An article by Fsued
As a weather buff, one of the interesting tools forecasters use is "analogs." It can be done for an entire season, a medium range pattern or a specific storm. Analogs are never perfect matches, at least in the highly complicated world of weather, but there are some things we can take from analogs that can help us predict the future.
The same is true for football.
I've been thinking about an FSU historical analog to this past season.
What I've come up with is the somewhat forgotten 1986 season.
You probably don't remember this season off the top of your head - FSU finished 7-4-1 and just out of the AP Top 20 (didn't become Top 25 until later).
Now, before you start nitpicking, there ARE some big differences. In 1986 we lost to both our rivals, while in 2010 we dominated them. We weren't in a conference in 1986, so that's out of the equation. But I do see some strong similarities.
For one, the 1986 team was extremely young. In fact, only 7 ... SEVEN ... senior lettermen graduated off the team that season.
Also, the 1986 season was sixth straight season with at least 3 losses, on the heels of the magical 1979 undefeated regular season and the 1980 run at a national championship. After the 1980 season, FSU went 6-5, 9-3, 8-4, 7-3-2, 9-3 and then 7-4-1 in 1986. In other words, this was, relatively speaking, a down time in FSU football, at least compared to the glory years of the late 1970s.
A strong similarity comes in recruiting -- the 1986 season was the second straight season of very strong recruiting for FSU. The 1985 freshman class was arguably the best ever at FSU - and certainly was the best at that time.
The 1985 freshman class included: Chip Ferguson, Odell Haggins, Eric Hayes, Keith Ross, Deion Sanders, Sammie Smith, Pat Tomberlin and Peter Tom Willis
The 1986 freshman class included: Leroy Butler, Dexter Carter, Lawrence Dawsey, Reggie Johnson, Bruce LaSane and Terry Anthony.
The season itself had similarities. FSU was coming off a poor defensive season in which the Noles gave up more than 23 points per game, including 59 to Auburn, 35 to Miami and 38 to Florida. 1986 saw improvement, as that dropped to 18 points per game (can't find YPG).
Another season similarity is that the Noles took care of a cupcake to open the year (shutting out Toledo 24-0) before going on the road and getting handled by Nebraska, 34-17. The Noles finished on a high note with a 27-14 win over Indiana in the All American Bowl in Birmingham as Sammie Smith ran wild for more than 200 yards.
Looking at schedule strength, the 2010 schedule was probably a bit more difficult, because of more consistency in league opponents, but 1986 was no slouch with road games at Nebraska, Michigan, Miami and South Carolina and home contests against UNC and Florida.
Now astute Seminole historians have already figured out where this is going. You see, what 1986 is really most famous for in FSU history is that it came before 1987. THAT was the year FSU's streak of Top 5 finishes began. From 1987 to 2000, Florida State would lose just 19 games in those 14 years vs. 152 wins.
Interestingly, expectations were very high in 1987, even after a relatively poor 1986 campaign. Despite finishing the season unranked, FSU was ranked 8th in the preseason AP Poll.
Now, I'm not saying that FSU is about to make anything close to that type of run again. But if the last two recruiting classes come close to meeting expectations and with "Jimbo scheduling" starting to take effect in a few years (once OU, WVU, USF clear the schedule), FSU is clearly poised to launch back into college football's elite. It won't happen just because it did in 1986/1987, but it's interesting to note the parallels.