A Look Around College Football – Week Seven
The 2012 college football season felt an earthquake this past weekend. The team that was best positioned to meet Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game met an unexpectedly premature demise at the hands of an unlikely opponent.
The Florida State Seminoles had looked so good, so convincing, so worthy of national respect after their big-boy win over their foremost Atlantic Coast Conference challenger, the Clemson Tigers, on Sept. 22. Florida State uncorked a 35-3 second-half surge to knock the Tigers to the canvas, displaying a level of quality not seen in Tallahassee, Fla., in quite some time. Florida State has not won the ACC championship since 2005 and has made the ACC title game only once in the past seven years. Following the win over Clemson, the Seminoles seemed to have a clear path to a perfect ACC record, making their game against Florida the only true obstacle en route to the national title game in Miami. With the ACC's Coastal Division tripping all over itself and the Atlantic scrambling to find an identity in its own right, Florida State stood above the rest of the crowd in the ACC. It just needed to avoid a spectacular implosion in order to regain league supremacy and establish itself, once again, as an elite college football program.
The spectacular implosion, though, unfolded in rather shocking fashion.
The North Carolina State Wolfpack looked legitimately horrible – not average; horrible – in their 44-37 loss to the Miami Hurricanes the week before. The Wolfpack gave up a touchdown pass of over 60 yards in the final 30 seconds of regulation to lose the game. They committed six turnovers in that contest, four of them fumbles. They committed 14 penalties for a total of 100 yards. They played as poorly as a team could possibly play. Given the history of the N.C. State program – one which has not won an ACC football championship since 1979 and has not won even one ACC Atlantic Division championship (only N.C. State and Maryland have failed to win Atlantic titles) – Florida State had to like its chances. The Seminoles had to feel particularly good about the matchup between their tall, athletic wide receivers and the Wolfpack's corners, who have been smoked repeatedly all season long.
Florida State did not play a good first half by any means, but when the Seminoles took a 16-0 lead to the locker room at halftime, they still had to feel as though nothing was going to bother them. Yet, FSU somehow took its foot off the gas pedal, failing to score a single point in the second half. North Carolina State managed only a field goal in the third quarter, but the Wolfpack scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to trim FSU's lead to just six points. Over the final 10 minutes of regulation, a clearly nervous Seminole offense gained only one first down. North Carolina State gained multiple chances to win the game, and when the Wolfpack converted three fourth downs on a last-minute drive, the final one being a fourth-and-goal touchdown pass from the FSU 2-yard line, the college football world had been shaken. North Carolina State kicked the point after touchdown for the lead and batted down a Hail Mary pass by Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel at the final gun. Florida State's national title hopes are over, and Oregon is now the team that is first in line to meet Alabama.
In other news from week six, Florida entered the national title conversation by upsetting an LSU team whose offense is AWOL at the moment. South Carolina gained leverage in the SEC East race by thumping Georgia. West Virginia stayed on top in the Big 12 by winning at Texas. Notre Dame and Oregon State remained unbeaten after posting victories. Ohio State whacked Nebraska, establishing itself as the best team in the Big Ten. North Carolina beat Virginia Tech to shake up the ACC Coastal race. Michigan crushed Purdue to reclaim the label of Big Ten Legends Division favorite.
By Matt Zemek
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