TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Jimbo Fisher’s mantra of “control what you can control” will be put to the test over the next month.
Florida State’s resume is impressive. An 8-0 start has been fueled by a redshirt freshman quarterback that has become a Heisman Trophy contender. The offense is loaded with playmakers. The defense is even better than it has been despite replacing its coordinator.
But after dismantling a pair of top-10 teams in Clemson and Miami by a combined 64 points, Florida State now faces the soft part of its 2013 schedule. Wake Forest, Syracuse and Idaho, the next three opponents for the Seminoles, all have records at .500 or lower.
And injury-depleted Florida is unranked and 4-4. The usual BCS boost from that Nov. 30 game is likely minimal if at all.
So even while Florida State is No. 2 in the BCS and No. 1 in the combined computer rankings, that may not last for long. No. 3 Oregon and No. 5 Stanford play on Thursday night, while No. 1 Alabama faces No. 13 LSU on Saturday.
But Fisher, Florida State’s fourth-year coach, says he is paying that little attention.
“If (Florida State players) want to watch the games, watch the games,” Fisher said. “If they’re football fans, watch it. I wouldn’t watch it rooting. Don’t get caught up in those things. Keep playing well.”
Fisher said he wants to see the same kind of focus from his team when the Seminoles (8-0) travel to Wake Forest on Saturday as they have shown in the routs of previously unbeaten ACC rivals Clemson and Miami. And there’s plenty on the line — Florida State will clinch the Atlantic Division title with a victory over the Demon Deacons, a major step in the road to a national title.
Florida State players just want a chance.
“I feel like we can play with anybody in the country,” Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said. “We’re just trying to get to Pasadena by any means necessary.”
To do that, Florida State may need to be pulling for Stanford, LSU or another one of Alabama’s or Oregon’s opponents down the road. But for now, they’re trying to take care of their own business.
And Florida State has been busy building quite an impressive resume the past month in what appears to be the toughest part of the schedule. The Seminoles demolished No. 25 Maryland 63-0 at home on Oct. 5. Following a bye, Florida State ripped then-No. 3 Clemson 51-14, routed North Carolina State 49-17 and then pulled away in the second half to defeat then-No. 7 Miami 41-14.
Florida State has scored 40 or more points in eight straight games, an achievement never before done in school history, and the defense is allowing just 13 points per game (fourth best nationally). Jameis Winston has thrown for 2,502 yards and 24 touchdowns while completing 70.3 percent of his passes.
Even when Winston is off, and he was in the first half in tossing two interceptions, he rebounded after halftime to guide Florida State to two touchdowns and two field goals on the Seminoles’ five drives in the second half. Winston was 12 of 14 in the second half, too.
Fisher thinks that Winston’s ability to put difficulties behind him helps. Part of that may be his baseball background.
“The most important play of the game is the next one,” Fisher said. “Make the mistake you make, learn from it, don’t repeat it. … I think baseball is like that. Baseball is a game of failure. You deal with it a lot, you swing and miss and you have to worry about the next pitch. I think all of those things help you grow as a competitor.”
On Monday, Winston was named the ACC’s rookie of the week for the sixth time this season. And he was selected as a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, which is given to the nation’s top college quarterback.
“I thought he played a very good game,” Fisher said. “I thought it was a huge growing day for him because of handling the hype of a home game. Lot more distractions. Dealt with some adversity. Came back very calmly. He continues to grow in a lot of ways, sometimes not on a stat sheet.”