College football countdown: No. 5 Florida State

Wednesday, August 2nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Seminoles' talent still among best

No national championship race in the last decade would be complete without the Seminoles.

This year's Florida State team has – surprise – every element necessary to defend and repeat its undefeated national title season of 1999. (It's not really a surprise: Florida State has finished among the top five in the AP poll for 13 straight seasons.)

It even has another star player with legal issues. Safety Derrick Gibson was arrested last week in a prostitution sting, just in time to make news before the Seminoles begin practice for the Aug. 26 opener against Brigham Young.

His football status is uncertain right now, but based on history of other great players with rap sheets, expect to see Gibson, who had 79 tackles and four interceptions last season, in the lineup.

While pass defense is what the Seminoles do best, passing the ball is also one of their attributes.

Chris Weinke, the 28-year-old quarterback, is back to lead the offense, though his best target – the elusive Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans – are gone.

The Seminoles must produce new playmakers at their important receiver spots, and the names of those who step forward will not be familiar.

There is 6-3 junior-college transfer Javon Walker, who reportedly has run a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash. Then there is junior Robert Morgan, who had 18 catches for 255 yards last season.

Senior Marvin Minnis caught 21 passes for 282 yards, and sophomore Anquan Boldin was a high-school quarterback who became a wide receiver last year as a true freshman and caught 13 passes.

Coach Bobby Bowden knows one or more of them will produce. He also knows why Florida State has won at least a share of all eight ACC championships since joining the league in 1992.

"We're in a hotbed of material down our way," Bowden said. "Other teams are getting good players, but we might be getting more of them."

Perhaps. Bowden's 304 career victories puts him just behind Penn State's Joe Paterno (317) in pursuit of Alabama legend Bear Bryant's Division I-A record of 323.

At 70, Bowden knows his remaining seasons are few. But only one of his two major concerns seems to be a real threat.

"My health could be a reason," Bowden supposed as something that that might chase him into retirement. "Or losing. Losing is for young coaches."

This year will not be one in which Bowden has to worry about losing. The Seminoles likely will have a ninth straight ACC trophy on their mantle.

And maybe, should Bowden's team complete its first 13-0 record, a second straight national championship trophy.

Florida State Schedule- Aug 26 BYU; Sept 9 at Georgia Tech; Sept 16 North Carolina; Sept 23 Louisville; Sept 28 at Maryland; Oct 7 at Miami,Fla; Oct 14 Duke; Oct 21 Virginia; Oct 28 at North Carolina State; Nov 4 Clemson; Nov 11 at Wake Forest; Nov 18 Florida

Florida State Seminoles Capsule

COACH: Bobby Bowden (231-53-4 in 24 years at Florida State; 304-85-4 in 34 years overall).

LAST YEAR: 12-0 (beat Virginia Tech in Sugar Bowl for national championship).

OUT: Four first-team All-Americans – receiver Peter Warrick, kicker Sebastian Janikowski, defensive tackle Corey Simon and guard Jason Whitaker.

IN: A lineup of receivers to replace graduated corps. Marvin Minnis, Anquan Boldin, Robert Morgan – any or all of these could be critical to the offense.

BIG PLUS: Running back Travis Minor, who gained 815 yards while playing all season with a nagging ankle injury, could have an explosive season.

BIG MINUS: Reserve quarterback Marcus Outzen, a fifth-year senior, expected Chris Weinke to enter the NFL draft. Now Outzen, who started the last three games of 1998, appears to be waiting in the wings as his eligibility expires.

NATIONAL TITLE IF: The Seminoles, 62-2 against ACC teams since joining the league, don't get overconfident when every opponent is gunning for them.

BOTTOM LINE: The ACC doesn't appear to have a legitimate contender, but non-league opponents Miami and Florida stand between FSU and the Orange Bowl.

Top 25 So Far

25. Clemson
24. Mississippi
23. So. Miss.
22. Utah
21. Texas A&M
20. Penn State
19. Tennessee
18. Colorado
17. Oklahoma
16. Purdue
15. Illinois
14. Kansas State
13. Florida
12. Ohio State
11. TCU
10. USC
9. Wisconsin
8. Michigan
7. Georgia
6. Texas
5. Florida State