(AP) – Coach Jimbo Fisher thinks Florida State can still have a successful season despite having its ACC title hopes dashed.
The Seminoles (7-2, 5-2) go into Saturday’s game against North Carolina State knowing they won’t be in the conference title game for the first time in four years. Fisher thinks he will find out a lot about his team’s mental makeup over the next three weeks.
”I think that this is when you are going to find out about the class and character of these young guys and our organization,” Fisher said Monday. ”Our ultimate goal is to win the national championship, go to the (College Football) Playoff and win the ACC. You can have great seasons if you don’t have that happen to you.”
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With the departures of their top offensive playmakers, many expected the Seminoles to struggle this season after they won the national championship in 2013 and qualified for the first CFP last year. Florida State was ranked as high as ninth in the AP poll after its first six games, but has dropped two of three and is 16th in the CFP rankings after last Saturday’s 23-13 loss at Clemson.
Most of the issues remain on offense.
Sean Maguire has started the past two games at quarterback and was 16 of 29 for 164 yards and an interception against the Tigers. Fisher assessed Maguire’s performance as solid but did not name a starter for Saturday. Maguire took all the snaps with the first-team offense during the open part of Monday’s practice.
Everett Golson started the first seven games and has completed 67.1 percent of his passes. However, he has struggled to consistently move the offense.
Consistency has also been a problem on the offensive line, which has had a different starting center the past three games. The line has had 16 pre-snap penalties over the last four contests, putting the offense in plenty of long-yardage situations on first and second down.
”We’re moving the ball but points are down just hair because our red zone efficiency isn’t quite what it needs to be and has been lately and third downs are down just a little bit,” Fisher said. ”There are a few self-inflicted wounds I wish we’d be over by now.”
Dalvin Cook, who rushed for 150 yards or more in five games this season, is expected to be full go in practice this week as Fisher said the sophomore has fully recovered from ankle and hamstring injuries.
Cook is averaging 153.9 rushing yards and needs 11 to break Warrick Dunn’s single-season school record of 1,242, set in 1995.
Defensively, Fisher continues to be pleased, especially with the development of two freshmen who have earned their way into the starting lineup – linebacker Josh Sweat and safety Derwin James.
If anyone is overlooking North Carolina State (6-3, 2-3), Fisher can point to last year’s game as an example of why his team shouldn’t. The Seminoles trailed by 17 in the first quarter before rallying for a 56-41 win.
After facing the Wolfpack, the Seminoles host Chattanooga and then travel to No. 11 Florida on Nov. 28. They still have an outside shot at making one of the New Year’s six games, but would need to win out and have North Carolina lose twice.
”You can have a great taste in your mouth and have a great season and not always be the champion. You can still win 10-11 games and go to a major bowl game,” Fisher said. ”I just don’t want the changing times to make sure that we don’t forget that, not just with us, but other football teams out there that things are going like that.”
Florida State has taken two straight and six of the last eight meetings with North Carolina State.
The Wolfpack avoided a fourth loss in five games by beating Boston College 24-8 last week. Jacoby Brissett passed for 212 yards and threw an 83-yard TD to Maurice Trowell early in the second quarter.
Brissett has thrown 37 TD passes and seven interceptions since becoming N.C. State’s starting quarterback last season. It was the Wolfpack’s first game after leading rusher Matt Dayes, who ran for 883 yards and 12 TDs, was lost for the season with a foot injury. The Wolfpack still gained 139 yards on the ground against BC’s top-ranked rush defense.
”We’re bowl eligible and we’ve got three games to play,” coach Dave Doerer said. ”The goal is to be better than we were a year ago.”