Even with an Orange Bowl win over Michigan, it still wasn’t the type of season Florida State fans want out of the team. Three Conference losses – one a blowout to Louisville and another loss to Clemson – isn’t something that should happen to a team with this talent. The bowl win was nice, but the Seminoles have bigger aspirations with the third-best odds to win the National Championship (+775 at 5Dimes Sportsbook) this season.
FSU returns 16 starters and more importantly Deondre Francois (58.8% completion, 20 TDs, 7 INTs) for his sophomore season. While he didn’t look great in the spring Game with new receivers, he’s going to be a major factor for this offense, especially without Dalvin Cook. The quest will be to find a go-to receiver, and right now Nyqwan Murray (441 yards, 5 TDs) and Auden Tate (409 yards, 6 TDs) lead the charge. In place of Cook, Cam Akers looks to be the immediate replacement with last year’s backup Jacques Patrick in the mix, as well. The biggest thing to improving this offense will be improving the offensive line. It didn’t look great in the spring with a few guys sitting out, and returnees center Alec Eberle and Cole Minshew have to get the group rolling.
After an up-and-down season defensively, the Seminoles should be much better and at least more consistent than last year’s group. That’s made possible with the return of do-it-all safety Derwin James and Nate Andrews, both of whom missed a lot of time last season. But it’s not just them supplying the talent as the line remains loaded despite losing their top pass-rusher. Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas will win most battles in the trenches, while linebacker is set with a trio that returns it’s top guys, namely top tackler Matthew Thomas. As long as they can stay healthy unlike a year ago, this team could be headed for big things this season.
Of course, that could change immediately if Alabama carves through the Seminoles in the opener, a la the USC Game last season. Yet, as long as the ‘Noles stay competitive, that could be enough to eventually make the Playoff, as long as the ACC Schedule goes well. The question will be if FSU can get those ever-important road wins at Clemson and Florida in the final month of the season. And of course, there’s still a meeting with Louisville (albeit in Tallahassee) against LAmar Jackson and a team that carved them up for 63 points in 2016.
This team has the tools, but it’s another thing to get past the Schedule and make the Playoff. The Seminoles have the best spring odds (+120 at 5Dimes) to win the ACC, with most of that due to Clemson having a new quarterback and getting to host Louisville. As long as Francois improves and James brings a new level to the defense, the Seminoles will be a difficult team to take down. But if things get ugly in the opener and injuries creep up, then who knows what’ll be in store for this team.
2017 Florida State Seminoles Football Schedule
Sept. 2 vs. Alabama (Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta)
Sept. 9 vs. Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 16 vs. Miami (FL)
Sept. 23 vs. NC State
Sept. 30 at Wake Forest
Oct. 14 at Duke
Oct. 21 vs. Louisville
Oct. 27 at Boston College
Nov. 4 vs. Syracuse
Nov. 11 at Clemson
Nov. 18 vs. Delaware State
Nov. 25 at Florida