The Monday After: A closer look into what the hell is wrong with Florida State
Taking a dive back into the weekend that was in college football
On December 30, 2016, Florida State beat Michigan 33-32 in a thrilling Orange Bowl to put the finishing touches on a 10-3 season. It was the fifth straight year the Seminoles had won at least 10 games under Jimbo Fisher. They were 59-9 from 2012-16 with a national championship under their belt.
Since that Orange Bowl win, the Seminoles have gone 8-8 with five of those eight losses coming by 17 points or more, and they've seen Fisher leave for Texas A&M. So far in 2018, Florida State has lost by 21 at home to Virginia Tech, struggled to beat Samford at home and just got embarrassed 30-7 on the road against Syracuse.
So, what the hell is wrong with Florida State?
It's a simple question but one without a simple answer. Looking at the situation new coach Willie Taggart finds himself now immersed in, there doesn't appear to be an easy way out with a return to glory. It's possible that the Seminoles could turn things around and at least make noise in the ACC this season, but it sure isn't likely. Not with road games remaining against Louisville, Miami and NC State. Not with home games against Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida and a Boston College team that's 3-0 and beat the Noles 35-3 last season. There's also a road trip to Notre Dame on the schedule.
When looking at how Florida State has played thus far, which of those games are you confident it's going to win? Louisville? Maybe Wake Forest? There's a real possibility that Florida State's 36-year streak of going to a bowl game could end this year.
There are a lot of faults with this Florida State team, but the deeper I look, the more I see the same problem rearing its ugly head. The Noles can't block anybody up front. While offenses and coaches may change, there's a pretty simple fact about football, and it's that if you can't block anybody, your offense isn't going to work. Florida State can't block anybody. This isn't exactly a new phenomenon, either, as Florida State has dealt with problems on its offensive line through most of Fisher's tenure, and Taggart has inherited a unit that isn't good enough to win in the ACC.
If you look at Florida State's recruiting classes over the last five years (2014-18) you see a team that has finished with an average class rank of 5.4 according to 247 Sports' Composite Rankings. From 2014-16, the classes all finished in the top five and then dropped off the last two years to No. 6 (2017) and No. 11 (2018) as Jimbo grew restless and cynical about his future with the program. Ordinarily, when you see a team recruiting that well, it's not going 8-8 over a 16-game stretch, but that's what Florida State's doing because if you look closer at those classes, you notice a theme.
There have been plenty of top players in those classes. FSU has recruited nine five-star and 64 four-star players since 2014, but none of those five-stars were on the offensive line. Of the four-stars, only nine have been OL recruits, and only one of them came in the 2017 or 2018 class. And the 2016 OL class, which was the best of the bunch, has not worked out. Josh Ball was a four-star tackle that was dismissed from the school in 2018 after a hearing for his role in "a dating violence case." Landon Dickerson was another four-star tackle in the 2016 class but has twice suffered season-ending injuries, including this year.
None of this is to dismiss the role coaching plays in FSU's struggles. After all, a massive part of teams finding success in college football is coaches being able to develop prospects -- no matter their star rating -- into capable, effective players. There are plenty of teams in college football without a bevy of four-star offensive linemen that are still able to block competently.
But when you aren't recruiting enough top talent to your offensive line to build quality depth attrition can destroy you, and that's precisely what has happened to Florida State. That's why you see things like this happening during a game.
And when that happens too frequently, you see the frustration bubble over in your players.
I'm not trying to pick on Abdul Bello here -- one of those four-star OL that FSU recruited -- as he's hardly alone in his struggles this season. What concerns me even more about the way this Florida State line is playing -- and what should concern fans -- is that things may get worse before they get better.
As I mentioned earlier, FSU has only recruited one four-star OL in its last two classes, and that's four-star guard Christian Meadows in the 2018 class. If there's any good news, it's that Taggart and his staff seem to be aware of the situation. The Noles' 2019 class currently has two offensive linemen with four-star ratings, but it's going to be a while before Florida State can depend on them to anchor its offensive line. There aren't a lot of freshman and sophomore offensive linemen in the country that can go up against Power Five defensive lines on a weekly basis and be successful. It's just not the way the position works.
It is the position Florida State has put itself in, however, and it's not one with an easy fix. It's also just one problem, but in my opinion, it's the biggest one Florida State and Taggart need to address. Until they do, these three-score losses will continue to be a common occurrence.
Perception Poll of the Week
We'll stick on the topic of Florida State a bit longer. With both the Noles and USC off to 1-2 starts to the 2018 season, I asked Twitter which team would finish with a better record this year, and I wasn't surprised by the results, nor the severity of them.
I believe this is what is commonly referred to as "East Coast bias." The truth is that a lot of what's wrong with Florida State are the same things wrong with USC. Through three games this season the Trojans are averaging 3.6 yards per carry (107th nationally) and have allowed a sack on 7.03 percent (84th nationally) of their dropbacks. This is an offensive line that's struggling quite a bit itself, and having a bunch of top talent at skill positions (as well as a freshman QB) isn't enough when you aren't blocking anyone.
I do agree with the notion that USC is likely going to finish with a better record than Florida State, but not because I think it's a lot better off. USC is just in a better situation right now as it plays in the Pac-12 South, and has a more manageable schedule with games left against Arizona, Oregon State and UCLA. But I don't think there was anything fluky about USC's 37-14 loss to Texas on Saturday night, and I won't be surprised if the Trojans fall to Washington State on Friday night to drop to 1-3, either.
The Trojans might be in a better spot than the Seminoles, but the gap isn't nearly as wide as these poll results would suggest.
Victory Speech of the Week
The best thing about Syracuse pulling off an upset at home against a top ACC team is it means we're going to get a speech from Dino Babers.
Late-Night Comedy of the Week
This was just a joy to watch unfold late Saturday night. First, Washington quarterback Jake Browning does roughly 100 things wrong and then compounds all those errors with throwing that pass, and then Utah's Pita Tonga blows the pick six.
Tonga dealt with something a lot of us larger gentlemen have to deal with while running with the ball: the stomach. You have to keep an eye out for tacklers trying to strip the ball as well as your gut. That thing can be unwieldy. To add insult to injury, after Tonga fumbled the ball out of bounds and cost himself a touchdown, Utah would fail to score on the possession.
Stat of the Week
The Big 12 needs to stop scheduling nonconference games at AT&T Stadium.
Hot Take of the Week
It comes to us courtesy of Ole Miss' independent student newspaper, The Daily Mississippian. Ben Miller wants you to know that Nick Saban is overrated because all he does is recruit great players and then win games with them because apparently recruiting isn't part of being a college football coach.
Following the arrival of his first No. 1 overall recruiting class, Saban won his first of five national championships at Alabama. The machine was running. Now, he didn't even need to recruit. Everybody wanted to play for the national champions. Saban's early recruiting created a system in which the best players in the nation showed up on the Alabama campus, won games and titles, got drafted into the NFL and left a spot for the next round of the nation's top recruits to take over.
With this in mind, five national titles really does not seem like enough in an 11-year period. Every season in recent memory, the Tide has had a national championship-or-bust mentality. If Saban were as good at being a head coach as he is at recruiting, Alabama would have won the national title on a yearly basis. But he isn't.
So Saban is overrated because he hasn't won a national title every year. Never forget that Saban has only won five national titles in 11 seasons at Alabama (as well as a sixth at LSU) while every other coach in the country has a combined five national titles between them. If Saban were really that good, he'd have their national titles, too.
Random Ranking of the Week
There's a new season of BoJack Horseman on Netflix, so this week I'm ranking the top BoJack characters.
1. Mr. Peanutbutter
2. Princess Carolyn
3. Todd Chavez
4. BoJack Horseman
5. Lenny Turtletaub
All rankings are final!
Fan Reactions of the Week
So many great options to choose from this week, I couldn't stick to just one.
Stat of the Week II
Scott Frost has now lost as many games as Nebraska's coach (two) as he did during two seasons as Nebraska's starting quarterback.
AP Voter of the Week
This week's award goes to Michael Lev of the Arizona Daily Star. If you saw this week's AP Top 25, you noticed that Oklahoma State is ranked No. 15 in the poll after beating Boise State 44-21. This is probably the right place to put the Cowboys in the poll, and this week every single AP voter had the Cowboys on their ballot except for Mr. Lev. He left Oklahoma State off entirely, instead choosing to rank teams like Cal at No. 18 and Kentucky at No. 25. Now, Cal is 3-0 with a win over BYU (which Lev has at No. 19) and Kentucky is 3-0 with a win over Florida (which Lev doesn't have ranked). Is either of those wins more impressive than Oklahoma State's 23-point win over a Boise State team that Lev had ranked No. 19 on his ballot last week?
By his own rankings, it seems that Lev felt Boise State was a better team than Cal, BYU, or Kentucky, yet he's ranking those teams ahead of the Cowboys. In fact, Lev hasn't ranked Oklahoma State at any point this season, which in itself is fine, but I'm not sure what the justification is for leaving it off this week when you're including Cal and Kentucky.
Maybe he saw this and it melted his brain a little? I know it did mine.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
Until the next Monday After!
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