Record: 8-4, 5-3 ACC
Overview: An ACC title was a reasonable expectation in Jimbo Fisher’s second season, considering the Noles won their division in his first year and played for the championship. A national title was clearly asking too much. Florida State was ranked No. 6 in the preseason Associated Press top 25, and predicted by the media to win the Atlantic Division and an ACC title, but injuries quickly added up, and so did the losses.
Florida State’s season took a turn for the worse when quarterback EJ Manuel injured his shoulder against Oklahoma. Backup Clint Trickett, son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett, did a more than admirable job against then-ranked No. 1 Oklahoma, but it wasn’t enough to top the Sooners. Or Clemson. A 35-30 loss to Wake Forest is a little more difficult to explain. Three straight losses heading into mid-October had many calling the Seminoles the biggest disappointment of the first half of the season. A national title was out of the question, and FSU was on the outside looking in at the ACC race.
Still, Florida State didn’t quit and reeled off five straight wins before a stunning home loss to Virginia on Nov. 19. It was the first time FSU had ever lost in Tallahassee to the Cavaliers, and the second straight game that FSU’s offense struggled. The win over Florida was the third. Florida State won this year’s unofficial state championship with wins over rivals Miami and Florida, but offensive touchdowns were hard to come by in both games. Florida State’s defense and special teams were the difference down the stretch, but it was the three-game losing streak early that defined FSU’s season.
Offensive MVP: Manuel. He finished the season with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 11 games, and completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 2,417 yards. He was second in the ACC in passing efficiency with a rating of 151.
Defensive MVP: DE Bjoern Werner. He had 35 tackles, including 10 for losses and six sacks. He also had one interception and nine passes defended, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.
Turning point: When Manuel injured his shoulder against Oklahoma. The Seminoles just weren’t the same without him in the lineup, and once he returned, coach Jimbo Fisher said Manuel was the biggest difference in the five-game winning streak.
What’s next: Florida State will face Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl, the first meeting of the two storied programs since 2003. A strong finish could mean another top-25 preseason ranking and high expectations for the Noles heading into 2012.