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Florida State Seminoles

Orange Bowl Preview: Florida State and Michigan Get Set to Tangle

Ari Russell

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(Photo by Logan Stanford/Icon Sportswire)

The day has finally arrived, where we have some big time bowl games popping up. Probably one of the most anticipated non CFB Playoff  match ups takes place on Friday night in Miami Gardens, as the Florida State Seminoles get set to take on the Michigan Wolverines. 

This game has a bunch of intrigue for various reason.

Let’s start with Dalvin Cook. It’s expected to be the last time we see Cook in a Florida State uniform as all signs are pointing to him skipping his senior year for the NFL Draft. He has nothing else to prove at this level. Cook will leave FSU as the most decorated RB in school’s history. After breaking the school’s career rushing record and TD record, what else does he have to do? The amazing part is that he did this all in three years. It’s going to take a real stud for anyone to break Cook’s records any time soon. Sad to see him go, as he’s such an explosive player, but it should be fun one last time to see him Friday night.

The net intriguing part of this game is to see how inspired Michigan will be. We know that Harbaugh, and the Wolverine faithful, feel slighted about not making it to the CFB Playoff. They felt they got robbed in the Ohio State game, and they have a point. However that loss to Iowa, wasn’t a good look, and it’s hard keeping one loss teams out that won their conference ahead of a 2 loss team that didn’t even win their division. Either way you know Harbaugh is going to get his troops fired up for this one. When he’s angry, usually his opponents feel the pain. Plus we saw how fired up those Stanford teams got, when they felt slighted. Could we see the same with the Maize and Blue on Friday? It’s possible.

The last intriguing part, well not last, but last for this article, that at least I’m interested in seeing, is FSU freshman QB Deondre Francois. If for whatever reason you haven’t seen this young man play, Friday night you want to turn your TVs on. There is no question Francois is going to be an emerging star. Expect Heisman hype going into next season, especially if he has a big Orange Bowl. The ACC is turning out to be a QB heavy league, and that will be even next year with Mitch Trubisky, Brad Kaaya and DeShawn Watson possibly going pro. Keep an eye out for Francois. We know the Michigan defense is stout, but this guy is special.

Should be a good one at Joe Robbie…I mean Sun Life….I mean Hard Rock Stadium Friday night.

The Capitol One Orange Bowl (have to mention sponsor before I get sued) Kickoff at 8pm ET.

Born in the Nation’s Capital, Washington D.C., Ari Russell watched the rise of the 1980’s Miami Hurricanes and knew that he had to be part of the “U” someday. After graduating from Coral Gables, Ari rose through the ranks of the former XM Satellite Radio and then Sirius/XM as college football executive producer. He later spent 2 seasons as the publisher of the website “Beyond U Sports” focusing on major college football/basketball. Ari brings a great perspective on everything Miami, including the Dolphins to F.F.I.

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Florida State Seminoles

FSU and Deondre Francois- both “back from the dead”

Matt Zemek

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Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s game between Florida State and Louisville was a bottom-line moment for both teams. The bad losses and poor performances from these teams in the first four weeks of the season were not going to lead to a Mona Lisa oil painting of excellence on Saturday. No one expected that. However, victory was essential for either team in its attempt to merely make a bowl game.

Just two years ago, Florida State and Louisville met for high stakes. The two teams were in contention for an Orange Bowl bid, which swung to FSU at the very end of the regular season. This was a distinctly different game played for survival and the right to save face.

Winning was the only priority.

Late in the fourth quarter, Florida State’s offense had finally become the well-oiled machine its fans had every right to expect it would be before the season began. The Seminoles had not become a juggernaut, but they had become an offense which, while spotty due to its offensive line, could occasionally hit big plays and strike fear into opposing defenses. That’s what the Noles always had the ability to become on offense in 2018. They had arrived at that modest but reasonable standard.

They just needed another chance… but it didn’t seem likely that they were going to get it.

Down 24-21, Florida State watched Louisville march down the field, continuing to make big pass plays against a Seminole secondary which was constantly out of position. Louisville used the pass to get to gain considerable leverage, but with 1:56 and facing first and 10 deep in FSU territory, the Cardinals had to run the ball. Everyone in the stadium knew Louisville needed to run…

.. except the two people who mattered most: quarterback Jawon Pass and head coach Bobby Petrino.

Florida State had only two timeouts, meaning that with two running plays, Louisville could have exhausted FSU’s supply of timeouts. If the Cardinals needed to convert a third down, then they could have passed. On first and 10, however, they needed to see if they could run for four or more yards and squeeze the FSU defense.

They didn’t.

Pass threw a first-down toss which was intercepted.

Deondre Francois had his extra chance. Nyqwan Murray knew he also had a chance to transform the way this day — and this season — would be remembered

They found the piece of magic they were looking for.

Francois, who dropped dimes throughout the second half, hit Murray on a short-intermediate pass in the middle third of the field. He fought off the first would-be tackler, found the running lane he needed, turned on the jets downfield, then darted to his right and wound his way into the end zone. A dazzling 58 yard play which married strength, field sense, and skill sent the Florida State sideline into a state of euphoria.

After surviving Samford and turning in a workmanlike but unremarkable effort in a win over Northern Illinois, this was the surge of adrenaline and ecstasy FSU’s season had been lacking.

The team struggled throughout the game, but Francois finally returned to being the kind of quarterback he had been before injuries got in the way:

The reemergence of Francois is the engine Florida State hopes will power this team through tough upcoming games. No one can know for sure how much this win will mean in time, but plenty of in-season turnarounds have been launched by this kind of victory, the deathbed revival which once seemed utterly lost, but — thanks to Louisville and Deondre Francois and Nyqwan Murray — was blessedly found on a late September afternoon.

Florida State still has a lot of work to do in order to merely get back to a bowl game, but the odds now look a lot better than they did before Bobby Petrino’s pass play with 1:56 left in the fourth quarter. The Noles are still not a good team, but now they have a better chance of becoming one.

Inspiration mixed with elation can be tonics for the football soul.

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Florida State Seminoles

No, Florida State is not getting rid of Willie Taggart

Florida Football Insiders

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Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

As our headline clearly presents, we interrupt the chaos and fantasy of those anti-Willie Taggart Florida State fans, who believe that somehow, he is not going to be their coach for the next couple of seasons.

Yes, it is bad right now for Florida State for several reasons. As our Matt Zemek laid out after Saturday’s blowout loss at Syracuse, you can only blame Jimbo Fisher for so much of it. And, because Taggart is in charge, he now will have to bear the brunt of whatever else goes on the next few games and to the end of 2018.

On Monday, Taggart met with the media and read from a prepared statement trying to reassure Florida State fans that the Noles will be better, and soon. Sure, there were many looking at that press conference and saying he doesn’t know what to do. However, FSU is only 1-2 with a winnable game coming this Saturday.

And, fundamentally, one of the things holding them back are talented skill players that must be addressed immediately; the play of the offensive line.  And as this article in the Tallahassee Democrat lays out, the Noles do not have a lot of options currently, in terms of new or better personnel.

Still, offensive line coach Greg Frey is very experienced at several other major programs and obviously, offensive coordinator Walt Bell has worked and called plays and had success in major college programs.

So, the belief that those two can improve the scheme and the blocking has to be there for the FSU faithful.

Now for the silliness that Taggart may only last one season.

That’s what it is, silliness.

He would be due over 21 million dollars in a contract buyout, if he was fired after this year, which Florida state would never pay at this stage.

Further complicating the situation, Florida State’s AD Stan Wilcox, who did the deal with Taggart last December to bring him from Oregon to Tallahassee, is leaving next month for a position with the NCAA.  So, the Seminoles new athletic director, yet to be hired, will have to probably be given a season to evaluate Taggart and that is going to be 2019.

And it’s important to remember the Taggart had a 2 – 10 record his first year at USF, but eventually turned them into a 10-win and bowl game winning program before leaving for the Pac-12 two years ago.

Now, Taggart did win a couple of games early in the Oregon season last year to take the pressure off, but still finished just 7-5, leaving before the Ducks bowl game.

So, perhaps the FSU offense will imporve this week against Northern Illinois, at least enough for Florida State to try and salvage a five or six wins season.

But, if it does not, Willie Taggart is still not going anywhere.

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Florida State Seminoles

FSU’s “Rag-tag” Taggart team tagged, flagged and bagged Saturday

Florida Football Insiders

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Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Jimbo Fisher left behind a big mess. That’s what Week 1 taught the college football world about Florida State.

Week 2 against Samford, as bad as it was, nevertheless represented a game being played five days after the emotionally draining Virginia Tech opener. Young men — or old NFL veterans — are not supposed to play a violent sport twice in a span of roughly 120 hours. One can give FSU a full pass for that game. It contained very little real-world value in identifying what is right or wrong with this team.

But Week 3? On the road? With a full week of rest and relatively normal game-preparation circumstances? Against a Syracuse program which has struggled to play defense and struggled to win with any consistency over the past 15 years?

This was the time for Willie Taggart to show that, as much as Jimbo left him with a toxic cleanup site and insufficient hazmat gear, the Seminoles’ new coaching staff could manage a problematic situation and make necessary adjustments.

This was the week to show that damage control could define a season in which no one expected Florida State to be great. This project was all about the pursuit of competence and steadiness — not the dominance of old (that is a goal which always existed beyond this season’s capacities), but merely finding one’s footing as a program and setting the stage for 2019.

Instead, the Seminoles were “tagged” by Syracuse running for 231 yards, were “flagged” for 10 penalties, and the offense was “bagged,” by going a horrible 1-14 on third down, and being shutout deep into the fourth quarter.

Syracuse dominated Florida State 30-7. And, the blank stares from Taggart out onto the field shown on TV Saturday are only going to make Noles fans more venomous than they were before this one kicked off.

After this colossal failure in the Carrier Dome, Florida State has no footing.

It is sinking in quicksand… and its coach currently appears paralyzed in his attempt to do anything about it.

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