Alex Turko (@aturko_23)
When you watch the Number-1 ranked Seminole football team, it is easy to get caught up in the hype of the Heisman trophy winning quarterback, the swarming defense, or the three wide receivers that are all within 71 yards from a 1,000 yard season. But the cream didn’t rise to the top because of a couple of elite athletes. Under Jimbo Fisher, Florida State, has been notorious for bringing in the best recruits in the country year after year. Although there are some special players that have made this team superior from teams of the past, it is the change in coaching philosophy that has placed this team into the National Championship game.
The saying, “winning cures everything,” couldn’t be more accurate because it was just a short season ago that the Seminole faithful was calling for Fisher to give up his play-calling duties after an embarrassing loss to a poor NC State team. That game was just the tip of the iceberg as Fisher’s offense the two seasons prior to that loss was criticized for the conservative play calling and inability to destroy teams that had no business upsetting the Noles. There came a point after last season where I was wondering as to whether or not Jimbo Fisher should delegate the offensive play calling to a newly hired assistant.
After the lackluster end to the season, Fisher candidly admitted that he is still learning a lot as a head coach but was not quite ready to hang up the offensive play-calling responsibilities. Whether it is attributed to his trust in his freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, or if he just realized he needs to let these athletes loose, there has not been a game this season where Fisher has been conservative. He attacks third and long situations with vigor, converting an astonishing 55% (3rd in the nation) of his attempts, as opposed to last year’s offense that converted only 42% (48th in the nation) of its’ attempts. Every statistical offensive category has improved from last season’s offense, and much of that can be accredited to Fisher’s improved play calling and aggression.
The most underrated cog in this National Championship puzzle is defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and the rest of his defensive assistants. Coach Fisher doesn’t get enough credit for his ability to evaluate coaches and make hires that benefit the team immediately. Coach Fisher took a huge risk bringing in Pruitt who had no prior coordinating experience, but I would say that risk is paying off.
Although Stoops statistically had an exceptional defense, Pruitt’s defense trumps the old zone scheme of Stoops’ defense in statistical categories that win games. Here are a few statistics that jump off of the page: Stoops’ redzone defense was 99th in the country, where as Pruitt’s defense has improved to 23rd. Stoops’ defense had 11 INTs on the season which ranked 63rd in the country, as opposed to Pruitt’s unit racking up 25 INTs which is good for the highest number of interceptions in the nation. When the defense puts the ball back in the hands of the 5th ranked total offense in the country only good things can happen, and that is just what this defense has done this season. Pruitt’s blitz happy scheme has created an abundance of turnovers. In fact, this defense has improved from 66th in turnovers gained to 3rd!
It’s hard not to credit Jameis Winston and the rest of the players on this team for how good they have been playing, but Fisher and staff deserve an enormous amount of credit for the success of this team. The coaches will have their final test preparing for the Auburn Tigers, who boast the 10th ranked total offense and have been dubbed as a team of “destiny.” Come January 6th Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles will have a chance to engrave this team in the history books as national champions and prove that this team is one to be remembered.
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