Regardless of whether it should have been playing in the Independence Bowl -- a Reddit user report that took on a life of its own -- Florida State played the role of Goliath in securing a 41st straight winning season in dumping Southern Miss 42-13 Wednesday.
Here are three takeaways from the Seminoles' rout.
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1. Motivated? Doesn't Matter With This Kind of Talent
We had reason to question Florida State's desire to even be in Shreveport, La. -- aside from stopping in at Crawdaddy's Kitchen, that is -- to play in the Independence Bowl. After all, this was a team that opened the season at No. 3 in the nation with designs on making the College Football Playoff, only to see its season fall apart, its coach bolt for Texas A&M and its best player, safety Derwin James, sit out as he preps for the NFL.
The Seminoles did little to squelch that thinking with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the first play of the game and they fell behind 6-0, a death knell for a team that was 0-5 when an opponent scored first. But, helped along the way by a Golden Eagles offsides penalty that negated a 25-yard loss, Florida State rattled off 33 unanswered points.
Even without James and starting quarterback Deondre Francois -- whose injury the season seemingly turned on -- this is still a program that the last three years had two top-three recruiting classes. The other group in that span? It ranked fourth.
Southern Miss had a nice season, winning eight games. But it lost to Tennessee -- which went winless in SEC play -- and fell to two C-USA teams in UAB and North Texas, who lost their bowl games by a combined 91-37. These teams weren't in the same class, and Florida State drove that home.
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2. Is There A QB Battle Looming In Tallahassee?
James Blackman has looked incredibly shaky at times this season, and for good reason. No one would have expected him to be on the field aside from mop-up duty with Francois as the unquestioned leader of the Seminoles offense.
The true freshman threw seven interceptions in his first seven games, hit on just 42.3 percent of his attempts against Boston College and 40.6 vs. Clemson. In the month of November, Blackman was 99th in the country with a 52.9 completion rate.
But he threw for 233 yards on 18 of 26 passing and hit Auden Tate in the back of the end zone in the fourth quarter to give Blackman a bowl record -- and a season-high -- four TDs. More importantly, he didn't turn the ball over.
Now, new coach Willie Taggart may have an interesting debate on his hands. Does he give the offense back to Francois, who underwent surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, or did Blackman show enough glimpses to think he could be the better option?
With the potential that the offense loses only right tackle Rick Leonard, and the struggles that took place for much of Blackman's first go-around, the thought here is Taggart goes with the veteran hand (one that had a QB rating of 160.1 or higher four times in 2016). But this spring in Tallahassee figures to have a very different vibe than we could have expected.
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3. Cam Akers Owns This Date On The Calendar ... And Now A Spot In FSU History
On Dec. 27, 2016, Cam Akers committed to Florida State. A year later, the freshman running back eclipsed his predecessor as Seminoles most electric player, Dalvin Cook, for the program's freshman rushing record as he ran for 94 yards to give him 1,034 on the season.
That bests the 1,008 Cook had in 2014 and sets the stage for Akers going forward under Taggart. Before we go any further, though, let's not automatically throw Akers into the same class as Cook, who reached his freshman record 21 fewer times than Akers' 191 this season.
But it's clear that whomever is playing QB for the Seminoles in 2018, they're going to have an elite playmaker behind them, somethings that's become all too commonplace for the Seminoles.
From 1997-2012, the program didn't have a 1,000-yard runner. They've produced one every year since.