Seminoles stand alone
Volleyball makes it
Completely unexpected? Perhaps not. Impressive? No debate there.
Three of Florida State's fall sports programs -- football, women's soccer and women's volleyball -- have a chance to win national championships, while another -- women's cross country -- finished its season in eighth place at the NCAA championships last month.
The Seminoles are enjoying the best four-year period in sports in the country with their teams advancing to postseason play in 74 of 76 opportunities. Still, no one had FSU's football team among the top 10 in the preseason rankings. And this Saturday, the Seminoles, 12-0 for the first time since their 1999 national championship season, play Duke for the ACC championship. A victory nearly guarantees FSU a spot in the Bowl Championship Series title game, which would be its first shot at a national title in football since 2000.
The only real knock on the Seminoles is, like Ohio State, their strength of schedule. After pounding Florida last weekend 37-7 in Gainesville, FSU has beaten opponents by an average of 43.8 points per game this season.
Meanwhile, all the FSU women's soccer team has done is move into its third straight College Cup (final four) -- the third school ever to do that twice. And if any more numbers are required, it is the Seminoles' seventh Cup berth, which ranks sixth in NCAA history.
This is the 14th straight NCAA tournament for FSU in the program's 19 years. It advanced to the NCAA tournament by virtue of an ACC title and automatic bid, its second conference title in three years.
As for volleyball, the 16th-ranked Noles have a 28-game ACC home winning streak and now advance to their fifth consecutive NCAA tournament beginning Thursday in Gainesville. FSU advanced to the team's first Final Four in 2011.
An obstacle potentially awaits in the second round, where FSU could meet No. 6 Florida, but considering the roll the Seminoles are on this fall, it’s tough to count them out.
Missouri is a football school. Always has been, even in the bleakest times when Memorial Stadium was half full in dead-end seasons. But along with an unexpectedly fantastic Tigers football season playing out in 2013 -- minus the South Carolina loss -- there's been another fall phenomenon at Mizzou.
That's the volleyball team, which is perfect. MU goes into Friday's NCAA tournament opener at 34-0 and as the No. 4 seed in the 64-team bracket.
Has any school had a more impressive fall that Mizzou? Florida State can make a great case.
I pick the Tigers, but not because I graduated from Mizzou (in 1987, in the depths of the aforementioned bleak times in football). I'm that odd person with no emotional "fan" attachment to my alma mater.
Perhaps that's because I didn't respect the athletic department when I was here in the mid-'80s. It had no vision, lacked dynamic leadership and had a tepid attitude toward women's athletics.
That has all changed. The school that used to not even have an outdoor track now has top-notch facilities. MU fans getting behind a good football team was a given, but they've supported successful volleyball and softball squads in recent years, too.
Mizzou's move to the SEC in 2012 was most daunting in football, where the SEC has been king. The Tigers -- 5-7 overall, 2-6 SEC last season -- were picked sixth in the East Division this year. Yet they are No. 5 in the BCS standings at 11-1 and will face Auburn in the SEC title game.
The MU volleyball team actually was expected to acclimate to the SEC quicker, after the Tigers had faced powerhouses Nebraska and Texas for so long in the Big 12. Still, winning the SEC -- with two victories over fellow top-10 team Florida -- and not dropping a match has brought unprecedented attention to that program.
Now, the volleyball team will attempt a deep run in the NCAA tournament, and the football squad will try to slow down the "magic" Auburn train. Regardless of those pursuits, it's already been an awesome autumn in Columbia.