I don't have any predictions today. Broadcast/streaming info is here.
Florida State has become college football's Big Bad so effortlessly that it's almost insulting. All the Seminoles had to do to get here was win 27 straight games over generally overmatched competition, sometimes with the help of incredible luck, while also running roughshod in Tallahassee, as their college town's seemingly mostly incompetent law enforcement — which has been genuinely heroic, and, tragically, lost a brother in blue, all in the last 10 days — failed to do its job, out of gross negligence or worse. It wasn't that hard.
But I can't hate the players all that much. Yes, Jameis Winston shoplifted crab legs and yelled a profane and insensitive thing from atop a table (and probably lied about it) and had multiple sexual encounters that led young women to seek counseling, and Winston, Chris Casher, and Ronald Darby contributed to an environment in their shared apartment that sounds profoundly strange, and P.J. Williams probably got traffic tickets for a textbook hit-and-run, and Karlos Williams wasn't charged with domestic violence after the pregnant mother of his child, who posted graphic pictures of alleged abuse at his hands on Facebook, declined to press charges, and Jesus "Bobo" Wilson stole a scooter. The aggregate malfeasance there isn't that bad, though, not when I compare Florida State's football program to something like the Greek system and its attendant culture of silence at the University of Virginia.
Sure, the perception that Winston got away with a sexual battery — true or not — has probably had adverse effects on the reporting of sexual assault at FSU. And the idea that Williams could commit intimate partner abuse and not face any penalty because of his partner's decision not to come forward probably hasn't done anything good for the victims of domestic abuse, considering that an October report prior to that incident featured a quote from a victims' advocate saying "Victims of domestic violence at the hands of FSU football players have come to us, believing that they can’t go to police, can’t get an injunction safely, can’t complain to FSU can’t be seen anywhere near the FSU. victim advocate office, and face enormous risk to their safety, alone with an attacker who is physically massive and habituated to physical aggression."
But those problems are not Florida State's alone. They are the problems of every school with a powerful athletic program, every place where men hold power over women in the traditional patriarchal American system, every institution that exalts some and ignores others. They are our problems, not theirs.
So my real issue with Florida State this year is with their fans.
It's all fun and games to talk about #FSUTwitter, and the arrogance of a fan base that has tried desperately to orient every conversation in college football around its awesome football team (but rarely what that team does off the field). But members of that cohort have spent the last 12 months repeatedly naming Winston's accuser publicly, reshaping the conversation around her allegation of sexual battery to a "complaint" from a "complainant," dismissing the pushback from people calling that embarrassing as trolling or the work of a biased media "out to get" them, and outlandishly claiming that racism — which, to be fair, is surely part of the reason FSU's largely black team has drawn so much ire — is the singular motivation behind other groups' frustrations with perceived miscarriages of justice.
#FSUTwitter is a big tent, but even before Jameis Winston was a star, it was home to a hive of know-it-alls ready for Florida State to be good — to be "back" — on the field, so they could crow about it off the field. They have their team, and their talking point, now, and as the team has succeeded, too many of those know-it-alls have taken a "NOLES, BITCH" mentality into too many Internet sparring matches for me to respect the points they make in those discourses.
When Florida demonstrated a public commitment to taking charges of sexual battery very seriously by suspending Treon Harris, these folks brayed about "due process," and about Florida doing what it did "for PR purposes" — as if suspending Harris, and thus signaling to women, long a disenfranchised and assailed group with the minority of the power on college campuses, that their words and rights will be taken seriously, was something done only for show.
I don't hate Florida State. I don't really even hate Jameis Winston. I hate those jackasses.
And I want the Florida Gators to wipe the smirks off their faces.
Since early 2013, I've thought often of this scene from the Disney Channel made-for-TV movie Brink, which basically sums up how I feel today.
Villain: You know, before I just wanted to beat you. Now I'm gonna humiliate you.
Hero: You ever hear that winning isn't everything?
Villain: Sure! I didn't believe it then; I don't believe it now. And neither do you.
Hero: Yeah, I wanna win. But no matter what, win or lose, at the end of the day, I'm not you. So it's still a good day.
I think of this when I get accused of being a "white knight" or a humorless jerk or a traffic-hungry troll for raising my sincere concerns about things that I find sincerely concerning about Florida State, as I have repeatedly. At the end of the day, I'm not those people, and it's still a good day for me because of that.
But at the end of that movie, the hero wins. I'd like to hope my team could, too.