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Friday, November 2, 2012
The Big Board: Bye week blunders

By David M. Hale

Through a month of fall camp and nine weeks of games, Florida State eagerly awaited some time off, but few players were naive enough to assume the bye week would represent much of a vacation.

With a Thursday night game against Virginia Tech looming, and FSU's place atop the Atlantic Division standings hanging in the balance, there didn't figure to be much time to deviate from the preparations.

"I feel like it's not a break because of the Thursday game, but you've just got to be tough," Nick Waisome said before FSU dominated Duke in the last of nine straight games without an off week. "It's part of the game."

But it's not just the short week of prep time for Virginia Tech that should have Jimbo Fisher and the Seminoles' attention. Recent history suggests the bye hasn't done Florida State any favors.

In the last 11 seasons, Florida State is just 5-5* coming off a bye, including an 0-2 mark with Fisher. (*There was no bye week in 2004.)

"I haven't thought about it, but it's a good stat to know," Fisher said. "But this is a different team."

While the down time certainly represents a chance for some injured players to get healthy -- James Wilder Jr. and Menelik Watson are two who have been held out of practices this week -- it can also provide an opportunity for the focus of the team to wane.

A look back at Fisher's two losses following the bye week offers some evidence of the latter.

In both games, Florida State finished with more total yards, but in each instance a preponderance of mental miscues -- turnovers and penalties -- led to a huge disadvantage in time of possession, and both games ended in close losses on the road.

Of course, there were other obstacles in play, too. That 2010 NC State team featured a quarterback who now earns a living on Sundays, and he helped engineer the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Last year's loss to Wake Forest featured Clint Trickett as FSU's starting quarterback and came on the heels of two emotional losses to Oklahoma and Clemson.

Still, looking back, those two losses remain two of the most frustrating of Fisher's tenure as coach, and they provide a template for how things can quickly go wrong -- particularly in a hostile environment on the road. Add the fact that Florida State has fumbled 10 times (six lost) and has been flagged for 19 penalties in its last two games, and Fisher has ample incentive to keep riding his team hard even during the bye week.

"I don't think it's going to bother us," quarterback EJ Manuel said of the extra work. "Jimbo doesn't allow that to be something that plays into it. I feel like we've been practicing this week like we play in two days. It's an off week, but we're practicing and grinding like we would every other week. We know we can't go up to Virginia Tech and not play well."