With the 2013 college football season rapidly approaching, fans are craving any and every taste of what is to come in what should be an invigorating year. As we inch closer to the action kicking off on August 29, I'll release schedule analysis for a new ACC school every other day. For now, let's take a look at the Florida State Seminoles:
Sept. 2 - at Pittsburgh
Sept. 7 - Open
Sept. 14 - Nevada
Sept. 21 - Bethune-Cookman
Sept. 28 - at Boston College
Oct. 5 - Maryland
Oct. 12 - Open
Oct. 19 - at Clemson
Oct. 26 - NC State
Nov. 2 - Miami
Nov. 9 - at Wake Forest
Nov. 16 - Syracuse
Nov. 23 - Idaho
Nov. 30 - at Florida
Schedule obtained from the official website of Florida State athletics
The question of whether or not Florida State was "back" seemed to dominate conversation heading into the 2012 college football season. What ultimately transpired fell short of the level we saw with the '90s dynasty that made Bobby Bowden a legend, but a 12-2 record is by no means anything to be upset about.
Star quarterback E.J. Manuel is now in the NFL, along with several defensive studs, but the group returning still leaves much reason for optimism. Beyond that, the Seminoles also have a schedule that gives them a shot at claiming yet another conference championship that would add to a decorated trophy case.
Outside of their usual showdown with Florida, the Garnet and Gold shouldn't stumble over any of their non-conference opponents. While they haven't found a way to win at Clemson since 2001, with a little luck in Death Valley, the Noles might just find a way to be a Top 10 team at the end of the year.
It becomes clear that the spring game was no fluke, and Jameis Winston is the man at quarterback. Of course, this is no surprise after head coach Jimbo Fisher turned Manuel and Christian Ponder into first-round draft picks after doing the same thing with JaMarcus Russell at LSU.
Winston isn't the only beneficiary of five returning starters on the offensive line, as James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman have an easier time getting things going in the run game. Although the defense lost a lot of talent to the NFL, new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt brings new blitz packages to compensate for what would otherwise be a rebuilding year for the defensive line.
As one of only two true contenders in the Atlantic Division, the Seminoles find success in two away games against the teams in orange that have given them trouble on the road for such a long time. Fisher keeps his foot on the pedal against the lesser opponents, avoiding upsets that have plagued his team over the last few years, and Florida State wins its second consecutive ACC title.
It only takes a couple injuries to devastate FSU's offensive line, and depth issues up front haunt the team all season. Without an O-line to consistently keep the pressure away, Winston suffers through more growing pains than expected, and the unit as a whole becomes an overall disappointment.
Lamarcus Joyner is back to lead a defense that was among the nation's best just a season ago, but it's not enough with Tank Carradine, Bjoern Werner and Brandon Jenkins now playing on Sundays. While the offense has trouble keeping defenders away from its signal-caller, the defense is unable to get enough pressure on opposing QBs.
Games against Clemson and Florida aren't even close, and another fourth-quarter lead is blown in 2013. The rivalry game against Miami goes poorly, and after taking a step forward last year, the Noles take a couple steps back this time around with only eight regular-season wins.
There is not a single game on this schedule that Florida State cannot win. While it's difficult to picture this team going undefeated, not a single one of these matchups can be pinned as a predetermined loss.
Fisher can't afford to lose O-linemen, and he also must capitalize on early leads and keep from getting too conservative in late-game situations. A lot rests on the shoulders of Winston, and if he can replicate the playmaking ability he displayed for fans back in April, FSU might be "back" sooner rather than later.
Also check out:
Schedule analysis for Boston College
Schedule analysis for Wake Forest
Schedule analysis for NC State
Schedule analysis for Maryland
Schedule analysis for Syracuse
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