The way Jimbo Fisher sees it, Florida State’s return to South Florida has been a long time coming.
“We act like we’ve been here a bunch of times,” the Seminoles coach said Wednesday after his team stepped off its plane for the Jan. 2 Discover Orange Bowl showdown against Northern Illinois. “But we haven’t been here in a while.”
The Seminoles (11-2) will be playing in the Orange Bowl as Atlantic Coast Conference champions for the first time since 2006, when they lost here to Penn State. And they will be bidding for their first win in any BCS bowl since 2000, when they knocked off Virginia Tech for the national championship.
Then again, Northern Illinois (12-1) is playing in its first BCS bowl of any kind and is the first member of the Mid-American Conference to play in one.
“They’re 21 out of [their past] 22 they’ve won,” Fisher said. “They’ve got a quarterback [Jordan Lynch] that’s very dynamic. Can run it. Can throw. But they’ve got other playmakers, too. And on defense, they’re extremely sound.”
The Huskies might not possess the Seminoles’ stature in terms of football prominence, but at No. 16 in the polls, they’re ranked only three spots behind the Seminoles. That, in itself, puts Florida State in a more humbling spot than folks in Tallahassee had hoped originally.
At season’s start, there was talk inside Seminoles Nation of a January trip to South Florida — for the BCS National Championship on Jan. 7. But losses to North Carolina State and Florida ended all of that, and the Seminoles are having to settle for an undercard role five days in advance of No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Alabama.
The last team to beat Notre Dame? Florida State. The Seminoles knocked off the Fighting Irish 18-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando last December.
“People remind us of that all the time,” Fisher said. “Last year, I thought Notre Dame was a great team and everybody didn’t believe me. And I thought we were, too. I thought we were two teams that were a year away from being significant in the national title [discussion].”
Fisher is even more familiar with Alabama coach Nick Saban. He was offensive coordinator at LSU when Saban was the head coach there from 2000 to ’04.
“I know [Notre Dame coach] Brian Kelly very well and, of course, Nick very well,” Fisher said. “So I will be very interested in what happens.”
But, after the Orange Bowl, Fisher doesn’t plan on sticking around to watch the national title game in person. He said he has work to do.
“We’ll be back and recruiting,” Fisher said. “We’ve got to get our own team so we can get in that game next year.”