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The Seminoles can finally start saying "national championship."
For the past few weeks of a season, FSU coach Jimbo Fisher purposely avoided using those words, even as FSU's postseason fate become more and more clear. On Sunday, it became official: FSU is headed to Pasadena for the BCS national title game.
"It's just all coming true," senior linebacker Telvin Smith. "Everything we said, believe in the coaches, and believe in the program, now it's all paying off. Pasadena here we come."
There's no question that Fisher has built a juggernaut in Tallahassee. FSU players expected the decision so firmly and for so long that when the official bowl seedings were released Sunday night, there was only a brief round of applause from the team viewing room in the Moore Center. Part of the reason was exhaustion: the team was fresh off a late game Saturday. But most of the reason was that FSU expected to be there.
"You never know if you'll be there," running back Devonta Freeman said. "But the hard work and dedication will take you there. We expect so many things among each other."
But for Florida State to truly take its place atop the college football world, the Seminoles have to dethrone the SEC Champion in the national title game.
They'll have their shot against Auburn. Fisher has built FSU to be every bit as physical and talented as the best teams that Alabama and Auburn and LSU have had in recent years. Fisher refused to say he'd modeled FSU after Alabama and the SEC on Saturday.
"I built our program like thought we needed to build it to win a championship," Fisher said after FSU's win in Charlotte on Saturday. "We don't model ourselves after nobody."
While Fisher maintains - and not without truth - that FSU's model is its own, it's hard not to see the comparisons between FSU and the best teams of the SEC. The Seminoles have top-five recruiting classes, massive size and strength on both sides of the ball and a dominating defense.
Despite those similarities and FSU's 4-0 record against ranked teams this season - including blowout wins against two top-10 teams - it continue to face questions about the strength of schedule, or lack thereof. The only way to put those questions to bed for good is to beat the best the SEC has to offer on the biggest stage possible.
In fact, Fisher himself predicted this in July. Sitting at the ACC football kickoff in Greensboro, FSU's head coach said dominance in college football is cyclical, and said it was only a matter of time before someone toppled the SEC from the throne.
"There's too many good coaches and players out there," Fisher said, "Somebody will break it."
Florida State players shrugged off the ACC-SEC comparisons, saying they only want to play for and win a national title, no matter who the opponent.
"Football is football," Terrence Brooks said. "It doesn't matter what conference you're in you still have to go out there and snap the ball and play."
But FSU will still hear plenty about the SEC's run of dominance in the next month, and it certainly wouldn't hurt to prove Fisher right and end that narrative. And, given the 'Noles' consistency this season, who else better to give it a shot?
"It's going to be a big game," Karlos Williams said. "Two teams that have been at the top before, had great games before and now they're back to where they used to be. Everybody knows one another. It'll be going out there and proving to yourself that you're the dominant team in the country."