five losses, the Canes could similarly grow to a relatively small extent in terms of the raw quality of their work product, yet make a multi-game leap in the win column.

Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

If all these other teams fail, FSU and Miami could succeed.

You can appreciate the stretching and reaching involved here.

Florida State and Miami should NEVER be described in this way. The argument that the Noles and Canes might improve next season and return to their expected place in college football’s power structure should NEVER be primarily based on other teams regressing or stagnating.

Yet, that’s where we are a week before Christmas. Lumps of coal are being dumped in Nole and Cane fans’ stockings.

2019 — in light of the decommits from Miami, the Sam Howell flip from FSU to North Carolina, and the overall lack of convincing responses by Richt and Taggart to their offensive coordinator situations — already looks like a barren year.

Yes, 8-4 or even 9-3 — if 9-3 is not accompanied by a New Year’s Six bowl — are barren years. To me, that is punting on a year. To me, it seems FSU and Miami are already in positions precarious enough that 2019 cannot reasonably be expected to PURSUE the highest aspirations, let alone SATISFY them.

Assuming neither program satisfies the highest aspirations in 2019, that would mean FSU and Miami would enter a new decade in 2020 having NEVER MET IN THE ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME.

That means 15 seasons and 15 failures to play for the ACC title. These two schools were supposed to carry ACC football through a golden age of conference championship game showdowns in early December which would annually plant the conference at the forefront of the college football conversation.

Today, one week before Christmas in 2018, FSU and Miami are at the forefront of a conversation in college football… and the conversation surrounds the idea of how spectacularly these programs are failing to be where they ought to be.

The Seminoles and Hurricanes are already punting on 2019. Is that an instance of hyperbole?

Maybe… but I don’t think so

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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