Florida State plays OSU on Saturday night with ESPN’s GameDay on the premises, which happen to be JerryWorld, and the Seminoles are most certainly the featured guest. FSU won the 2013 national championship and sport Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston.
Florida State won national titles in 1993 and 1999, and played in national title games after the 1996, 1998 and 2000 seasons. The Seminoles had a rocky stretch in the 2000s but are back in all their splendor.
And here’s what’s most interesting about FSU. The Seminoles are truly the new money of college football powerhouses. Florida State’s first football season was 1947. That’s the year Bud Wilkinson became head coach at OU. Two years after Bear Bryant started coaching at Maryland. Seventeen years after a plane crash killed Knute Rockne, who had built Notre Dame into a football power. Heck, when Joe Paterno started coaching football at Penn State in 1950, the Florida State program was three years old.
Florida State was an all-female school, founded in 1857. Almost 90 years later, as soldiers returning from World War II were using the G.I. Bill, Florida’s universities were overrun. The Tallahassee Branch of the University of Florida hurriedly was formed on the campus of the Florida State College for Women, and by 1947, the legislature merged those two schools into Florida State University.
That 1947 season, FSU played a five-game football schedule, going 0-5, losing to Stetson, Cumberland, Tennessee Tech, Troy State and Jacksonville State. But the next year, FSU went 7-1, losing only to Erskine and beating the likes of Stetson, Troy State and Tampa. In 1949, FSU went 9-1 and beat Wofford in the Cigar Bowl. By 1951, the Seminoles played Miami (and lost, 35-13). By 1952, they played North Carolina State and Georgia Tech. By 1954, they played Georgia and Auburn and went to the Sun Bowl.
In 1960, Bill Peterson became coach and had some high times. His 1964 team went 9-1-1 and beat OU 36-19 in the Gator Bowl. FSU went to the Sun, Gator and Peach bowls in consecutive years, 1966-68.
But FSU fell on hard times and went 4-29 from 1973-75. Then the Seminoles hired Bobby Bowden, and I guess you know the rest.
A few things you might not know or have forgotten about Florida State football:
* FSU received permission from the Seminole Tribe of Florida to use the nickname and Chief Osceola as a mascot. The tradition of Osceola, riding a horse named Renegade, planting a flaming spear at midfield before kickoff began with the 1978 home opener against OSU.
* Burt Reynolds and Lee Corso were FSU teammates and roommates in 1954. Who would ever guess than when Burt Reynolds was on the cover of Cosmopolitan and starring with Sally Field in “Smokey & the Bandit” in the 1970s that Corso would have more staying power in American pop culture?
* Florida State’s ascension onto the national stage came with back-to-back Orange Bowls against OU’s 1979 and 1980 teams. The Sooners beat the undefeated Seminoles 24-7 after the 1979 season; OU edged FSU 18-17 a year later.
* In 1981, Florida State played five straight road games — at Nebraska, at Ohio State, at Notre Dame, at Pittsburgh (when the Panthers were a national power) and at LSU. The Seminoles won three of those games.
* In 1985, Florida State beat OSU 34-23 in the Gator Bowl. Those Seminoles finished 9-3. They won at Nebraska and beat Tulsa 76-14.
* Bowden coached Florida State for 34 seasons. He had just one perfect season, 1999. Four times Bowden teams lost only to Miami.
* Florida State joined the ACC in 1992 and won their first 29 conference games. The Seminoles lost to Virginia in 1995, then won 18 straight conference games.