When Jimbo Fisher left Florida State last November, he was the first coach in more than 40 years to leave the school where he won a national championship for another program. He spent most, if not all of 2017 trying to wiggle his way out of the ACC to get into the same division as Nick Saban. The marriage between Fisher and FSU brass had grown sour just four years after that championship season. While Fisher’s hands weren’t entirely clean in the relationship’s unraveling, it’s reasonable to say Florida State ran its national championship coach out of town.
It’s only three games into Willie Taggart’s tenure, but I bet the Seminoles would like a do-over.
I’ll fully admit I could not have been more wrong about this team. I picked them to win the ACC. I fell for the talent all over the roster. I ignored Willie Taggart’s career losing record. I ignored the fact FSU hasn’t fielded a decent offensive line since the Bush administration.
I bought into Taggart’s swagger. Last year’s team that finished 7-5 struggled after losing its starting quarterback in an emotionally draining game to Alabama to open the year. Between that and Fisher having one foot out the door all season, it was easy to see why Florida State lacked focus and effort much of the year. It would stand to reason that some fresh blood could correct that.
Instead, things have only grown worse. In Saturday’s 30-7 loss to Syracuse, it was a parade of errors that you might expect to see in a high school scrimmage. Deondre Francois missed open receivers when he had time to throw — which wasn’t often. Baffling clock management at the end of the half cost them a field goal that could have at least salvaged some momentum going into the break. As I watched the debacle unfold, Stewart Mandel took the words right out of my mouth:
…and then there’s this:
This team looks absolutely directionless. Two weeks ago, Western Michigan put up 42 points on Syracuse. The Seminoles didn’t score Saturday until the fourth quarter.
Inevitably, Hot Seat Talk has already made its way to Tallahassee. I want to say it’s premature…but we’re not far away from it being a reality. From 2014 until 2017, every Florida State recruiting class ranked in the top five according to 247Sports. Even a team that lacks cohesion and consistency should be able to skate by against Syracuse with that level of talent. For the Seminoles to not even compete is why this is especially concerning.
Maybe what Jimbo’s classes boasted in ability, they lacked in attitude. Maybe Taggart inherited a crop of players who are so mentally weak it’s beyond repair. At this point, there’s a few ways this season can go. Either Taggart can rally the troops and keep Florida State’s bowl streak alive, and at least show his bosses he can still win over a locker room…or he can start cleaning house. He can weed out the bad apples. He can value character and resiliency over talent. Maybe the win-loss record won’t look pretty, but he can set the tone moving forward for what the culture of FSU football will be. Either way, something has to happen to show Taggart hasn’t completely lost control of the program. At this rate, it’s certainly heading that way.
The JP Top 10
Lots of changes in this week’s Top 10, which again is my ranking of the 10 best resumes in college football, not necessarily the 10 best teams.
1 – Georgia
As unbeatable as Alabama has looked, the Tide’s resume doesn’t quite stand up to Georgia’s. The Bulldogs’ road win over South Carolina carries more weight than Bama’s 62-7 win at Ole Miss. Mecole Hardman is Georgia’s best receiver since AJ Green.
2 – Alabama
The Ole Miss defense gave up 41 points to Southern Illinois. I can’t be THAT impressed with Alabama putting up 62, even if they did it with ease. On a neutral field, I’d still take Alabama over Georgia, but the Bulldogs’ body of work is better than the Crimson Tide’s right now.
3 – Ohio State
In their first real test of the season, the Buckeyes took TCU’s best shot and still came out on top 40-28. There’s a group of teams who are a cut above the rest when it comes to pure athleticism and depth. It’s Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, and Ohio State. Penn State in two weeks will be a blast. Will Nick Bosa (groin) be back for it?
It’s hard not to put LSU above any of the teams before them, but it’s hard not to think Coach O snuck away with one in Auburn on Saturday. Joe Burrow was mediocre for 3.5 quarters before engineering a couple late scoring drives. Auburn seized control of the game after falling behind 10-0 early, only to let the game slip through its fingers in those final minutes with an awful Jarrett Stidham interception and a handful of untimely penalties. Auburn lost that game as much as LSU won it.
5 – Oklahoma
I tried to tell y’all Oklahoma was going to be the real deal this year. Iowa State has always been a thorn in the Sooners’ side, and Saturday was no different. Kyler Murray put up over 400 yards of total offense in the 37-27 win. I’m feeling awfully good about my Heisman pick right about now. He’s the most fun player to watch in college football.
6 – Oklahoma State
Mike Gundy doesn’t get nearly enough credit for the job he’s done in Stillwater. The Cowboys don’t recruit like Oklahoma or Texas, but they just keep fielding excellent football teams. Defense and special teams played a huge role in a 44-21 win over a good Boise State team Saturday. That was one heck of a win for the ‘Pokes.
7 – Clemson
For the last week I’ve been trying to decide if Clemson’s two-point win at Texas A&M showed us the Aggies are better than we thought or that the Tigers’ underperformed in that spot. For now, I’m going to give A&M some credit and show Clemson props for hanging on. They’ve taken care of business against cupcakes otherwise.
8 – Auburn
With a win over a very good Washington team and the loss to LSU coming by only a single point, I think the Tigers still deserve to be ranked in the Top 10. The schedule is downright miserable in October and November, though. Auburn’s staring an 8-4 season in the eyes right now.
As long as the Huskies beat Utah on the road, I think they deserve to be in the Top 10. The JP Top 10 look at HOW you played, win or lose. I’m more impressed with the Huskies than most other teams I’ve seen thus far.
10 – TCU
Ohio State is loaded at every position, and TCU never blinked on Saturday night. The final score was 40-28, but the Horned Frogs gave it everything they had against the Buckeyes and came closer the final score would suggest to pulling the upset. The game changed in a four-minute stretch when Ohio State scored three touchdowns to go from down 21-13 to ahead 33-21. Gary Patterson’s club looks like a worthy challenger to Oklahoma in the Big 12.