As you already knew (since we're pretty far into these), we've been taking a look at all of the Syracuse Orange's opponents for this fall. The schedule is still as difficult as always. Just the same, we're choosing an optimistic outlook on each week, where possible. Today, it's not all that possible, since we're discussing the::
School: Florida State University
#BRAND Slogan: "Raise the Torch"
Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: "Nole-in' in the Deep." "STATE CHAMPS."
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Coach: Jimbo Fisher, 7th year. Fisher is one of college football's best coaches. In six years at the helm at FSU, he's won at least 10 games five separate times, taken home three ACC titles and one national championship. The Seminoles are one of the nation's recruiting powers each and every year. Fisher's fought to get more money to retain his assistants (and succeeded), and under his leadership, anything short of national title contention is deemed to be falling short. Very few programs can make claims like that, which is a testament to both Fisher and his predecessor, Bobby Bowden.
2015 Record: (10-3) (6-2)
Recapping Last Season:
When you go 27-1 over the course of two years like Florida State did from 2013 to 2014, it's easy for anything less to seem like a step back. But a 10-3 season that saw the defense and offense both fail to meet previous levels of production, paired with a blowout loss to Houston in the Peach Bowl, will get people to overreact.a bit. Looking at the positive side of things, the Seminoles still managed to win 10 games while transitioning at QB and replacing a ton of other pieces around the roster. Elite-level recruiting certainly makes that easier.
Offensively, things were largely reliant on a passing game that struggled for consistency. Neither Everett Golson or Sean Maguire were able to put up incredible numbers, though Golson was at least able to cut down on mistakes and make plays more frequently. The run game, outside of all-world Dalvin Cook, wasn't much better -- though again, at least they had Cook, who still racked up nearly 1,700 yards to go with 19 TDs. The offense, in general, failed to produce at a rate that put games clear of the opposing offense -- a problem that would rear its head a couple times.
It must've been frustrating, then, for Florida State's defense to have to pick up the slack as consistently as they did. Led by All-American Jalen Ramsey, FSU was top 20 in total D and top 10 in scoring. While the Seminoles weren't generating a ton of turnovers (just 15 on the year), they got a great push from the line (32 sacks) and again, were assisted by Ramsey and the rest of the Florida State secondary locking down opposing receivers. The 21st-ranked pass defense in the country allowed just 14 touchdowns through the air, despite plenty of opponents playing from behind.
2016 Season Outlook:
How much this offense grows and improves will be determined by who lands the quarterback job. Maguire returns, but he'll be tested by J.J. Cosentino and Deondre Francois this summer before the position's finally decided. Cook's back, which says great things about the running game's outlook, and every single receiving option is back. Yes, every one. We talked about the ACC's top receivers yesterday and that list featured two Florida State players in Kermit Whitfield and Travis Rudolph. It wouldn't have been tough to add Jesus Wilson that list either. Cook can also catch the football a bit himself, and will again this season. Again, if the QB position is settled in a way that improves compared to last year, this offense may be ready to lift off.
Oh, and the 'Noles must also replace star kicker Robert Aguayo. At least the offense pretty much brings back everyone, which could mean less leaning on field goals and a whole lot more touchdowns.
The defense loses about half of last year's group, including Ramsey, but brings back plenty of production as well, especially along the line. Defensive end DeMarcus Walker is one of the country's best returning sack artists, and a force on the outside paired with fellow starter Josh Sweat. Florida State's linebackers hit the reset button a little, and depth there could be a concern past the first three or four names on the depth chart. The Seminoles' secondary, while also replacing a lot, at least has the depth to plug in for departed players like Ramsey, Lamarcus Brutus and Javien Elliott.
Florida State, while perhaps trailing behind Clemson by a step in the preseason polls, is every much in step with them as a potential playoff team. The schedule ramps up quite a bit, however. By the end of the first six games -- a slate that includes matchups against Ole Miss, Louisville, South Florida, North Carolina and Miami -- the country will know exactly what this team's ceiling is.
Syracuse Game Date: November 19
Location: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, N.Y.
Odds of Orange Victory: 12 percent
Very Early Outlook:
Despite this happening, Syracuse sort of looked like they were going to hang around against Florida State for a half last year. They didn't, clearly, and it's not looking much better for them this year. With a fully operational offense, FSU should tear up a very young Orange defense at the Dome. The only chance SU has is in the turnover game, as last year's Seminoles didn't force a ton. The Orange aren't going to be able to win simply by trying to outscore FSU. Unfortunately, they'll lose a track meet going away. An upset against this College Football Playoff contender just doesn't appear likely this year.