Gumbel's Machine: Art of the Cupcake

LB Jeff Luc (NoleDigest.com)

Florida State is ready to feast on another cupcake Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium. However, will devouring Charleston Southern truly get the 'Noles ready for No. 1 Oklahoma the following week?

From little "cupcakeries" popping up all over town to the more health-conscious people finding a calorie-purging way to enjoy a baker's delight, cupcakes are getting trendier by the day.

And while I'm certainly no expert on the world of yellow cake and frosting, I have had some success with cupcakes in the past.

But the art of cupcakery isn't just reserved for weddings and birthdays. For years, some of our favorite college football teams have used cupcakes to start off a season, build momentum and develop team chemistry.

Cupcake games are why Stanford creamed San Jose State 57-3 during the opening weekend. Cupcake games allowed Ohio State to devour Akron in a 42-0 shutout. Better still, cupcake games formed the perfect recipe for a 62-0 baking of this week's opponent, Charleston Southern, by UCF.

This cupcake without a doubt puts some butter-cream coating on all the anticipation of the Seminoles' Week 2 matchup at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Saturday showdown against Charleston Southern already has fans excited about the opportunity to see the scoreboard dial up some video game-like numbers. FSU's affair with CSU, on paper, should be more one-sided than a police suspect's view of a two-way mirror.

In the opener, the 'Noles blanked ULM 34-0. FSU cooked up 63 plays, picked up 21 first downs and racked up 372 total yards on offense. In comparison, Charleston Southern only had 119 total yards against UCF and moved the first-down marker a grand total of six times. CSU completed nine passes for just 70 yards. Florida State wide receiver Greg Dent nearly eclipsed that with his only catch of the day: a 50-yard touchdown strike from starting quarterback E.J. Manuel.

As sweet as the Week-2 enemy seems for FSU, you can believe coach Jimbo Fisher has been making sure his team won't have an allergic reaction to this most obvious of cupcake games.

Recent such allergic reactions include the Appalachian State upset of Michigan back in 2007. Defending BCS champion Auburn showed symptoms in its debut this past week against Utah State, before a fourth-quarter miracle cleared them right up.

In FSU's case, a relatively recent allergic reaction made everybody nervous in the 2009 rain-soaked affair against Jacksonville State in Tallahassee. A lackluster and confused garnet-and-gold squad needed to score 12 points in the final 35 seconds of that game just to steal a 19-9 victory over the FCS also-ran. Seminole Nation could even go back to the 2006 home bout with Troy, in which the Trojans showed enough fight to push the 'Noles to a nail-biting 24-17 final score.

But over the years, the Seminoles have been able to win the kind of cupcake games that would make Betty Crocker proud. In 2010, they battered Samford 53-6. In 2008, they whipped Western Carolina 69-0 and coated Chattanooga with a 46-7 beatdown. In 2005, The Citadel moistened its way to Capital City and gave the eventual ACC champions a 62-10 laugher.

There's no doubt that the highlights from the 34-0 win against ULM can help build up an immunity to any surprise sickness out of CSU. The confidence gained from FSU's season-opening cupcake should only add flavor to the gameplan, as Fisher and Co. continue to polish their basic plays prior to a full-course meal Sept. 17 with top-ranked Oklahoma.

As the NCAA landscape gets more and more inconsistent about quality of wins and strength of schedule, it's still safe to schedule a cupcake or two early. The chance to get returning starters comfortable with what they've practiced eventually spills over onto younger players getting some real experience outside of practice. Fans will be able to get a longer look at talents like Timmy Jernigan, Jeff Luc, Avis Commack, Devonta Freeman, Rashad Greene and Karlos Williams, who may not have gotten as many reps had FSU opened 2011 with traditional conference rivals or legitimate BCS contenders.

Cupcakes allow coaches to discipline wayward playmakers (Greg Reid, Telvin Smith) without costing the rest of the team a crucial game in the win-loss column. They allow players that are still recovering from lingering injuries (Willie Haulstead) an extra week of treatment.

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Call it an in-season chance for coaches to evaluate the roster during game-time scenarios. Call it a money grab for smaller schools to give their players -- and fans -- the thrill of competing against a national powerhouse. Call it the perfect way for FSU to prepare for its most significant home game in a decade.

Or you can simply call it a cupcake.

Florida State is still hungry for yet another self-esteem boost to start this season of such high expectations. It's only natural for cupcakes to be consumed.

We'll know after Week 3 whether these cupcake appetizers fattened the Seminoles up for a satisfying national-championship winter, or simply stuffed them with a bloated sense of false hope.


Elton Gumbel is a sports anchor and reporter for WCTV in Tallahassee, as well as a regular contributor to NoleDigest.com.

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