Shrinking Seminoles

Fla. State is in contention for ACC crown, but as in recent years, it's far from playing like national power

November 20, 2008|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,jeff.barker@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK - Patricia Kidd is among the legions of Florida State fans who can't help but look back.

Kidd, a Northern Virginia resident and 1984 Florida State graduate, is among several thousand Seminoles fans planning to attend Saturday night's game against Maryland at Byrd Stadium. "I'm praying they beat Maryland," she said.

But forgive Kidd if her mind wanders from the game and she begins thinking about more memorable years such as 1999, when the Seminoles went 12-0. They capped the season by beating Virginia Tech for the national championship. They also won the championship in 1993.

That's the thing about many Florida State grads these days - they're a little stuck in time.

It's not that the Seminoles are having a bad season. At 7-3 (4-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference), Florida State is contending with Maryland (7-3, 4-2 ACC) for the Atlantic Division title and a berth in the conference championship game Dec. 6 in Tampa, Fla.

It's just that the Seminoles, coming off consecutive 7-6 seasons, can't compete with the weight of their own history.

The school's recent records pale compared with the 1987-2000 period, when the Seminoles never lost more than twice in a season. Coach Bobby Bowden is second to Penn State's Joe Paterno in all-time wins in Division I-A.

Now, Bowden is a victim of his own success.

"I'm a staunch alumni, but it's time for Bobby to retire," Kidd said. "I'm just worried to see what's going to happen with the Florida game" on Nov. 29.

The Seminoles appear to be mismatched this season against traditional rival Florida, ranked third in the nation by the Associated Press.

Some of the heat was taken off Bowden when his son Jeff resigned as offensive coordinator in 2006. The younger Bowden had been a popular target for fan criticism.

The elder Bowden, who turned 79 on Nov. 8, said he remains optimistic, not only about this season but also about his conviction that the program is on the right track.

"I'll look at the bright side - 32nd year without a losing season. I'll always try to find the bright side," Bowden said as Florida State prepared for the Terrapins, a team it has beaten 15 out of 17 games. But Maryland has beaten the Seminoles in their past two Byrd Stadium meetings, in 2006 and 2004.

"You can't always win as many as you'd like to win, or win the way you'd like to win. But to me, the direction you're going in is important. And I do think the arrow's pointing up," the coach said.

The Seminoles can be a dangerous team. They lead the ACC in total offense and total defense but have lost two of the past three games. They have the nation's leading kickoff returner, Michael Ray Garvin, who averages 32.2 yards a return.

The Seminoles can win the division if they beat Maryland and Boston College defeats Wake Forest. If the Terps beat Boston College the following week, Maryland would lose the division to Florida State because of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Maryland can clinch the division with a win Saturday and a Boston College loss.

"They have tremendous team speed," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said of Florida State yesterday. "There are a lot of things that concern me about this game."

Despite their fans' displeasure with Florida State's recent records, the Seminoles are expected to have a large contingent at the game.

Among them will be Kidd, who said she is struggling to put a positive spin on the season.

"It's bad right now," she said.

Notes: : Bowden said Florida State will be thin at safety. Senior safety Darius McClure is out with an injured knee. And junior safety Myron Rolle might miss the game - or some of it - because he is interviewing Saturday in Birmingham, Ala., for a Rhodes Scholarship. Rolle is expected to take a charter plane after the interview and join his teammates at Byrd Stadium. Bowden said he supports his player's decision but is "hoping he can get back there sometime" to play against the Terps.

terps' paths

Maryland's Atlantic Division scenarios:

* The Terps defeat Florida State and Boston College loses to Wake Forest. Maryland would clinch the division.

* The Terps beat Florida State, and Boston College beats Wake. The Terps would then win or lose the division based on whether they beat Boston College the following week.

* Maryland loses to Florida State and Wake Forest beats Boston College. Then Maryland beats Boston College. The Terps, Deacons and Seminoles finish 5-3, but Maryland would win the division because of its superior division record.

* Maryland loses to Florida State and Boston College beats Wake Forest. Even if Maryland beats Boston College, Florida State would win the division over Maryland because of the head-to-head tiebreaker.

FLORIDA STATE (7-3, 4-3 ACC) @ NO. 22 TERPS (7-3, 4-2)

Saturday, 7:45 p.m.

TV: ESPN

Radio: 105.7 FM, 1300 AM

Line: Maryland by 1

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