TALLAHASSEE -- Jimbo Fisher has been saying the same things since he arrived in Tallahassee. His favorite idioms and expressions — Jimboisms, if you will — have becomes so commonly used at his weekly news conference that you could print them on a card and play bingo with them (or J-I-M-B-O).
“Bouncing around, doing some things.”
“You play how you practice.”
“That’s why you come to Florida State.”
Fisher has been saying those things since taking over for Bobby Bowden following the 2009 season — probably longer.
But something funny has started to happen in the recent weeks and months as Florida State — once again — finds itself in the thick of a BCS race midway through the season. Those common refrains that were once exclusive to FSU’s fourth-year coach are starting to come out of the mouths of his players.
“The past years I’ve been here we always had a lot of talent, always a talented football team,” senior cornerback Lamarcus Joyner said. “But this year I see that maturity — a brotherhood and a belief — a standard that we have set. We have finally bought into Coach Fisher and his philosophy.”
Fisher’s team isn’t just hitting its talking points anymore. No, the party line in Tallahassee seems to have been replaced with a genuine belief that Florida State belongs in the national title conversation.
“For the last few years we’ve been blessed to be in this position,” senior linebacker Telvin Smith said. “But I feel like for long enough we’ve chased numbers at this school, trying to get to No. 1. I feel like we’re not focused on that anymore, we’re really focused on one game at a time.”
“One game at a time,” another tried and true Jimboism that seems to have permeated into the minds of his players. At Florida State, Fisher’s players are finally buying into the idea that the team’s next game — regardless of opponent — is always the biggest game of the season.
That philosophy will be heavily tested this week though, as the fifth-ranked Seminoles prepare to travel to No. 3 Clemson on Saturday.
“[Clemson is] an important game but it’s not the last one,” Fisher said on Monday. “We still have seven games to play. I do not de-emphasize [Clemson] one bit, but we have to remember we have seven games to play. This is the next one and it’s the most important because it’s the next one.”
The next one is big though. It’s arguably the biggest ACC tilt in a decade — the biggest for FSU since ‘97 (when as the second-ranked team in the country they traveled to fifth-ranked UNC) — but based on the statements coming from Florida State this week, the Seminoles aren’t sweating it.
“It’s not a pressure time. You can’t look at it as pressure, this is fun and this is why you come,” Fisher said. “If you want to accomplish things you have to overcome huge challenges. That’s part of the world of competition — the world of athletics and that’s why we love it so much.”
Added junior running back Karlos Williams: “It’s never pressure. I believe the pressure comes in the week of practice. We have a good week of practice, we’ll play very well. We think about it one game at a time.”
If Florida State really has bought into what Fisher’s selling, that last Jimboism might be what makes this season different.