Florida State's 36-year run of consecutive postseason appearances has come to a halt after the Noles fell to in-state rival No. 11 Florida 41-14 on Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee, Florida. The Gators dominated the entire second half of the affair, pouring on touchdowns late to end a five-game losing streak in the series.
In addition to the 36-year bowl streak, Florida State saw its 42-year run of finishing .500 or better also come to an end. Of course, it was added insult to injury that Florida snapped those streaks.
Historically bad seasons for blue blood programs are not uncommon, but it's rare to see such finishes come in the first year of a new tenure. The only bit of history that Seminoles fans have been able to cling to is that the last time Florida State had a losing record was also the first year of another head coaches' tenure, that coach being Bobby Bowden.
Willie Taggart preached about culture change and the increase of accountability within the program prior to the start of the year, but instead of providing a spark for this Seminoles program that had run off course, this season has been more of those same disappointing trends. Florida State is among the most penalized teams in the country, its offensive line continues to be a liability and it has been out-classed when facing elite opponents.
That distance between Florida State and the programs that it considers to be peers and rivals was apparent against the Gators. Taggart and the Noles were fighting and clawing for an upset win to reach bowl eligibility, while Dan Mullen has a team that appears on its way to a New Year's Six bid after winning just four games a year ago. Mullen put an Urban Meyer-like hurting on Florida State, putting up the most points scored by Florida in the rivalry since 2008.
The Seminoles may have won five in a row coming into the game, but the scoreboard should be cleared with both programs under new leadership. Nothing about Saturday's game looked like a rivalry where the team in garnet had the upper hand, so now that five-win run (the longest for Florida State in the rivalry) comes crashing down with as much concern as the three-decade bowl streak.
Taggart will get Florida State back to the postseason, probably as soon as next year, but the fascination with that streak has clouded a much more damning indication of where the program stands at the end of 2018. A national championship-winning program doesn't measure itself by whether it gets to bowl games because it demands greatness on a week-in, week-out basis and dominance against its rivals. After losing to both Miami and Florida and looking totally overwhelmed by the likes of Clemson and Notre Dame, Florida State has shown there's a long way to go before Taggart has the Seminoles back to title contention.
Three more things to know about Florida's dominant win.
1. Feleipe Franks is leaving his mark on the program: The resiliency of Franks has proven him to be one of the best Florida quarterbacks of the last decade. (Though that is not saying much to Gators fans.) Franks and the offense have sputtered at times against elite opponents, but he's battled through adversity and come out stronger than ever as the unquestioned leader of this offense. Franks completed 16-of-26 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. His 23-touchdown total on the season is the most passing touchdowns for a Florida QB since Tim Tebow (30) in 2008. Franks also has six rushing touchdowns on the year, giving him the most total scores for a Florida QB (28) since Tebow (35) in 2009.
2. Deondre Francois needs a long ice bath: The FSU QB never had a chance in this game. Florida didn't just get a great push up front in this game, its entire defensive line was superior on almost every snap. They won one-on-one battles and got pass rushers in Francois' face without having to commit extra linebackers and defensive backs to the cause. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's aggressive blitz calls have gotten the Gators in trouble before, but it was never an issues against Florida State thanks to the overwhelming advantage up front. That freed up the rest of the Gators defense to fly around and create all kinds of game-changing plays. By the end of the afternoon, Florida had totaled five sacks, eight tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
3. And the award goes to ... Franks had a World Cup-quality flop. Didn't mean much to the game or the result, but it's worth a slow-mo replay to see how he sold the bump from a Florida State defender.