TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Back in August, Florida State was expected to be contending for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
One weekend into October, the 23rd-ranked Seminoles are searching for ways to salvage their season.
Florida State (3-2) goes into Saturday's game against rival No. 10 Miami struggling to stop a tailspin that started the middle of last season. FSU had won 35 of 36 games from December of 2012 until midway through last season, including a national championship in 2013, but are 7-5 in their last 12 after last Saturday's 37-35 loss to No. 16 North Carolina. Of those five losses, that was the second to happen on the last play of the game.
They have also dropped their first two Atlantic Coast Conference games for only the third time since joining the league in 1992. The only time FSU has started 0-3 in ACC play was 2009.
Coach Jimbo Fisher spent most of Monday's press conference saying players on the offense and defense weren't at odds with each other and that his team was still united. After last Saturday's loss running back Dalvin Cook and defensive end DeMarcus Walker both said that they did everything they could do during the game. Florida State took the lead with 23 seconds left on a Deondre Francois touchdown run before losing on a 54-yard field goal as time expired.
"Right now you're going to find out the pretenders and the contenders on your team and who they are and what they really want to be, the true character," Fisher said.
The majority of Florida State's struggles are on the defensive side of the ball. It is allowing 6.98 yards per play, which is fourth-worst among the Football Bowl Subdivision's 128 teams. The Seminoles have also given up 25 plays of 30 yards or more, which is second-most in the nation.
Take out the Sept. 10 game against Charleston Southern (a Football Championship Subdivision school) and the numbers are worse. FSU has allowed all four FBS opponents this season to score 30 points or more. In 51 possessions, opponents have scored 24 times, including 23 touchdowns, and allowed a TD on the opening drive of each game.
The only other time a Florida State defense has allowed more than 30 points and 400 yards per game was Bobby Bowden's final season in 2009, when they went 7-6.
Fisher and defensive coordinator Charles Kelly tried using cards last week to relay plays in from the sideline to make communication easier. Fisher said that might be used again this week. He also said that Kelly will continue to call the plays but that Fisher would be more involved in evaluating schemes and personnel.
"We'll support those guys and make sure they're doing the right things and we're doing the right things for the players," Fisher said. "What can I help you do? Tell me how I can help you. What will make you prepare better? What will make you see it better? What can we do better? You've got to give them a voice too."
On offense running back Dalvin Cook leads the nation in yards from scrimmage (921) and leads Power Five backs in rushing yards with 635. Quarterback Deondre Francois has no turnovers the past two games but has struggled passing in the red zone along with taking too much time for plays to develop.
Florida State has won six straight against Miami, but the Hurricanes (4-0, 1-0) are the highest-ranked team in Florida for the first time since Nov. 14, 2010. This will also mark the first time in 30 years that the Hurricanes comes into the game ranked in the top 10 and the Seminoles are ranked 20th or lower.
Fisher thinks facing a main rival this week could provide a little more incentive.
"I think it will get the kids' attention to go down and play, knowing what it means historically here to what happens," he said.
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