NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The math is simple.
Win its next two games, and the Florida State football team will reach a bowl for the 37th consecutive season.
Drop either of those contests, whether against No. 17 Boston College or No. 15 Florida, and the Seminoles will be spending the holidays at home.
That’s reality for the Seminoles, who dropped to 4-6 following a 42-13 loss at Notre Dame and now have zero margin for error if they’re to reach the six wins required for bowl eligibility.
“We’ve got two ballgames left, two important ballgames for a lot of reasons,” coach Willie Taggart said. “We still have something to play for.”
Indeed, even with the bowl streak removed from the equation, the Seminoles will still:
- Have a chance for payback against a Boston College team that beat them 35-3 last season in Chestnut Hill. The Eagles have one of the ACC’s best running backs in sophomore AJ Dillon, and their 27-7 loss to No. 2 Clemson on Saturday was the Tigers’ slimmest margin of victory in five weeks.
- Look to maintain supremacy over the Florida Gators. An FSU victory would extend its school-record winning streak in the series to six games, and this year’s contest feels especially significant as both programs are in their first year with new head coaches hoping to swing the state’s balance of power in their direction.
- Hope to send their seniors out on a positive note. It hasn’t always been an easy road for FSU’s fourth- and fifth-year players, but their time in Tallahassee has still featured some memorable moments.
So, regardless of their struggles over the last month, the Seminoles still shouldn’t be lacking for motivation.
“That’s the only thing that’s on our mind right now,” sophomore defensive back Stanford Samuels III said. “That’s the main thing Coach is talking about, making sure these seniors go out with a bang. Making sure we finish the season how we’re supposed to, not ruining the legacy, not ruining the dynasty. It’s huge for the program.”
The bowl streak itself in recent years has evolved from a line item in FSU’s game notes package to one of the program’s top points of pride.
It started in 1982, coach Bobby Bowden’s seventh year at the helm, and has featured five national championship games, nearly two dozen BCS/New Year’s Six games and victories over some of college football’s heavyweights.
Just last year, longtime FSU assistant Odell Haggins assumed the role of interim coach and guided the Seminoles to a victory in the Independence Bowl, a game in which FSU surpassed Nebraska (35 years, from 1969-2003) for the longest bowl streak in college football history.
Sophomore defensive tackle Marvin Wilson referred to the streak as a tradition.
“Tradition is very big at Florida State,” he said. “Nobody wants to be that team that loses the streak.”
There have been a few close calls over the last 36 years.
The Seminoles clinched bowl eligibility during the last months of the 2006, 2007 and 2009 seasons, and a year ago they reeled off three straight victories to close the regular season and rally from 3-6 to 6-6.
That includes a 38-22 win at Florida.
If nothing else, the Seminoles’ roster has plenty of players who have been in this position before and responded in proper fashion.
“That’s very important,” senior running back Jacques Patrick said of the streak. “We understand that. We’ve got to work hard, we’ve got to come back to the practice field, make corrections and go out there and execute. Because that’s important.”
And while back-to-back games against Boston College and Florida are more daunting than last year’s stretch of Delaware State, Florida and Louisiana-Monroe, the Seminoles should hardly feel hopeless.
The Eagles (7-3, 4-2 ACC) are enjoying their finest season in years, but they lost starting quarterback Anthony Brown to an injury during Saturday’s loss to Clemson, and the running back Dillon has been in and out of the lineup for much of the season with an ankle problem.
Florida (7-3), meanwhile, rallied to beat South Carolina on Saturday, but before that was on the wrong end of double-digit losses to Georgia and Missouri.
“Nobody on this team thought we’d be at this point in the season, being where we’re at,” senior running back Jacques Patrick said. “Obviously, we didn’t think that.
“But, at the end of the day, when life gives you lemons, man, you’ve got to try to make lemonade. That’s what we’ve got to try to do.”