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How close to 'back' is FSU? The next few weeks will tell us a lot | Weiler

Within an hour of Florida State finishing off its upset win over LSU, a few FSU players had already said some version of it in postgame interviews.

“Florida State is back.”

Jared Verse and Ontaria Wilson surely weren’t alone in this sentiment. There was definitely a swath of long-tortured fans in garnet and gold who couldn’t resist feeling, thinking or even saying that the Seminoles are back in the potentially-inebriated wake of that statement victory.

It’s a college football cliché that began, as far as I know, with FSU rival Miami. Time and time again, Hurricane fans have proclaimed their team is back after falling from prominence early this century. And time and time again, that hasn’t exactly been the case.

However, it felt like calling teams “back” really came to national prominence back in 2016 when ESPN broadcaster Joe Tessitore declared “Texas is back” as his end-of-game call when the Longhorns beat No. 10 Notre Dame 50-47 in double overtime in their season opener.

Tessitore was mistaken. The Longhorns were not back, finishing that season 5-7 and failing to make a bowl for the second straight season. Perhaps this exaggeration was so misplaced because Notre Dame went from preseason top 10 to 4-8 that season, a bad team in its own regard.

In the wake of that call – one in which Texas has won more than eight games just once over the ensuing six seasons under three head coaches – it has been referred back to frequently as a joke on the college football segment of social media.

Funnily enough, Tessitore was also on the call in New Orleans for the Seminoles’ win over the Tigers. And no, he didn’t declare that FSU was back after Shyheim Brown blocked the extra point to seal the win.

Maybe Tessitore has learned his lesson about making such proclamations. Or maybe he just needs to see more from the Seminoles before he’s willing to go down that path again.

The more I think about it, the more I believe that was the biggest win of Mike Norvell’s FSU tenure.

It wasn’t a win over a rival like last year’s Miami nor against a top-five team like North Carolina in 2020 or on the road against a more talented team like the UNC win in 2021.

What the LSU win does provide, however, is something that the FSU fanbase has been sorely lacking of late: some early-season hope. Those other three wins were impressive in their own rights, but each of them came far enough into the season that we knew what those FSU teams were. FSU was 1-3 when it beat UNC in 2020, 1-4 when it beat UNC in 2021 and 3-6 when it beat Miami last season.

This FSU team is now 2-0 with a win over an LSU team that, while it could go the way of 2016 Notre Dame, is very talented.

It’s the first time FSU has been two games over .500 since 2016. And it’s hard not to feel like this is as close to back as the Seminoles have been since around that same time.

Back, of course, is a subjective term. If your definition of back is competing for national titles, FSU is definitely still not back. But if your definition is more along the lines of FSU being more of a respected team and program than a college football laughing stock, the Seminoles may just be back or at least getting close to it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean much of anything if FSU doesn’t carry that momentum forward. The Seminoles are set to be road favorites for the first time under Mike Norvell Friday night at Louisville (7:30, ESPN). There are a number of reasons to feel good about the state of the Seminoles and quite a few to be concerned about the Cardinals as well.

FSU’s next two games – at Louisville and home against Boston College – both seem more winnable than they did before the season began. The Seminoles will be favored in both of them and, by that notion, expected to be 4-0 in a few weeks’ time by the sportsbooks.

Not to discredit the Cardinals or Eagles, who are both capable of pulling off upsets, but the main thing stopping the Seminoles may be themselves. If they spent too much of the last two weeks believing they are back instead of turning the page to what is next, that could prove fatal Friday night.

That’s a big part of why Norvell sent a message to his team through the media after their first post-LSU practice. He called the practice average and made it clear that’s not going to cut it going forward.

Because the team did the hard part. It made a fanbase that has been through a lot since 2017 believe again. Now, it’s time for the Seminoles to validate that belief on the field. If FSU is going to talk the talk of being back, it needs to walk the walk as well.

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