Philadelphia, PA – Exhibition games are often used as learning tools ... to see how far a team has come, and just how far it still has to go.
While there are no official preseason games in college football, the Florida State Seminoles enjoyed an extended summer practice session as they used the first two weeks of the regular season to bludgeon a couple of Football Championship Subdivision schools into submission -- first trouncing Murray State (69-3), followed by last week's weather-shortened assault on Savannah State (55-0).
The 'Noles scored seven rushing TDs in the opener against the Racers, marking the most for the team since also running for seven scores against Maryland back in 1992. They scored four more rushing TDs in the shutout of the Tigers last week, and they've outrushed their two first opponents, 452-58, and outgained them in all by a staggering 1,019-184.
Now to be fair, Florida State is certainly not the only team to schedule games against an FCS opponent, but to do so twice right out of the chute is absolutely ridiculous. Other than padding stats and perhaps getting some backups significantly more playing time than they would ordinarily, the logic for lining up these kinds of games is baffling.
It's well-documented that FCS teams receive significant payouts for agreeing to play the role of punching bag to their bigger, badder FBS brothers, so you can't blame them for taking at least one game a year. However, even they are subject to scrutiny when you see a team like Savannah State, which was pummeled by Oklahoma State and Florida State by a combined score of 139-0 to open its season, trade its dignity for a couple of big checks.
You can talk all you want about how proud you are that despite being overmatched, your guys played with heart. Simply put, that is downright embarrassing -- for all parties involved.
FSU faces it's first true test of the campaign this Saturday, as ACC Atlantic Division rival Wake Forest comes to Tallahassee. The Demon Deacons, who aren't a major player in the conference on a regular basis but still have the ability to pull off a surprise or two, have had some success against the 'Noles recently, winning four of the last six meetings, the most recent of which being a 35-30 decision in Winston-Salem last year.
There aren't a whole lot of people who believe Florida State won't be one of the teams challenging for the ACC title this season, and perhaps even vie for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game as well, but wouldn't the Seminoles have been better served to at least schedule one worthy opponent in the first couple of games?
For a comparison ... FSU also faced a pair of FCS schools to open the 2008 season, routing Western Carolina and Chattanooga by a combined score of 115-7. Ironically enough, it was Wake Forest the Seminoles would battle next, and the Deacs proved to be the better team on that day by prevailing in a 12-3 final. Florida State wound up going 8-4 during the regular season, and the team earned an invite to the Champs Sports Bowl where it dismantled Wisconsin, 42-13.
If the Seminoles are fortunate enough to get past Wake Forest this Saturday, they will face their toughest test to date with next week's visit from the 11th-ranked Clemson Tigers. They don't play their first road game of the season until Sept. 29 at USF, and won't leave the Sunshine State until heading to Raleigh for a clash with the NC State Wolfpack on Oct. 6.
Other tough games include trips to Miami and Virginia Tech, and the regular- season finale at home versus Florida.
FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher, while knowing very well his team hasn't faced what anyone would call a formidable opponent just yet, is happy with the approach his players have taken nonetheless.
"I was very pleased with what we did. I challenged our team to practice well, focus well, come out and do the things that we were supposed to do and we did that in all three phases. We played hard on offense, over on defense, on special teams -- we executed and did what we were supposed to do. That's the mark of a good team. We have to keep proving that. We have a lot more to prove but at least I was happy with how they approached the game, how they prepared and the way they played the game."
Time will tell if the 'Noles have the goods to run the table, but the argument can certainly be made that they didn't do themselves any favors by beating up on a couple of patsies to kick off the campaign.