In the beginning of the year 2001 Florida State fans were kind of bummed.
While the 2000 football season was a great one including a beat down of Florida the Seminoles fell to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl to end the season as the number three team in the country instead of winning the title.
However, things were looking up. Florida State brought home the top class in the nation with only 11 recruits but five of those were five stars.
Unfortunately that class turned out to be a big disappointment and that disappointment started immediately when the number two quarterback in the nation, Joe Mauer, chose to play baseball over attending Florida State. Mauer went on to have a fantastic 14 year career with the Twins. He was the 2009 AL MVP, won three gold gloves, won three batting titles, was an All-Star six times and has had his number retired by the Twins.
So: what would have happened if Mauer decided to play football over baseball?
For this exercise we will assume that Mauer stayed healthy through his career and played commiserate with his recruiting ranking. Everything else stays the same. Mark Richt still leaves to take the Georgia job and Jeff Bowden is still elevated to play calling duties.
In 2001 Florida State finished the year 8-4 with ugly losses to North Carolina, Miami and Florida and a close loss to NC State. In three of those games Rix struggled mightily but would Mauer? Not likely but you cannot assume all of those as wins as both Florida and Miami were top five teams when FSU played them and NC State had Phillip Rivers. It might be fair to assume one extra win though so FSU goes 9-3 in 2001.
2002 could have been drastically different. Florida State finished 9-5 that year with losses to Louisville, Miami, Notre Dame, NC State and Georgia. This was the year that Rix lost his job to Adrian McPherson and then gained it back due to off the field issues by McPherson only to miss the bowl game against Georgia do to off the field issues of his own. A steady hand at quarterback probably changes FSU’s fortunes by a lot. Seminole QBs struggled to complete passes and in losses were unable to complete more than 50% of their passes. They also didn’t throw for a ton of yards, averaging just under six yards per pass in the four regular season losses.
This is bolstered a bit by a good showing from McPherson after the Notre Dame game was all but over in Tallahassee. When the QBs were good FSU was very good which is not a surprise with a backfield tandem of Greg Jones and Nick Maddox. Mauer would likely have some up and down games but it’s probably fair to say that Florida State would have been two to three wins better on a season largely defined by poor QB showing both on and off the field so 12-2 seems like a good bet.
2003 was the year that it could have all come together for the ‘Noles. FSU ended the year 10-3 with two losses to Miami and one to Clemson but with Mauer at the helm maybe they don’t lose at all. Against Clemson Greg Jones only got seven rushes and maybe that’s fine with a junior Mauer at the helm but with Rix it was a recipe for disaster. Fabian Walker did have a nice game in relief of Rix but that was after the game was already over.
The FSU/Miami tilt was a rain soaked game in Tallahassee that had Miami jump out early and FSU unable to catch up late. Miami was not afraid of the FSU passing game as they had a very good secondary and the Florida State quarterback situation had been on shaky ground for years. 2003 saw LSU beat Oklahoma for the national title. With Mauer, maybe that’s FSU looking for revenge on Oklahoma for the 2000 National Championship game.
It’s not likely Mauer would have stayed for his senior year if he were as good as his recruiting ranking suggests, but what would the fall out have been?
Would Bobby step down after another title run in 2003 and leave the keys to Jeff Bowden? Would Bobby have tried to hold on longer buoyed by a championship to boost both recruiting and booster confidence? Would, somehow by cause of the butterfly effect, Will Muschamp have been hired by Florida State in the 2011 season?