Recently, Bill Connelly of ESPN wrote a story on the best college football teams to never win a championship. He had the ‘Noles among his 25 best-- and they were highlighted for three different teams.
Connelly has the 1980 team coming in at 23rd in his rankings. This was in fact a banner year for the FSU program. Bobby Bowden’s vision was finally coming to the forefront and the team had real stars including legends like Ron Simmons. This was the season that Bowden’s famous “anyone, anywhere” catchphrase was implemented, and it led to big time games and wins. This is what Connelly had to say about the team.
They shut out LSU to start the season, then knocked off No. 3 Nebraska (18-14) and No. 4 Pitt (36-22) in back-to-back weekends in October. A defense led by All-Americans Ron Simmons, Reggie Herring and Bobby Butler allowed only 8.6 points per game, and the Noles' only blemishes were forgivable (18-17 to No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl) and ... the beginning of a pattern (10-9 at Miami).
It’s hard to argue with this description. This was FSU’s first truly special football team but the decade of the 1980s had even more close calls in store for the ‘Noles.
The 1987 team appears just one spot ahead of 1980 at 22nd on this list. This team had Sammie Smith, Paul McGowan, and someone named Deion Sanders. This one I take a little issue with being this low. The one loss was to the eventual National Champion (Miami) and they have a blowout win over Michigan State, which won the Rose Bowl that season. This is what Connelly had to say about the 1987 team.
After a mid-1980s funk, FSU emerged again as a contender in 1987. The Noles ranked second in scoring offense behind running back Sammie Smith, and the defense ranked seventh behind All-American linebacker Paul McGowan and some cornerback named Deion Sanders. FSU beat eventual Rose Bowl winner Michigan State and a nine-win Auburn by 28 points each on the road and took down a top-five Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.
The final team featured in the story was the 1992 team. This team was loaded with a ton of memorable names like Charlie Ward and Marvin Jones. This ended up being the team before THE team that brought FSU its very first national championship. It had huge wins over Florida and Nebraska. But.... we all know the one play that stands the rest of time that cost this team dearly. Another team that I would argue could potentially be higher on this list but at least it’s getting recognized in the pantheon of great teams. This is what Connelly said about the 1992 team.
For the third time in six years, though, the Seminoles' lone blemish came against The U, and for the second year in a row, it came via a field goal missed wide right. Dan Mowrey's 39-yarder at the buzzer failed, and once again Miami took FSU's spot in the national title hierarchy, at least until the Canes lost to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The Noles would finally break through and win a title the next season.
It’s hard to argue with the writer’s method for each team’s placement. Most people know about SP+ and since it is opponent adjusted I think the placement for each team is at the very least, fair.
I do feel like there are a few FSU teams missing from this list, however. Teams like 1996 that had to play a really good Florida team they just beat in back-to-back games.
How about 1998? A team that went into the first ever BCS championship game without its starting quarterback and came out with a one-score loss.
Last one here, but what about 2000? A team that even with the loss of Peter Warrick was dominant on offense and boasted one of the best defenses in many statistical categories. Its lone regualr-season loss was of course, a wide-right to the ‘Canes. An offense that scored 511 points all season and was shutout in a title game with an offensive coordinator working two jobs (one for the school to which he was headed).
Yes, I’m saying the ‘Noles were somewhat close to a very Bulls-esque three-peat.
No matter where you stand on all of this though, this is a reminder of heartbreak for FSU fans. It's rather bittersweet: great teams that fell just short.