TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Florida State may be 10th in the BCS standings and too far back to have a say in the national championship picture in 2012. But the rest of the teams goals are well within reach in the next few weeks.
Florida State (9-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) needs just a win over banged-up Maryland (4-6, 2-4) on Saturday to clinch its second Atlantic Division title in three years. And that would give the Seminoles a 10-win season as well as a chance to win their first ACC title since 2005.
The goal of being state champion is also there: FSU has double-digit wins over South Florida and Miami on the road and will play host to Florida, which is No. 6 in the BCS standings, on Nov. 24.
A division title is Step 1 on Florida States list of goals.
Its important, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. Thats one of your goals. (And) to be a conference champion, to go to the BCS, your first objective has to be to win the conference. To get there we have to focus on Maryland.
The 17-16 loss to NC State on Oct. 6 erased any realistic chance at a national title for Florida State. But the Seminoles have rebounded to win four straight games, including a last-minute rally for a 28-22 win at Virginia Tech on Thursday.
I think this can still be a very special season, quarterback EJ Manuel said.
Next up is Maryland, a team that is ranked 16th in total defense (allowing 315 yards per game) but has lost its past four games. The main reason is an injury-depleted offense that has managed an average of just 14.5 points during that span.
And on Saturday, Maryland will start its fifth quarterback: Shawn Petty, a freshman who was recruited as a linebacker. In addition to Danny OBriens offseason transfer to Wisconsin, Marylands top four quarterbacks have suffered injuries.
Thats a tremendous obstacle, Fisher said. Ive never seen it with quarterbacks.
So Petty will make his third start. The 6-foot-1, 230-pounder has completed 15 of 30 passes for 156 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. But Petty also had three fumbles in the 45-10 loss on Saturday at Clemson.
Maryland is dead last 120th among BCS teams in total offense (284.3 yards per game).
The Terrapins struggles contribute to the overall problem with the ACC this year for a team like Florida State. While the Seminoles have won nine of 10 games, they are hammered by the computer rankings that are a key component of the BCS.
Florida States loss at NC State is a big factor, but the Seminoles have played and beaten just one ranked team (a 49-37 win over Clemson on Sept. 22). A planned Sept. 8 showdown against West Virginia would have helped Florida States strength of schedule, but the Mountaineers backed out in February and the Seminoles were forced to instead play Savannah State.
So the combined computer rankings place Florida State 17th while the coaches poll and Harris poll both have the Seminoles sixth. The computers, for example, rank Clemson higher than Florida State.
The human element has got to get back in this game, Fisher said. Weve got to get the computers out of it.
Fisher, who votes in the coaches poll, put Florida State fourth on his ballot Sunday. He said he considers Florida State to be the best of the one-loss teams, right after unbeatens like Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame.
On Monday, Fisher expressed displeasure again at the computer component of the BCS. But it was his strongest comments of the season overall about the BCS and how teams are chosen to play for a national championship.
"I think it stinks, Fisher said. They have to change how we pick the top teams in this country. I think it was better in the old days when you did it by the eye test. When you really get down to it, the way it is going now, it makes no sense to me.