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An Opportunity Presented by Florida State

Yes, I am somewhat excited about our upcoming bowl game against Florida State. I grew up watching Bobbie Bowden's dazzling Seminoles teams in the 80s and 90s. Bowden's teams, with one of the coolest helmets in college football were lighting up the scoreboards with an offense which was using 4 wide receiver sets, split-back formations ala Walsh's 49ers, before spread and wide open offenses became in vogue in college football. And, yes, there was prime time.  I never got tired of watching the explosive Noles. I have been hooked ever since the old Fumblerooski. They were fun, exciting, and, unlike the boring Dorrell offense, they were unpredictable.

They seemed like the perfect opponents to offset the thuggery coming out of Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson's Miami, and the arrogance exuding out of Ole Bawl coach's program in Gainesville. Plus, they had an offense which, back in the 80s and 90s, came across as the college version of the San Francisco 49ers' classic, explosive WCOs from the days of Nos. 16 and 8. In fact, I don't think it was a coincidence that the Niner coaches were drafting backs like Carter, Lee, and Floyd, who were used to catching passes out of backfield in Bobby Bowden's FSU offense. Dump Dorrell has some numbers on Bowden's glory days:

*From 1987 to 2000, FSU finished every year ranked in the top 5 in BOTH polls. That is a span of 14 straight years! Bowden?s FSU teams are on a 22 year run finishing in the top 25. This year is not over, but even if FSU beats us in the Emerald Bowl they will most likely not reach the top 25 in either poll. If that is the case, it will be the first time that FSU will be shut out of either poll since 1983 when the polls only picked the top 20 teams (the polls switched to 24 teams in 1989).

*Bowden?s teams won 9 ACC titles (outright or shared) in a row from 1992-2000, and 11 in 12 years from 1992-2003. Bowden?s overall record in 31 years coaching FSU is 292-81-4 for a winning percentage of 78%.

*In each of the first 3 years of the BCS, from 1998 to 2000, FSU was one of the participants in the title game. FSU also played in what was considered the title game in January 1997 against Florida at the Sugar Bowl. FSU lost that game and Florida was named the unanimous national champion. Much is made of Southern Cal?s run, but what Bobby Bowden did between 1996-2000, playing in 4 title games during 5 years and winning 1, and further between 1993-2000, playing in 5 title games during 8 years and winning 2, was arguably better.

*FSU broke our NCAA record for consecutive bowl wins in 1995 by winning their 9th bowl game in a row. Bowden ended up running the streak to 10 games in 1996, but then lost the national championship to Florida in the Sugar Bowl in 1997.
Back in those days, I always thought how cool it would be for a good UCLA team to match up against FSU's program. Well, the wish comes true more than a decade later, as Bruins get to take on a Nole team, which resembles nothing like those Noles team from their glory years. From the AP game preview:
Florida State (6-6) is heading to a bowl for the 25th year in a row, but it's been a trying season for coach Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles.

A year after winning the ACC title and nearly upsetting Penn State in the Orange Bowl, the Seminoles have slipped to .500 and are in danger of posting their first losing record since going 5-6 in 1976, Bowden's first year in Tallahassee.

Bowden's son, Jeff, resigned as offensive coordinator during the year and Florida State lost four home games for the first time since 1975. Wake Forest beat the Seminoles 30-0 on Nov. 11, the first home shutout of the Hall of Fame coach's 31-year tenure.

"A very disappointing year,'' said Bowden, whose 365 wins are first in NCAA history. "I think we'd get a very unanimous vote on that.'' [...]

Five of the Seminoles' losses came by a total of 26 points, but win or lose, they'll finish with their fewest victories since a 7-4-1 record in 1986.

"A 6-6 season is unacceptable at Florida State,'' receiver Greg Carr said.
Wish that was the consensus standard in Westwood as well. A 6 loss season should never be acceptable at programs like UCLA and Florida State. And, yes, they are worthy of mentioning in the same breath. Here is the legendary Coach Bowden himself on his Noles facing UCLA:
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said he spoke with Emerald Bowl officials last month about possible opponents, and UCLA wasn't initially mentioned. However, once the Bruins became a possibility, Bowden perked up.

"I said, `Boy, I hope it's UCLA.' That's before I saw them (beat USC)," Bowden said.

"But the reason I said that is because they have such a great name over in this part of the country, as well as all the country. You have to say UCLA is one of the elite programs in the nation.
Well, UCLA was one of the elite programs in the nation when it was competing and getting to the Rose Bowl before Dorrell arrived in Westwood. And, as hard as Dorrell apologists have tried to lower the standard by bad mouthing the tradition of UCLA football, the fact remains that UCLA is one of the marquee programs in college football, and will get back to its rightful place if the head coach does a competent job of leading the program in Westwood.

Well, Dorrell has a shot. He finally finished a regular season on a winning note after his three years in Westwood. And now if he gets the job done by destroying a Florida State team, which is nothing but a shell of it's former self, and per some Florida columnists, doesn't deserve a shot in a bowl game, then he can look forward to an off-season with some momentum, setting up for his make-or-break expected Pac-10 championship season in 2007.

Let's hope Dorrell doesn't blow the opportunity when he takes on a living legend with a washed up program on December 27.