As much fun as watching the debut of Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston was on Monday, the Seminoles should be happy that they’re not playing this week. FSU hardly had to grind it out in a 41-13 victory over Pittsburgh on Monday and with the exception of a minor shoulder injury to James Wilder Jr., the Seminoles left Pittsburgh relatively unscathed. The upcoming schedule is also a weak one as it includes Nevada and Bethune-Cookman, hardly schools that need extra preparation. So why should Florida State be happy to receive a bye week this early in the season? One word: history.
Since the ACC expanded in 2004, the conference has been eager to showcase itself early on in the season on Labor Day. The Seminoles have been a popular pick to play on Labor Day night, but while Florida State has fared just okay on Labor Day, the following week has not been kind to Florida State or the ACC in general.
When Florida State first played on Labor Day in 2005, the Seminoles beat Miami 10-7. That year, FSU went on to win the conference for a 12th time in 14 years, but the following week, Florida State fell behind 10-3 to the Citadel and led just 13-10 at the half. Florida State woke up in the second half and cruised to a 62-10 rout, but the game was far more nerve-racking than it should have been.
A year later, the Seminoles once again won a defensive struggle against Miami on Labor Day and once again, Florida State struggled with a lesser opponent the following week. Five days after topping the Hurricanes, Florida State found itself trailing in the fourth quarter to Troy, a school from the Sun Belt. Florida State was shut out in the first half and had to rally for a 24-17 victory with two touchdowns in the game’s final 6:12.
To open the 2007 season, Florida State suffered a Labor Day loss at Clemson, 24-18. The following week, FSU fell behind 17-3 early to UAB. Once again, Florida State rallied; this time, for a 34-24 victory, but the Seminoles did not lead until the final play of the third quarter.
The last time that FSU played on Labor Day prior to Monday was in 2009 as the Seminoles dropped a 38-34 thriller at home to Miami. The following short week was one that the Seminoles barely survived which nearly resulted in the most embarrassing loss of legendary head coach Bobby Bowden’s career. Against FCS Jacksonville State, the Seminoles trailed 9-7 with under a minute to play before grabbing the lead for good on a touchdown run by Ty Jones with 35 seconds to play. Florida State would add a defensive touchdown 14 seconds later and hold on for a 19-9 victory, but that short week nearly cost the Seminoles an opportunity to extend the nation’s longest bowl streak.
While Florida State was able to survive all of its second week hangovers, another prominent ACC program did not turn out to be so lucky. Virginia Tech, who lost a Labor Day heartbreaker to Boise State to kick off 2010, did the unthinkable in Week 2 falling to FCS James Madison 21-16 in Blacksburg. The Hokies were able to regroup and win the conference, but the loss to JMU further darkened the ACC’s black eye when it comes to football.
This season, the conference once again gave Florida State a prime time spot on Labor Day, but this time, the Seminoles will have 12 days prepare for their next contest. While the ‘Noles might not necessarily need two weeks to prepare for Nevada, history has shown that five days rest simply isn’t enough time to come out and play your best no matter who the opponent.