TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It’s not that Telvin Smith was worried. After eight games, he’s got a pretty good feel for his teammates, and he trusts them.
Still, when Monday’s practice wrapped up -- a tough, physical day of drills when nearly everyone looked sharp -- Smith couldn’t help but be encouraged. After three weeks of emotional games for Florida State, there was every reason to wonder if the wind might have left the Seminoles’ sails. Monday’s practice provided a resounding answer.
“It’s definitely easier to stay focused when you’re having the success we’re having,” Smith said. “But how long can we do it? That’s the biggest thing.”
Smith believes he knows the answer, but this week still provides a test.
Wake Forest is 4-5, coming off a shutout loss to Syracuse and down its best player, receiver Michael Campanaro, who suffered a broken collarbone in last week’s game. After that, Florida State gets a mediocre Syracuse team and lackluster Idaho before finishing the regular season against struggling Florida. It’s hardly a schedule that inspires much enthusiasm following two top-10 matchups in the past three weeks.
So the mantra this week at Florida State is all about maintaining the status quo.
“Just staying calm, even-keeled,” center Bryan Stork said. “You don’t have to be so high, be so low. You just have to find the in-between, no matter what happens. It gets easier as it goes on.”
The routine gets more familiar, certainly, but the external distractions -- the clutter, as coach Jimbo Fisher likes to call it -- only increase with each impressive win.
In years past, that would’ve been a concern. It was just two years ago that Florida State traveled to Wake Forest, still carrying the baggage of losses to Oklahoma and Clemson, and played one of its worst games of Fisher’s tenure.
But this team is different, the Seminoles insist. There’s a focus on the short-term as a building block to the big-picture goals.
“We don’t look at the week any differently because we’re here to play football, here to win games, here to do what we plan to do,” quarterback Jameis Winston said. “Our weekly plan is to be the same every week and get better. It’s not lowering down our intensity. We don’t do that for anybody.”
It’s the attitude Fisher has hoped for from this team, but this week’s trip to Wake Forest remains the first real test of those convictions. The BCS standings, the Heisman Trophy, an undefeated season and immense hype -- those distractions loom ever larger, and Wake Forest looks increasingly like an easy win.
But if the Seminoles are really as good as the pundits believe, tackle Cameron Erving said, then Wake Forest is actually a season-defining opponent.
“In games like this, this is what really measures what you are as a team,” Erving said. “You have to be mature, you have to know how to handle situations and just be able to focus, and be able to put the same amount of preparation you did for the other games. You respect every opponent, because I’ve seen in my years here, us be better than teams and still lose. That’s not really the thought process, you can’t look over any team.”