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November 30, 2013

Seminoles chop their way back to top of rankings

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For the first time in more than a decade, Florida State is the top-ranked team in the country.

With both the AP and USA Today Coaches' polls released on Sunday afternoon, FSU stood atop the rankings. The Seminoles have been the most consistently dominant team in the country this season and the only one to avoid the mayhem around college football. On Saturday, even dynastic Alabama fell prey to that carnage, falling on a last-second missed field goal returned for a touchdown against arch-rival Auburn. One-time contender Oregon now has three losses. So does Stanford. And fellow undefeated Ohio State barely squeaked by a 7-5 Michigan team 42-41 win.

Florida State, by comparison, has been able to avoid such missteps. The closest FSU has come to losing a game this year was a 48-34 win at Boston College, and all that game accomplished in the long term was to spur FSU to perfection.

For the moment, the No. 1 ranking marks another historic benchmark for FSU's season full of them. The Seminoles haven't been ranked No. 1 in any poll since Oct. 8, 2000, and not in the coaches poll since the 1999 national championship season.

And now, instead of trying to hold on to the No. 2 spot in the BCS rankings, the Seminoles have all but locked down a place in the national title game, provided they can hold off Duke in the ACC title game. If that happens, FSU would likely face either currently undefeated Ohio State or the winner of the SEC Championship game, though the rankings became further muddled after Saturday's slate of games. With No. 3 Auburn facing No. 5 Missouri in the SEC title game, the winner of that contest could possibly jump Ohio State for the No. 2 spot. One thing is for sure, FSU is the default vote for No. 1. The 'Noles picked up 58 of 60 first-place votes in the AP poll.

Even after the win at Florida on Saturday, before the state of Alabama imploded on itself, FSU players cautioned there's still work to be done. When told Duke would be the 'Noles' opponent in the title game, Jameis Winston said,

"Oh, Duke won? That's good."

And seniors shrugged off dominating in-state competition, saying there's still work to be done. It's that level of maturity that FSU has talked about through the entire season, and, cliché as it sounds, they've proven it time and again. The team's unflappable demeanor has persevered despite an investigation into a sexual assault involving Winston has lingered around the program.

"I think Coach Fisher is actually more comfortable with this team," senior safety Terrence Brooks said. "I think the maturity level is different, we handle things day by day and don't buy into the hype of the clutter or any of that. The sky's the limit, we're never satisfied. We still have to win games."



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