College football: Florida State’s victory big for ACC, too

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Florida State was perhaps Saturday’s biggest winner, its 49-37 defeat of Clemson providing a bit of validation for the Seminoles’ top-five ranking.

For its part, the ACC didn’t do too bad itself with the result.

There is temptation to declare the Seminoles (4-0, 2-0 ACC) are “back” after erasing a 10-point deficit in the second half, though it would be a fallacy to do so. Florida State finished in the top five nationally for 14 straight seasons between 1987 and 2000. It would take a lot to truly re-establish that sort of elite program, not just one electric victory.

Still, there was much to like about the Seminoles’ surge past the Tigers, who played well for much of the night. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is a Nick Saban acolyte, and sure enough his team is built on a foundation of a stout, deep defensive line that is nearly impossible to contend with and efficient, mostly mistake-free quarterback play.

The priority for Florida State is to not encounter the sort of stumbles that helped define Fisher’s first two seasons. The Seminoles absorbed puzzling losses to North Carolina (2010) and Virginia (2011) at home the past two seasons, and also fell to less talented N.C. State (2010) and Wake Forest (2011) teams.

Chances are, the Seminoles will see no more than three ranked teams between now and a bowl game: Virginia Tech on the road Nov. 8, Florida at home Nov. 24 and, should they reach the ACC title game as is expected, possibly the Coastal Division champ.

This is an ideal scenario for the conference, which has dealt with never-ending questions of its pigskin potency since expanding to 12 schools. Silencing concerns always had an easy answer: produce a contender for a national title for the first time since the end of the Seminoles’ heyday more than a decade ago. No lasting candidate ever emerged; the last viable possibility was 2007 Boston College.

One titan can make up for a lot of mediocrity and forgettable play, and for purposes of national perception it trumps being a land of 9-3 and 8-4 teams. After Saturday, it would seem Florida State will leave that neighborhood behind at least for a year. If it does, the Seminoles and the ACC would stand to benefit.

WEEKEND RISERS

Sorcerer Snyder. It never ceases to amaze how long Bill Snyder’s sideline wizardry has remained viable. The Kansas State coach oversaw another masterpiece Saturday as the Wildcats upended Oklahoma 24-19 to deal the Sooners only their fourth loss at home under Bob Stoops. Kansas State is 4-0 and has Kansas and Iowa State up next.

Gary Nova. The Rutgers quarterback threw for 397 yards and five touchdowns in the Scarlet Knights’ 35-26 victory at Arkansas. In addition to adding onto the Razorbacks’ miserable month, Nova also helped Kyle Flood become the first Rutgers coach to begin his tenure with four straight wins since John Bateman in 1960.

Notre Dame’s defense. The Fighting Irish have surrendered three touchdowns in four games, and held Michigan and Michigan State to a combined nine points in back-to-back weeks. At 4-0, Notre Dame has its defense to thank for its best start since 2002 as it heads into its bye week.

WEEKEND DECLINERS

Arizona. The Wildcats started 3-0 under Rich Rodriguez, but Saturday’s 49-0 loss to Oregon was a reality check. The Wildcats remain better than anyone would have guessed, especially considering Rodriguez’s track record of slow starts as a head coach. Nonetheless, Arizona probably isn’t a Top 25 just yet.

James Franklin, the coach. Things have gone about as well as possible for the former Maryland offensive coordinator since he took over at Vanderbilt, from a bowl bid in his first season to a fair amount of recruiting buzz. Saturday was not so fruitful; the Commodores lost 48-3 to Georgia, their most lopsided setback since 2003.

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