ACC Championship: Florida State isn't 'back,' it's just getting started

By Chip Patterson | College Writer
Florida State earned its first ACC championship since 2005 with a 21-15 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday. (US Presswire)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Florida State isn't "back."

It's a term that has been tossed around a lot in the last three seasons. Each of the seasons have started with the Seminoles -- fairly or unfairly -- linked to the dominance of Bobby Bowden's incredible run from 1992-2005. That span included two national titles and ACC championships in every season but two. Since 2005, Florida State had previously failed to win another conference title. Since 2005, they have been dealing with the expectation to be "back."

But instead of looking at the 2012 ACC champion Florida State Seminoles as being "back," we should appreciate seeing the beginning of a new chapter of Florida State's football history. This isn't Bobby Bowden's program anymore; this is Jimbo Fisher's. If your memory starts when Fisher assumed the head coaching duties before the 2010 season, this program has been as competitive as any in the ACC.

The Seminoles have won the Atlantic Division two of the three years since Fisher took over. He has has recorded 30 wins so far, including their current 11-win total -- best since 2000 -- that could increase in Miami on Jan. 1. Don't look at this Florida State program as a flashback; look at it as a sneak preview of what could be to come.

"I think [winning an ACC championship] is huge because I think you keep continuing to change the culture," Fisher said. "We had a culture there for awhile that we couldn't win those games. We couldn't win 10 games in a season; now we've won 11. I think you've got to understand -- you've got to win one before you can ever say 'I'm back.' You've got to win a conference championship before you win a national championship."

After Saturday night's 21-15 win over Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, Fisher spoke more about the changing culture and teaching the current group of Seminoles what it means to act like a champion. When he talks about "those games," I guarantee you he is thinking about the blown lead at NC State earlier this season, the home loss to Oklahoma in 2011 and getting bullied by Virginia Tech in the 2010 ACC title game. By "those games," Fisher is talking about winning by any means necessary -- a characteristic of any modern champion in college football.

You know how else you can tell this is the beginning of something new? Look no further than the players on the podium on Saturday night. Running back James Wilder Jr., a sophomore, earned MVP honors in the conference championship game with 69 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns. Devonta Freeman, also a sophomore, carried 13 times and found the end zone as well.

Safety Karlos Williams had arguably one of the best performances of his career, leading the team with 11 tackles and making an incredible play on the interception that preserved the win. Williams is also a sophomore.

You look up and down the Florida State depth chart, and you see the infusion of talent that Fisher has brought to Tallahassee since taking over as head coach. The recruiting classes are certainly a reason for the high expectations, but Saturday night was a reminder that Florida State isn't "back."

On the contrary, you could say they are just getting started.

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