How many games can this Florida State football team win? Two? Three? Two?


Florida State Coach Willie Taggart looks at the scoreboard late in the fourth quarter in Syracuse. The Orange won, 30-7. (Nick Lisi/Associated Press)
Jacob Bogage

Even before Saturday, things looked pretty bad for the Florida State football program. Then the Seminoles got walloped by Syracuse (Syracuse!), 30-7, and it might be time to press the panic button in Tallahassee.

Florida State gave up 441 yards of offense, including 144 yards passing to the Orange’s backup quarterback, on Saturday afternoon. It was the first time Syracuse scored 30 or more points in a win against an ACC opponent since beating Virginia Tech on Oct. 15, 2016.

The Hokies embarrassed Florida State in its home opener, 24-3, and the Seminoles offense was so bad, Coach Willie Taggart accused Virginia Tech defenders of faking injuries to slow down the pace. But then Florida State limped to a 36-26 win over Samford (Samford!) and mustered a single score against Syracuse, which surrendered 42 points to Western Michigan.

Put that all together and it spells trouble for Florida State (the same Florida State experts considered a favorite for the College Football Playoff at the start of last season).

And the Seminoles schedule doesn’t get all that much easier. They have a chance to bounce back at home next week against Northern Illinois, but after the boondoggle against Samford, there’s no guarantee that game will be a walk in the park.

After that, Florida State plays at No. 21 Miami and Louisville. The ‘Noles likely won’t be favored in either of those game. Then come Wake Forest and world-beater Clemson at home and North Carolina State and Notre Dame on the road.

Of those four games, Wake Forest looks like the best chance at a win, which means mighty Florida State could find itself 10 games into the season with just two or three wins.

Florida State’s final two games, at home against Boston College and rival Florida, are not picnics either.

And that means something Earth-shattering in Tallahassee: The Seminoles might not be in shouting distance of bowl eligibility by season’s end. Florida State hasn’t missed a bowl game in 36 years — the longest active streak in college football.

“I still believe in this football team,” Taggart said after the loss to Syracuse. “We’re not where we want to be or should be offensively. We have a lot of season left. I know people don’t like hearing it and they’re upset. And they should be. We have to do our part and take care of our business as a football team.”

One thing Seminole fans can try to take solace in: Taggart has a track record of slow starts at new programs, as college football analyst Patrick Stevens wrote last week:

Taggart inherited an 0-12 team at Western Kentucky, lost his first five games in 2010 and dropped 14 of his first 16 with the Hilltoppers. But over the next season and change he was 14-6 and parlayed the turnaround into the South Florida job.

That began even worse: A 53-21 loss to McNeese State, part of a 2-10 debut season. He was 7-21 after an ugly start to his third year in Tampa, but presided over a 17-4 burst and landed the head coaching gig at Oregon (where he went 7-5 but did manage to get off to a 3-0 start).

But Florida State is a horse of a different color. It’s a college football blue blood that plays — let’s face it — in the weakest of the Power Five conferences. Wins over Syracuse, N.C. State, even Louisville, should not be too much to ask. If the ‘Noles want to keep their bowl streak alive, they’ll need ’em.

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