TALLAHASSEE -- In the course of one Thursday night football game — a game on the other coast of the country, no less — Florida State’s BCS fate seemed to shift considerably.
What was once a weak slate of games — one that seemed destined to drag the Seminoles down from No. 2 to third in the BCS standings — became a blessing, as Oregon, the presumptive No. 2, lost to Stanford 26-20.
As BCS dreams were extinguished in Eugene, cheers could be heard around Tallahassee. There would now be a spot in the BCS Championship Game awaiting — likely to face Alabama — if the Seminoles and Crimson Tide could just win out.
On paper that seems likely. The oddsmakers will heavily favor FSU from here on out.
But if ever there were a “trap” game waiting to spring on Florida State, this game against a team that has given the Seminoles more than their share of trouble in recent years is it.
FSU is fresh off a 41-14 waxing of rival Miami last Saturday. It moved up to second in the BCS standings on Sunday. On Thursday, it watched the biggest threat to its national-title aspirations get knocked off.
On Saturday, FSU plays at Wake Forest.
“They’ve always pressured us in the past,” said coach Jimbo Fisher, alluding to Wake’s 2011 win over FSU in Winston-Salem. “We’re expecting that again. Need to be able to handle [what Wake does] but still be balanced and do what we have to do. Be ready to mentally play.
“It’s always a game up there. [Wake Forest coach] Jim Grobe does a great job with his guys.”
Wake Forest will have to attack Florida State without its best wide receiver, Michael Campanaro who is out four to six weeks with a broken collarbone. That’s a big loss: Florida State boasts the second-ranked pass defense in the country, and Campanaro accounted for roughly half of the Deacons’ passing attack.
In fact, given the disparity in talent between the two teams, the biggest obstacle facing the Seminoles on Saturday might be their own complacency.
There hasn’t been a letdown for Florida State all year — they have put up at least 41 points in every game and are ranked third nationally in scoring and fourth nationally in points allowed — but the Seminoles cannot afford to have one now.
“Our mind-set is the same every week,” redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston said. “We’re going to prepare the same. We’re going to practice the same and hopefully be better as the week goes on. It’s just going to be the same week for us.”
But now it gets harder, distractions and attention — clutter, as Fisher likes to call it — will be at an all-time high in the coming weeks. The pressure’s on. And with all that’s happened this week, it would be easy to come out flat for a noon kickoff against an upset-hungry team like Wake Forest.
To try to combat this, Fisher’s team left Tallahassee on Thursday night and took Friday to observe its normal routine.
“[We need to] make sure we dot i’s, cross t’s, have a lot of meeting times to think about things we need to do and get ready to play,” Fisher said. “I think it will help us perform better on Saturday. Those early Saturday games on the road can be very tough on travel.”
Not to mention that now, more than ever, the pressure is on.