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FSU ready to step out of SEC shadow

Moultrie native and former Colquitt County star lineman Cameron Erving (No. 75), now a junior on the Florida State football team, runs off the before the Seminoles’ game earlier this season against Florida. Erving and the Seminoles are ready to end the SEC’s reign of national titles. (Reuters)

Moultrie native and former Colquitt County star lineman Cameron Erving (No. 75), now a junior on the Florida State football team, runs off the before the Seminoles’ game earlier this season against Florida. Erving and the Seminoles are ready to end the SEC’s reign of national titles. (Reuters)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Cam Erving cringes at the thought of a full stadium chanting “SEC, SEC, SEC.”

The rallying cry from fans of Southeastern Conference programs, regardless of their specific affiliation to a team, usually comes after a big victory from the conference. The chant happens frequently.

Growing up in Moultrie, Erving was a Georgia fan, so he understands the passion SEC fans have for football.

Since he arrived at FSU, Erving obviously switched his allegiance to the Seminoles and convinced his family and friends in Southwest Georgia to do the same. Still, hearing about the mighty SEC is unavoidable in Tallahassee.

Erving’s first priority is to lead No. 1 FSU (13-0) to a win in the BCS National Championship Game against No. 2 Auburn (12-1). But the chance to halt the SEC’s run of seven consecutive national titles in one fell swoop would be a nice bonus.

“It’s the underdog, I love it,” said Erving, a former star lineman at Colquitt County. “Go somewhere where no one thinks you’re going to win and come out, bring the program back to the top and now we’re in the national championship. To be in the position we’re in as a program is amazing.”

The storyline of FSU posing a serious threat to end the SEC’s run as top dog is gaining traction heading into the championship contest on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif.

FSU is an eight-point favorite against Auburn and has been built in the mold of an SEC team: The Seminoles are physical and big along both the offensive and defensive lines, yet have an abundance of athletes at other positions.

It’s a formula that has worked for the SEC and is how FSU coach Jimbo Fisher wanted to construct his program. However, Fisher, who won a national title as an offensive coordinator at LSU in 2003, maintains he did not think SEC when building his program.

“I’ll build a team that I think will win a championship, I ain’t worried (about the SEC),” Fisher said. “I’ve coached in the SEC for 13 years, I know the good and the bad. I know the propaganda and the truths. It’s a great league, great coaches, they love it. But we build our team not based off an SEC team, but if it’s like some of them, that’s great.

“But we’ve built one that we think can bring us a championship.”

FSU is in SEC territory.

Of the four SEC teams to win titles in the past seven seasons — Florida (2006, ‘08) LSU (2007), Alabama (2009, ‘11, ‘12) and Auburn (2010) — LSU is furthest from Tallahassee, just 440 miles to the west.

That has not intimidated Fisher.

A large part of FSU’s rise back to prominence is directly tied to Fisher’s and his staff’s ability to go head-to-head with any program on the recruiting trail in the talent-rich Southeast. That includes dipping into Alabama, where Auburn and Alabama — schools that have won the past four combined championships —have had a stranglehold on the state’s top players.

Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, a native of Bessemer, Ala., was plucked away from Auburn and Alabama, as was defensive end Chris Casher.

While Winston places value in beating a team from his home state, he and his teammates have expressed that the narrative of dethroning the SEC is generally overplayed.

“We’re not really worried about the ACC, SEC stuff,” Winston said. “It’s a football game that we’ve got to play … It doesn’t matter what conference we’re in. It doesn’t matter how many championships they’ve been to, doesn’t matter how many championship we’ve been to.

“It’s a matter of pure will and pride.”