The Florida State football team will open the 2011 season ranked No. 5 according to the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll released Thursday morning.
Aug. 4, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The first USA Today Coaches' Poll came out Thursday morning and the Florida State football program is back in what used to be a familiar spot.
At No. 5 overall in the preseason poll according to the Division I head coaches that will submit weekly votes throughout the season, the Seminoles have their highest USA Today ranking entering the season since the 2002 campaign saw them begin at No. 4.
“I’m excited about it,” FSU's second-year head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “I know expectations are high this year and we embrace those. It’s great to see that the country is seeing Florida State’s program is heading in the right direction and getting back to the top. But, we also realize that these preseason rankings don’t win you a championship. We have to go out there and live up to them. We have to embrace them. I’d much rather start up high than start down low.”
A mainstay in those high preseason rankings in the late 1980s and '90s and into the early 2000s, FSU saw its new-year hype slowly dwindle in recent years.
After achieving a No. 6 ranking in the USA Today Coaches Poll to start the 2004 season, the 'Noles were No. 12 in 2005 and No. 10 in 2006 before slipping to No. 21 in 2007. The Seminoles went unranked in 2008 and were then Nos. 19 and 20 in 2009 and '10, respectively.
Thursday's announcement that FSU is back in the top five serves as further example that the Seminoles are indeed on the upswing.
A 2010 season that featured a state championship with wins over rivals Florida and Miami and a year-ending bowl victory against South Carolina helped spark renewed national interest in the program. Fisher and his staff then signed the country's top-ranked recruiting class to further spread the good 'Nole-vibes.
But for as much hype and excitement that has been generated because of those successes over the past year, Fisher knows that his team is now expected to not just return to the top but to stay there as well.
"Five; that's a great honor and now we have to perform to be able to live up to our expectations," Fisher said. "We embrace them and we know it's going to take a lot of hard work. We have a lot of preparation to live up to [the expectations]."
Florida State lost just six total starters -- three on offense and three on defense -- from a season ago and returns key veterans at nearly every position.
At quarterback, EJ Manuel bided his time as Christian Ponder's backup and earned a 4-2 record the past two seasons, including two bowl victories. He enters the season as the 'Noles unquestioned leader and a Preseason All-ACC Team selection. Joining Manuel on that same list are defensive end Brandon Jenkins, offensive tackle Andrew Datko, and cornerback/return man Greg Reid.
FSU opens the season with three consecutive home games. Following contests against Louisiana-Monroe and Charleston Southern, Oklahoma then comes to town.
The Sooners are ranked No. 1 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll meaning that the Sept. 17 matchup between the two could very well be a top-five showdown with possible championship implications.
"It will be a great challenge," Fisher said about the Sooners. "We are not downplaying it but we have two games to play before [them]. We have to be playing well when we play Oklahoma to have a chance to be successful in that game."
The game against the Sooners has already sold out but, as Fisher mentioned, those first two ballgames are just are very important. The season-opener is on Sept. 3 and great tickets are still available for both for as low as $25.
Call the FSU ticket office at 1-888-FSU-NOLE or visit the Seminoles.com ticket page to get your tickets today.