ATLANTA, Ga. – The similarities between Chick-fil-A Bowl opponents Florida State and South Carolina are striking. From the identical 9-4 records, the disappointment of falling in their respective conference championship games and the statistical parallels, the two teams appear destined for a close encounter Friday night in the Georgia Dome.
Respective head coaches Jimbo Fisher and Steve Spurrier both discussed the importance of closing the season with a breakthrough 10th victory at Thursday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl press conference. Spurrier, the Seminoles’ long-time nemesis while at Florida, even suggested that the win might be even more important for his Gamecocks.
“It’s probably more meaningful to us because we’ve only had one 10-win season in the history of our school,” said Spurrier, now in his sixth season at the helm of the Gamecocks. “Florida State has a bunch of them. … It would be neat for us to do that, but we’re still going to go recruiting and going to do everything in the offseason pretty much the same, regardless the outcome. ”
The truth is the Gamecocks’ lone 10-win season came in 1984, which makes the Seminoles’ drought between their 18th 10-win season in 2003 to the present, seem less stressful. Still, Fisher won’t downplay the importance of a victory in the nationally-televised (7:30 p.m., ESPN) face-off.
“I think it would be (important) because Florida State has proven it could do it in the past,” Fisher said, when asked about reaching the 10-win plateau. “We haven’t done it in about eight years, and we’re trying to re-establish ourselves. … In the years you have double-digit wins you, kind of, separate yourselves a little bit from the other programs during that year. Double-digit wins don’t come very often. They’re kind of magical.”
There’s no shortage of magic-makers in this game from either side, and fortunately, not an overabundance of upperclassmen, which would leave the cabinet bare when the New Year is rung in shortly after the final horn. Fisher likes the progress he’s seen from his Seminoles to date, which he hopes will lead to even greater heights next season.
“Hopefully we’re getting better and fixing some of the problems that we have now,” Fisher said. “We are a very young football team – we only have eight (scholarship) seniors - so hopefully we can learn from all of the experiences, the things we’ve went through, the big games we’ve played in; the [ACC] championship game and the big bowl game here.”
Fisher spoke openly about the opportunity to win conference championships in the near future, while contending for national titles as well. Winning a bowl game to get to 10 victories would provide tangible evidence that the ‘Noles are getting closer to that stage again.
One of the keys, however, will be finding a way to contain the Gamecocks early on and avoid the kind of sizeable deficit which is occurring all too frequently in the early bowl games this season.
“When you have a month off, sometimes one team gets a little better and the other team doesn’t,” Spurrier said.
“It’s almost like you’re coming out of two-a-days for your first game, waiting to see what to expect,” Fisher added. “Sometimes it takes guys a quarter to get back in the flow of the game and who can make that adjustment the quickest a lot of times impacts that.”
Fisher often says that history is our greatest teacher, and while it is officially his first time as a head coach at a bowl game, the Seminoles’ history of 10-win seasons and bowl success would seem to bode well.
‘Noles Claim Battle of Bowl Challenge, 3-2
Florida State started things off right against the Gamecocks rallying from a 2-1 deficit to win the Battle of the Bowl, 3-2, as the Seminoles won the final team event. All week long the teams have competed in a series of contest. FSU tied the score with a win by its offensive line in the Chick-fil-A milkshake making contest. Thursday afternoon at the annual Chalk Talk Luncheon, FSU outscored the Gamecocks, 265-238, in Family Feud.
Representing the Florida State offense were offensive coordinator James Coley, QB EJ Manuel, QB Christian Ponder, RB Lonnie Pryor and WR Kenny Shaw. On defense were PK Dustin Hopkins, P Shawn Powell, S Ochuko Jenije, DE Markus White and defensive coordinator Mark Stoops.