Texas State, USF, Boston College, Wake Forest, Miami, Louisville, Syracuse, NC State, Chattanooga, Florida
Georgia Tech, Clemson, Houston
The Seminoles rolled through the first half of the season to a 6-0 start before losing a 22-16 matchup against Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Seminoles would bounce back from that defeat with a 45-21 beating of Syracuse in front of a home crowd on Halloween. Florida State would fall the next weekend against Clemson at Death Valley, but would finished out the season with 3 straight wins and averaging 38 points per contest in those 3 victories. They would face the Houston Cougars in the Peach Bowl on NYE, but would end up losing 38-24. All in all, having an undefeated record at home, beating your top 2 rivals, and making it to one of the top bowl games makes for a very successful season.
Jimbo Fisher is heading into his 7th season down in Tallahassee. So far as the Seminoles head coach, Fisher has compiled a record of 68-14 for a winning percentage of 82%. He's taken Florida State to 6 straight bowl games and winning the first 4 (including a national championship against Auburn in 2013). The last two bowl games were losses against Houston in the Peach Bowl and against Oregon in the Rose Bowl during the first year of the CFP. His teams have finished every season with a final AP Poll ranking in the top 25, with 3 seasons finishing in the top 10.
Florida State is returning 19 starters (12 offense, 7 defense). The offense is going to be very stacked, as Jimbo has everyone returning. Among those starters is All-American running back Dalvin Cook, who last year rushed for 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns at an average of 7.38 YPC. They also return two All-Conference receivers in Travis Rudolph and Kermit Whitefield. Those two combined last year for 116 receptions, 1,714 yards, and 13 touchdowns.
On the defensive side of it, DeMarcus Walker lead the team in sacks last year at 10.5, lead the team in tackles for loss at 15.5, and had himself an interception to go along with that. In the secondary, Derwin James started as a freshman in 2015 and was second on the team in tackles with 91 (52 solo, 39 assisted). He also forced two fumbles (recovering one of them), had 4 passes broken up, and was credited with two quarterback hurries.
Last year, FSU split starts between junior Sean Maguire and Everett Golson, who transferred to the program after getting his degree at Notre Dame. Golson is out of eligibility (and I think somewhere up in the CFL). Maguire missed the entire spring due to an ankle injury, leaving first-team reps with redshirt-freshman Deondre Francois and true freshman Malik Henry. The two took advantage of the opportunity, both starting in the spring game, and giving Seminole fans excitement for the future. Francois finished the game 20-of-33 for 246 yards, two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions.
Henry finished 15-of-22 for 205 yards, two touchdowns, but managed to not commit a turnover. While these are pretty good stat lines for two freshmen who don't have any playing experience, there are still inconsistencies with both, so it's not a given that either will take over the starting roll from Maguire when he returns. It'll definitely be a QB battle to watch as we enter camp in a few weeks.
Figuring out how to replace some key components in the secondary. The Seminoles lose first-round pick cornerback Jalen Ramsey and safety Lamarcus Brutus. Both of those guys started all 13 games last year. That's not to say that FSU is facing a problem with no real solution. The frontrunner to replace Ramsey is sophomore Tarvarus McFadden (a former five-star recruit). Senior Nate Andrews can fill the open safety position, but playing closer to the line of scrimmage fits his strengths a little better.
The running game is what is going to carry this team to a potential return to the playoffs. The offensive line returns all of its starters from last year which includes a senior, two juniors, and two sophomores. Dalvin Cook is coming off an All-American season and will look to do the same again this year with either a senior quarterback who has been up and down in his career or two freshmen who haven't seen any real action yet. It also helps the running game that there are legitimate weapons in the receiving corps, so teams can't just stack the box every down. Cook is also a threat in the receiving game as he caught 24 passes last year for 244 yards and a score.
4 players to remember
Dalvin Cook-All-American running back coming off a year where he rushed for over 1,500 yards and had 20 total touchdowns.
Derwin James-Played in all 13 games last year, and was second on the team in tackles as a freshman.
Demarcus Walker-Senior defensive end who lead the team in sacks and tackles for loss.
Travis Rudolph-Returning leading receiver from 2015 in yards (916), catches (59), and touchdowns (7) as a sophomore.
The Cards will host the Seminoles for a noon kickoff in the third week of the season after a Friday night road trip to Syracuse the week before. I like having a shot at Florida State early in the season as there is a better chance that the offense won't be clicking on all cylinders as they probably will be by October and on in to November. Florida State's matchup before playing the Cards will be against Charleston Southern in Tallahassee, but they do open up the season against Ole Miss. All off-season there have been talks of Louisville finally beating either Clemson or Florida State. Personally, I think Florida State would be that victory since it's at home, the QB play isn't as dynamic as Clemson's, and our defense is very talented and can take on Cook. The matchup of Keith Kelsey facing Dalvin Cook is going to be a fun one to watch.