When you are losing the grass always seems greener. But in this week both fanbases are questioning their direction. To get a better feel for FSU's mindset and what to expect this game, I asked Rich from Chant Rant a few questions. His answers are below.
1. I was surprised to see Florida State struggle to score against NC State. Then afterword there seemed to be some speculation that Fisher doesn't trust Manuel to fully run the offense. Was Saturday a one-time setback or a sign of bigger problems to come offensively?
Chant Rant: The loss to N.C. State was a huge disappointment and an even bigger wake-up call: It signals that the Seminole program which we all thought was on the verge of being nationally relevant again, is still plagued by inconsistency and question marks. Jimbo Fisher had us all believing that 2012 would be the culmination of the strong momentum underway since he took over from Bobby Bowden. The guy has recruited as well as anyone in the country, while installing a top to bottom process patterned after the one his former boss, Nick Saban, created.
But two things in particular have Nole fans scratching their noggins. Despite beating both of FSU's hated in-state rivals, the gators and Hurricanes, two years running, Fisher seems doomed to lose a couple games per year to teams he should beat nine times out of ten. And HOW he loses them is a growing sore spot. Jimbo, who continues to call every play though he has an offensive coordinator, goes conservative when a close game is on the line. It backfired big time against N.C. State. Ahead 16-0 at the half, the Noles offense couldn't hold off the Pack at the end. It didn't help that QB EJ Manuel had a lousy night, missing open receivers and losing yardage on option plays (partly due to his supporting cast, of course).
So to finally answer your question: Fisher had BETTER trust Manuel. He discovered, recruited and has groomed the fifth year senior, confident EJ would be the key to the Seminoles' resurgence. At this point I believe Jimbo is too stubborn to play backup Clint Trickett, even for a few series (fans are divided on which one should start). Unless Manuel is carried off the field, Fisher will live and die with his talented but inconsistent signal caller.
2. The media seems obsessed with Florida State being back. At this point do the average Nole fans care? How do FSU fans measure if things are really "back"?
Chant Rant: Nole fans care intensely, probably to a fault. Which is why the loss to N.C. State is such a bummer -- a huge step backwards on the road to being back. Back to what? Back to national prominence. Being a yearly favorite to win the ACC Championship. Finishing in the top ten. And being in the mix for a national title at least a few times in every decade.
If that sounds like fans who might be a bit spoiled -- yeah, you're probably right. But once you've tasted success like the long run of top five finishes under Bowden, it just becomes a craving that nothing else will satisfy.
3. We may be in position to hire a new head coach. One of the names that has floated in the past is Mark Stoops. What is your opinion of Stoops as a potential Head Coach and what sort of recruiter is he?
Chant Rant: A fiery coach on the sidelines, Stoops is pretty quiet off the field. That's true in part because under Jimbo, assistant coaches have very little media access. I'd bet it's also because Mark is the youngest of the Stoops coaching brothers, and probably, uh, shall we say, deferred to Bob and Mike when he was a kid. I don't hear much about his involvement with recruiting, but he apparently holds his own on a staff full of strong recruiters.
I guess the answer is, nobody really knows how he would do as a head coach. But one thing is for sure: Mark would have a unique value-added advantage. What other coach could call upon two unpaid consultants -- that just happen to be family members and respected coaches in their own right -- whenever he needs them?
4. What is your prediction for the game?
Chant Rant: Based upon what we're hearing from correspondents and other insiders, the team is shaking off its hangover from Saturday night and doing a good job of refocusing on the remainder of the season. Don't know what Vegas is predicting, but my guess is FSU by 14 to 17 points. Whatever the final score, it oughta be a fun game -- warm and dry, no rain in the forecast -- with the football in the air throughout. Unless, that is, Fisher decides to go into his conservative shell again. If that happens, all bets are off.