No. 19 Florida State looking for strong finish to season
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Coach Jimbo Fisher thinks Florida State can still have a successful season despite having its Atlantic Coast Conference title hopes dashed.
The Seminoles (7-2, 5-2 ACC) go into Saturday's game against North Carolina State knowing it won't be in the conference title game for the first time in four years. Fisher thinks he will find out a lot about his team's mental makeup over the next three weeks.
''I think that this is when you are going to find out about the class and character of these young guys and our organization,'' Fisher said on Monday. ''Our ultimate goal is to win the national championship, go to the (College Football) Playoff and win the ACC. You can have great seasons if you don't have that happen to you.''
With the departures of their top offensive playmakers, many expected the Seminoles to struggle this season after they won the national championship in 2013 and qualified for the first College Football Playoff last year. Florida State won its first six games and was ranked as high as ninth, but the Seminoles have dropped two of their last three and are ranked 19th after last Saturday's 23-13 loss at Clemson.
Most of the issues remain on offense.
Sean Maguire has started the past two games at quarterback and was 16 of 29 for 164 yards and an interception against Clemson. Fisher assessed Maguire's performance as solid but did not name a starter for Saturday. Maguire took all the snaps with the first-team offense during the open part of Monday's practice.
Everett Golson started the first seven games and has completed 67.1 percent of his passes. However he has struggled to consistently move the offense.
Consistency has also been a problem on the offensive line, which has had a different starting center the past three games. The line has had 16 pre-snap penalties over the past four games, putting the offense in plenty of long-yardage situations on first and second down.
''We're moving the ball but points are down just hair because our red zone efficiency isn't quite what it needs to be and has been lately and third downs are down just a little bit,'' Fisher said. ''There are a few self-inflicted wounds I wish we'd be over by now.''
Dalvin Cook, who rushed for 150 yards or more in five games this season, is expected to be full go in practice this week as Fisher said the sophomore has fully recovered from ankle and hamstring injuries.
Cook is averaging 153.9 rushing yards per game and needs 11 yards to break Warrick Dunn's single-season school record of 1,242 yards which was set in 1995.
Defensively, Fisher continues to be pleased, especially with the development of two freshmen who have earned their way into the starting lineup - linebacker Josh Sweat and safety Derwin James.
If anyone is overlooking North Carolina State (6-3, 2-3 ACC), Fisher can point to last year's game as an example of why they shouldn't. The Seminoles trailed by 17 points in the first quarter before rallying for a 56-41 win.
After facing the Wolfpack, the Seminoles host Chattanooga and then travel to No. 11 Florida on Nov. 28. The Seminoles still have an outside shot at making one of the New Year's six games, but would need to win out and have North Carolina lose twice.
''You can have a great taste in your mouth and have a great season and not always be the champion. You can still win 10-11 games and go to a major bowl game,'' Fisher said. ''I just don't want the changing times to make sure that we don't forget that, not just with us, but other football teams out there that things are going like that.''
Follow Joe Reedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joereedy . His work can be found at http://collegefootball.ap.org/journalist/joe-reedy .