Florida State finished in the top 5 of the polls for 14 consecutive years starting in 1987.
Yet, just two of those seasons ended with a national championship.
Jimbo Fisher will make sure his current team is aware of that history.
“I don’t want anybody to think just because you don’t go to the playoff — and we’re all disappointed that [won’t happen] — that doesn’t mean you can’t have significant seasons and great seasons,” Fisher said.
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The Seminoles won the national championship in 1993 and 1999 and played for three others during those 14 years. But it was their overall success of winning at least 10 games in each of those years — even those in which no title was at stake in a bowl — that made the run even more special.
A 23-13 loss at Clemson on Saturday ended any chance of FSU playing for a fourth consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference title and being selected for the four-team College Football Playoff.
The Seminoles (7-2, 5-2) have three regular-season games and a bowl remaining, starting with Saturday’s 12:30 p.m. kickoff against North Carolina State at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Fisher will remind his team what’s at stake, including a fifth double-digit win season in the past six years.
And he won’t be the only one.
“Guys may feel like there’s nothing to play for the rest of the season,” senior safety Lamarcus Brutus said. “We have to finish strong.
“We have to motivate guys to keep fighting. It’s not the end of the world. We lost, it sucks, it hurts, but we have to move on to the next game.”
Florida State compiled a nation-best 39-3 record from 2012-14.
But those three years also saw 29 players selected in the NFL Draft, a modern-day record for a three-year span, one reason many believed FSU would not be in the playoffs and why Clemson was the popular pick to win the ACC this season.
The run started with a 12-2 record in 2012 in which the Seminoles led in the fourth quarter of both losses (N.C. State, Florida). Quarterback Sean Maguire, a fourth-year senior, said those were valuable lessons for the next year, when FSU went 14-0 and won the national championship.
“I told them the team in ’13 wouldn’t have won if we didn’t have those losses in ’12,” Maguire said about talks he had with running back Dalvin Cook and receivers Travis Rudolph and Jesus Wilson.
“It takes guys realizing what a loss is, you stare and see the students rush the field, see how much that hurts. I think that’s going to set a tone for the entire offseason going into ’16.”
Fisher said the final four games will not be about looking ahead but about finishing strong. The seniors could conclude their careers with a 50-5 record. Although the 1999 seniors lost four games, no four-year class in FSU history has won more than 48 games.
“We’re playing for what we have to play for now,” Fisher said. “These seniors deserve that. These upperclassmen deserve that. Our fans deserve that. We’re coming to win football games.”
As for those players returning, which is the majority of the roster, including every player on the offensive two-deep depth chart except quarterback Everett Golson, Fisher believes they already have received an important lesson that will help them next year.
“You got to see a team storm the field, have a celebration,” he said. “Usually, those are ours, but they weren’t [Saturday]. It’s how you respond to that. How much it means to you to have that feeling five minutes after a game.”
THIS AND THAT
▪ Fisher said Cook, who rushed for 194 yards against Clemson, is “as healthy as he’s been all year. His hamstring is fine. Ankle came out very good.”
▪ The Seminoles’ Nov. 21 home game against Chattanooga will kick off at 3 p.m.