Florida State could stay on top

sports@macon.comJanuary 7, 2014 

BCS Championship Football

Florida State's Jameis Winston holds a rose in his hair after the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game against Auburn Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif. Florida State won 34-31. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

DAVID J. PHILLIP — AP

Florida State is finally back. We’ve been joking for years about whether or not the Seminoles were actually back from the state of mediocrity they were in for a few years. The undefeated season and Monday’s impressive comeback victory over Auburn proves it is, in fact, true.

In a way, it’s the most dangerous thing that can happen to the SEC. The seven-year streak of national championships came to an end with the Seminoles’ victory, and it might also make it more difficult for a SEC team to win it all in the coming seasons.

Go back to when Florida State was in its heyday, when Bobby Bowden had the team as the best program in America. From 1987 through 2000, a 14-year run, the Seminoles finished in The Associated Press top five each year and won almost 11 games per season. They won two national championships during that span.

Now they have their third, and it might not be their last. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has done a great job in his four years as the head coach. It wasn’t easy taking over for a legend in Bowden, but Fisher had the benefit of taking over for a program that was nowhere near it was during that run of success. The Seminoles had become ordinary.

Fisher has changed that. He has made Florida State relevant again. He has recruited the talent, and he now has the undefeated season that has the Seminoles on top of the world.

College football is about to change next season with a four-team playoff. There will be two semifinal games, and then those two winners will meet to determine the national championship.

Expect Florida State to be in the mix for the next several years, and the reason is recruiting. The talent base is only going to get better, and if you have talent and you’re in the final four, you’re going to have a chance to win a national championship. Plus, now Fisher is a championship coach.

Fisher can now sell Florida State as being a national champion. It has been difficult trying to sell that it used to be a national power back 13 years ago. Now Fisher can tell recruits, “We did it, and we can do it again with your help.”

When Florida State was dominant, Bowden could go into any town in the country and get a player’s attention. I remember covering a prospect in Wayne County back in 1994. Keith Mitchell was his name, a tall defensive end and tight end for the Yellow Jackets. Everyone in Jesup wanted Mitchell to go to Georgia, and at first, that seemed to be where he was going. But then Bowden hit town, and the recruiting process was over.

And remember, towns in the southern part of the state of Georgia get a tremendous amount of exposure to Florida State on television. Those TV stations have to cover Florida State football, so that gets into the homes of kids who might well stay in-state to play football, but when they see how great the Seminoles are doing, their minds might change.

Florida State used to get five-star prospects whenever it wanted. That changed along the way, but it might change back now. The Seminoles can now challenge Alabama and other teams for the top talent in the South and make it more difficult for programs like Georgia to recruit in-state talent.

Jameis Winston will be back as the quarterback next season. The Seminoles have a huge star to promote. That’s someone young recruits will want to be like, and it will be a tremendous selling point for Fisher and his coaches on the recruiting trail.

There were logical questions about Florida State and the schedule for this season, but it beat a very good Auburn team Monday. It beat an SEC team. And it’ll probably be the momentum the program needs to remain in the national spotlight and perhaps return to its glory days.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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