Six down, six more to go in this year’s Syracuse Orange football preview series. At this point in the season, SU will be finishing what should be the roughest three-game stretch. North Carolina was the first conference road game for the Orange, and seven days later, they’ll have another one before the bye.
Unfortunately for ‘Cuse, it’s the second time in three weeks that the opposition has a great track record against them - and this particular group is striving for heights not reached since the days of Jimbo Fisher....
Florida State Seminoles
School: Florida State University
Mascots: Cimarron (official); Osceola and Renegade (symbols of the Seminole people)
#BRAND Slogans: #NoleFamily, #KeepCLIMBing, #OneTribe
Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: #BuiltByBobby, #KeepFALLing or “State of (Conference) Denial”
Recommended Blog: Tomahawk Nation
History vs. Syracuse: The less said here, the better. The Orange are only 2-12 in the all-time series, with victories in 2018 and the inaugural 1966 matchup. The majority of losses have been by at least two scores, and SU has yet to win in Tallahassee. (Seventh time’s the charm?) Last year, the ‘Noles ruined Senior Day with a 38-3 thrashing of the Orange that we’d very much like to put behind us.
As part of the ACC’s new 3-5-5 scheduling model, SU and FSU will face each other annually through 2026. Yay...
Coach: Mike Norvell, fourth season. The ‘Noles gave Norvell a six-year contract to resurrect their football program, and after some early concerns, it’s starting to pay off. Before coming to FSU, Mike coached Memphis to four straight bowl games and the 2019 AAC title. Norvell has a head coaching record of 56-31; prior to that, he also held assistant jobs at Arizona State, Pitt, Tulsa, and his alma mater Central Arkansas.
2022 Record: (10-3) (5-3)
Recapping Last Season:
2022 was a season of streaks for the Seminoles. A Week 0 win over Duquesne, victory over LSU in the SuperDome, and a pair of ACC dubs put them at 4-0 to begin the campaign. Then came three straight games against ranked opponents: #22 Wake Forest, #14 NC State, and #4 Clemson. All three ended up as narrow defeats, followed by a week off at the perfect time. The offense then exploded to the tune of 41, 45, 38, 49, and 45 points and over 400 yards gained in each of the final five games. That strong finish bought FSU a ticket to the Cheez-It Bowl, where they outdueled Oklahoma 35-32.
Jordan Travis won MVP in the bowl for a superb performance - which was nothing new for the Seminoles’ star QB. 2022 was the year he finally broke out and was consistently good across the board. Travis accumulated over 3,600 total yards, 31 total touchdowns, and a 64% completion rate while leading an offense that ranked Top-10 nationally in total yards per game. A loaded RB room featuring two legit options in Trey Benson and Treshaun Ward led the way to an ACC-best in rushing yards. While they carved up run defenses, FSU’s many deep threats did just as well confusing secondaries. Johnny and Onaria “Pokey” Wilson (no relation) were the top options, with the former earning All-ACC second team honors.
The lockdown pass defense was second only to Texas A&M among P5 teams, allowing less than 160 yards through the air on average. Quarterbacks dreaded facing Jared Verse and company up front - who wouldn’t when they racked up 40 sacks on the year? Even when they got the ball out in time, it was often deflected away (45 pass breakups) or caught by the wrong color jersey (eight interceptions). On Special Teams, Kicker Ryan Fitzgerald missed just one PAT on the season and was decent from under 50 yards.
2023 Season Outlook:
Just like last season, the ‘Noles will play their eight ACC games in the middle of the season, starting and ending with half of their other opponents. This time, FSU will get the crowd advantage against LSU in Orlando. They'll host Southern Miss and North Alabama in what should be easy wins, along with ACC games against Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Duke, and Miami. Road games are at Boston College, Clemson, Wake Forest, Pitt, and Florida.
The returning offensive line is the most veteran group in all of college football. After allowing just 15 sacks last season, they'll once again make it extremely difficult to stop Travis, who is now a super senior. Johnny Wilson is still at the top of the depth chart... for now. Former West Virginia WR1 Winston Wright Jr. can finally debut after missing all of 2022 with an injury, and Michigan State transfer Keon Coleman is yet another lethal weapon for Travis to throw to. Benson and Lawrance Toafili retain the mold of two dependable rushers.
The defense got even more loaded with Western Michigan's Braden Fiske and Miami's Darrell Jackson joining the line. Tackle-leader Jammie Robinson will be missed at safety, but he's the only major departure.
Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, October 14
Location: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida
Odds of Orange Victory: 5%
Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse:
This is a legitimate National Championship contender. Barring injuries to multiple key contributors, they should have little to no trouble pouncing on an Orange squad who, despite having talented 1s, lack depth and experience against top quality foes. As I mentioned in the Clemson preview, those two teams both have their sights on January football. Neither can afford any missteps after facing each other, and against the noise of 80,000+ AND elite competition, SU just doesn’t stand a chance here.
I’ll happily wear the Disloyal Idiot™ badge if I’m wrong, but otherwise, ‘Cuse can rest and regroup with their Bye in Week 8, then hopefully come out of the break strong just as these Seminoles did last year.