During bowl season, it’s often the team that wants it more that comes out on top.
If reports of Florida State players deciding to sit out the Independence Bowl and questions about the team’s eligibility are any indication, the Golden Eagles have a chance to be the more inspired group.
The latest player to decide not to play in the game is starting linebacker Matthew Thomas, according to TomahawkNation.com.
The other players sitting out as they look ahead to the NFL Draft are junior safety Derwin James, junior defensive end Josh Sweat and senior receiver Ermon Lane.
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USM senior receiver Allenzae Staggers, a player who has his own NFL aspirations, is unconcerned with FSU players sitting this one out.
“Forget them,” he said Thursday after practice. “It’s all about us.”
With Thomas, James and Sweat not playing, that means that FSU will be without its top three tacklers on defense.
Thomas played in all 12 games this season, leading the Seminoles in tackles with 85.
Sweat paced FSU in sacks with 5.5 and had 56 tackles. James also played in all 12 games and had 84 tackles.
Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M prior to the regular season finale against Louisiana-Monroe. Oregon head coach Willie Taggart was hired to replace Fisher, but interim head coach Odell Haggins will lead the Seminoles in the bowl game.
FSU (6-6) and Southern Miss 8-4 will kick off at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 27 on ESPN.
What has already been a strange December for Florida State got a little weirder on Thursday.
A report by Reddit indicates that Florida State is not technically eligible to compete in the Independence Bowl.
FSU stands at 6-6 entering the bowl game, including five wins over FBS programs and one victory over Delaware State, an FCS school. This would typically make the Seminoles fully eligible for a bowl, but Reddit reports that the victory over Delaware State shouldn’t be counted toward their six wins because the program fell short of rewarding 90 percent of the FCS scholarship limit.
It’s extremely unlikely that FSU would be denied a chance to play in the bowl game. The school could easily be granted a waiver to compete by the NCAA, but Independence Bowl officials appear unconcerned with the report.
“It’s a matter between the NCAA, Florida State and Delaware State,” Independence Bowl media relations director Stefan Nolet said in a statement released to the Sun Herald. “We are continuing preparations for our game between Southern Miss and Florida State.”
USM head coach Jay Hopson also didn’t seem too worried about the development.
“I don’t know anything about that,” he said. “I just know we’ll be playing a good football team next Wednesday. We’ve got to be prepared. We know at 12 o’clock that ball will be kicked off.”