Manuel: Seniors should eye BCS crown

EJ Manuel probably answered the question a hundred times Sunday, but nothing about his response was rehearsed.

He knew what was coming, of course. The hype surrounding Florida State has been building for months, and even Manuel addressed this season's expectations in terms of national championships rather than conference titles.

But those are lofty heights, and so the amassed media Sunday at ACC Football Kickoff wanted to know: Why is this the season Florida State finally puts it all together?

"It has to be the year," Manuel said. "It's my last year."

There are more reasons to believe, of course, and Manuel heard them all Sunday.

His defense is dominant, his receivers are impressive, his leadership ties everything together. Manuel believes these things, too, so there was no point in downplaying the hype.

'Up to us to play'

Meanwhile, Clemson defensive end Malliciah Goodman simply shook his head.

The Tigers, after all, are the reigning champs, and they've got some pretty impressive talent returning for 2012, too. The ignominy earned in a 70-33 throttling by West Virginia in last season's Orange Bowl diminished much of that luster, however, and so Clemson gets to fly under the radar this summer.

"My opinion: I don't care who they pick," Goodman said. "It's up to us to play the game. Opinions don't make an impact on us."

Wake Forest barely warrants a mention in the conference title talk this time of year, but nose guard Nikita Whitlock remembers fondly how the Demon Deacons forced five turnovers in a win over the Seminoles just last season.

That ought to count for something, he said, but it's tough to overlook the talent on FSU's roster.

"If I was a betting man," Whitlock said, "I'd pick Florida State, too."

N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon lauded the Seminoles' ferocious defense. Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas praised Manuel's leadership.

They all helped feed the monster, but Manuel knows what all the hype really means.

'Want to leave a legacy'

"When you sign a letter of intent to FSU, that's what you should expect," he said. "Playing for Florida State, people are always going to have their arrows pointed at your chest. They want to beat you."

So there's no sense in ignoring it. Instead, Manuel is embracing the role, and he's happy to answer the questions.

Is this the year for Florida State?

There's really only one answer Manuel can give, and he's not interested in tempering those expectations. After all, he expects to meet them.

"As seniors, we want to leave a legacy at Florida State," Manuel said. "We can say we helped bring back a national championship. We helped put Florida State back where it used to be. We have to make it that year."