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By the end of the night, after a healthy dose of miscues, bizarre plays and big moments, all of which were eventually drowned out by chants from a crowd waiting to explode, Florida State left no doubt.
Sure, its game against LSU was tight for a while. In fact, it felt like the Seminoles might be in a heap of trouble going up against a roster loaded with talent early on. As the game progressed, however, Florida State found itself. And as the touchdowns mounted, a potential path to the playoff and the national championship started to crystalize.
For years, we’ve wondered when such a proud, successful school would find its footing once more. One night will never tell that story; we’ve made this mistake too many times. But the performance in the grandest spotlight college football has to offer signified more than a single victory.
At halftime, FSU trailed 17-14. Turnovers, fumbles, interceptions, and muffed punts plagued both schools in the opening 30 minutes. After the intermission, Florida State found new life, ultimately cruising to a cozy 45-24 win.
Quarterback Jordan Travis, who is a threat to win the Heisman, settled in. He finished with 342 yards passing and five touchdowns.
The Seminoles’ running game struggled early on, although it finally wore down an impressive LSU front. A roster ripe with stars, many of whom didn’t begin their football careers in Tallahassee, put their fingerprints on the win.
There was Keon Coleman, formerly of Michigan State, looking like one of the best wideouts in college football. Coleman joined Florida State this past offseason, and he delivered three touchdown catches and 122 receiving yards in his first game.
He was a force, and that theme is likely to carryover throughout the season.
AP Photo/John Raoux
Fellow wideout Johnny Wilson, a 6’7″ target who began his career at Arizona State, delivered 104 yards receiving after dealing with drops early on, made his presence felt.
As did Jaheim Bell, who joined the team this past offseason after starting his career at South Carolina. Bell ran for a touchdown and caught touchdown—yet another weapon for Travis to work with.
There was Jared Verse, a player so talented we never thought we would see him play another collegiate snap. Perhaps the best pass rusher in college football, Verse passed up a chance to join the NFL for another year at Florida State.
On Saturday night, the former Albany star was everywhere. Yet another player who began his collegiate career elsewhere, Verse will be a force all season long.
And Travis? You guessed it. He transferred to Florida State long before it was the thing to do.
Building a roster through the transfer portal—with an assist from NIL—is not something unique to Florida State. This is the formula across the sport. Simply put, the Seminoles have hit on enough key additions at the same time, creating a wave of momentum that can carry them forward.
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At a time when the only constant is change, Florida State head coach Mike Norvell has crafted a blueprint for college football success. It’s not all that complicated, if we’re being honest. Although making this type or progress in such a short period of time is anything but ordinary.
After all, Norvell was considered a popular “hot seat” candidate a short 53 weeks ago. After going 3-6 and 5-7 in his first two years with the program, the calls for a new coach were starting to gain steam.
A one-point win over LSU helped cool matters at the start of last year, and 10 wins changed the outlook of Florida State in a hurry. So much so that many wondered if this was the year that the Seminoles could regain its championship form that former head coach Bobby Bowden normalized.
They don’t hand out trophies for offseason hype, although Florida State would have received one if they did. If we’re being completely honest, however most weren’t truly ready to embrace Florida State as a potential playoff team.
We had to see it first, even with all the players returning and the exciting new pieces coming to the roster.
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In the moment, which is always laced in recency bias and hyperbole, this all feels very real. That hyper materialized into a tangible outcome.
When you beat a talented team the way Florida State just did in the way Florida State just did, the conversation must evolve. On a weekend when most contenders paid cupcakes millions of dollars to compete in the closest thing to a preseason game the sport has to offer, the Seminoles delivered the greatest impression of all.
Time will tell exactly what a dominating, thorough win over LSU amounts to, although this looked like a contender. It feels like a contender.
All the ingredients needed to win at the highest level, whether they started with the program or not, are in place.
The hype and the attention and the curiosity, as it turns out, was justified. The days of the hot seat are long dead. The days of a playoff run have officially arrived.