It doesn't seem like that long ago that the Florida State Seminoles were setting an NCAA record with 14 consecutive top five finishes in the AP football poll. However, their final placement in the top five AP rankings was in 2000.
During that 14 year span, the Seminoles had a combined record of 152-19-1, for an average record of 11 wins and only one defeat per season.
Since the conclusion of that 2000 season, however, Florida State have been a shell of the former self and a model of inconsistency. Over the past 12 seasons, the Seminoles have had complied a mediocre record of 105-52 and zero top five AP rankings.
With that said, the Seminoles appear to be getting back on track and could be close to ascending back to the elite of college football. Last season, head coach Jimbo Fisher led the Seminoles to a 12-2 record, a conference championship and an Orange Bowl victory.
Make no mistake about it—the Seminoles are at a cross roads. Will they take the next step in becoming a national powerhouse again? Or, will the turnover, both on the roster and coaching staff, lead to an extended stay in the land of mediocrity?
The college football world has been looking for the return of the mighty Seminoles since their surprising departure from the elite in 2001.
Watch the official Bleacher Report Florida State Seminoles preview video.
The 2012 season might be remembered as the season that almost was. The Seminoles finished the season with their first top ten national ranking in 12 seasons. However, early in the season, the Seminoles looked poised to be the team ready to dethrone the SEC's national championship run.
The first three games of the season, Florida State outscored their opponents 176-3 and moved up to No. 4 in the national rankings.
In week four, the Seminoles faced their first real challenge of the season. The No. 10 ranked Clemson Tigers came into Doak Campbell Stadium to square off with the Seminoles in a heated conference rivalry game.
The Tigers jumped on the Seminoles early and took a 21-14 lead into half time. However, the Seminoles would take charge in the second half outscoring Clemson by 19 points on their way to a 49-37 victory at home. The defense was not as dominant at their first four games of the season, but Florida State did rack up 667 yards of offense in the victory.
Week four brought the first road game of the season as the Seminoles stayed in-state to take on the South Florida Bulls. Florida State got off to a sluggish start but eventually pulled away for a 30–17 victory.
The Seminoles headed into week five with a No. 3 national ranking. However, after their trip to Raleigh, NC to face North Carolina State, they would plummet out of the top ten.
The Seminoles started the game the way the experts predicted. They jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead. However, Florida State might have gotten a little to confident. In 2011 they had defeated the Wolfpack 34-0. That game, combined with the first half of the 2012 game, meant the Seminoles had outscored North Carolina State 50-0 in the six prior quarters they played against their ACC foes.
Unfortunately for Seminoles fans, Florida State forgot to show up in the second half. After the Wolfpack blocked a punt by the Seminoles with just 2:27 left in the game, the Wolfpack were able to complete three fourth-down passes on the final drive, including two inside the 15 yard line before scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 16 seconds left.
Had just one of those fourth-down passes fallen to the ground, the Seminoles could had made a legit push for the BCS National Championship Game.
The Seminoles would rebound by winning five consecutive games. In that stretch they would defeat Boston College (52-7), the Miami Hurricanes (33-20), the Duke Blue Devils (48-7), Virginia Tech (28-22) and the Maryland Terps (41-14).
In the season finale, the Seminoles would self-destruct for the second time in the 2012 season. Playing their instate rivals, the Florida Gators, the Seminoles took a 20-13 lead into the third quarter.
However, they were outscored 24-6 in the final quarter and fell in defeat 37-26. More frustrating was the five turnovers they gave up in defeat. The loss once again dropped them out of the top 10.
The Seminoles would have to regroup quickly as they were slated to play in the ACC championship game the following week with an automatic BCS bowl game bid on the line. Florida State seemed to still be hungover from the loss to the Gators the week before. They beat the Georgia Tech 21-15 after building a 21-0 lead in the first half.
With the win, the Seminoles secured an invitation to the Orange Bowl to face the Northern Illinois Huskies of the MAC. The Seminoles would roll the Huskies 31-10 behind 534 yards of offense.
Though the Seminoles were only a few plays away from playing for the BCS national championship in 2012, it was their best season since 2000.
Quarterback EJ Manuel led the potent Florida State offense with over 3,700 total yards of offense and 27 total touchdowns. Manuel's outstanding play during the 2012 season, elevated him to being selected No. 16 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.
Manuel was not alone as the Seminoles led all universities in players drafted in the 2013 draft with 11.
5 Jameis Winston | 6-4, 225, RS FR
14 Jacob Coker | 6-5, 235, RS SO
32 James Wilder Jr. | 6-2, 229, JR
8 Devonta Freeman | 5-8, 203, JR
80 Rashad Greene | 6-0, 180, JR
1 Kelvin Benjamin | 6-5, 243, SO
81 Kenny Shaw | 6-0, 170, SR
89 Christian Green | 6-2, 206, RS JR
41 Chad Abram | 6-0, 230, SR
42 Shayne Broxsie | 6-2, 260, RS SR
35 Nick O'Leary | 6-3, 246, JR
4 Giorgio Newberry | 6-6, 280, RS SO
75 Cameron Erving | 6-6, 320, RS JR
74 Jonathan Wallace | 6-7, 290, RS SR
51 Bobby Hart | 6-5, 314, JR
52 Bryan Stork | 6-4, 300, RS SR
70 Josue Matias | 6-6, 325, JR
60 Jacob Fahrenkrug | 6-4, 326, RS SR
54 Tre Jackson | 6-4, 330, JR
65 Ruben Carter | 6-4, 309, RS SO
52 Bryan Stork | 6-4, 300, RS SR
62 Austin Barron | 6-3, 300, JR
15 Mario Edwards | 6-4, 285, SO
21 Chris Casher | 6-4, 260, RS FR
6 Dan Hicks | 6-4, 260, RS SR
4 Giorgio Newberry | 6-6, 280, RS SO
8 Timmy Jernigan | 6-2, 294, JR
99 N. Lawrence-Stample | 6-1, 314, RS SO 55
97 D. McAllister | 6-2, 298, RS SR
90 Eddie Goldman | 6-4, 313, SO
7 Christian Jones | 6-4, 235, SR
5 Reggie Northrup | 6-1, 223, SO
24 Terrance Smith | 6-4, 222, SO
52 Ukeme Eligwe | 6-2, 240, RS FR
22 Telvin Smith | 6-3, 218, SR
4 Freddie Stevenson | 6-1, 237, FR
20 Lamarcus Joyner | 5-8, 190, SR
3 Ronald Darby | 5-11, 190, SO
6 Nick Waisome | 5-10, 176, JR
26 P.J. Williams | 6-0, 193, SO
9 Karlos Williams | 6-1, 229, JR
1 Tyler Hunter | 6-0, 194, JR
31 Terrence Brooks | 5-11, 200, SR
23 Gerald Demps | 5-11, 200, RS SR
The most notable injury that the Seminoles coaching staff is watching is that of ACC rookie of the year Ronald Darby. The sophomore cornerback had surgery for a sports hernia earlier in the year and is not back up to full speed yet. However, he is starting to make strides in practice and could rejoin the first unit soon.
Wide receiver Jarred Haggins will miss this season with a stress fracture in his kneecap. Although Haggins only caught eight passes for 108 yards, his departure is yet another hit to the wide receiver unit. Wide receiver Greg Dent's career at Florida State is likely over as he has been charged with felony sexual assault. Moreover, senior wide receiver Willie Haulstead was ruled academically ineligible last week and is also no longer with the team.
Starting left tackle Cameron Erving and backup defensive end Davarez Bryant have sat out the past few practices with some minor bruises and scrapes. Both players would be ready to go today if needed. However, coach Fisher is just being extra cautious with the season soon approaching.
With only four starters back on defense and seven on offense, there is plenty of room for new players to arrive on the scene and have a significant impact. None, however, will have as many eyes on them as redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston.
Winston has potential to be the kind of quarterback that takes a program to the next level. The former five star recruit has yet to play one down of college football during the regular season. However, he was electrifying in the spring game.
He completed 12 of 15 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns including a 58-yard scoring pass to David Tyrell on his first pass of the game.
On the defensive side of the ball, look for an All-American type year out of Florida State nose tackle Timmy Jernigan. Despite being a reserve, Jernigan had 46 tackles and eight tackles for loss last season.
This season Jernigan's minutes will increase and his performance should as well. Despite his 6'2'' and 292 pound frame, Jernigan's explodes off the ball and will wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines.
|28-Sep||at Boston College|
|9-Nov||at Wake Forest|
Most Important Games
@ Clemson Tigers: The Florida State Seminoles will be at least a two touchdown favorite for their first four games of the season. However, their fifth game will likely decide who will represent the ACC Atlantic Division in the conference championship game.
The Seminoles will march into Death Valley with huge national and conference implications on the line. Florida State will have a bye week leading up to their game against the 8th-ranked Clemson Tigers. However, will their defense have enough experience to slow down Tajh Boyd and the high powered Tigers offense.
Miami Hurricanes: Miami has lost three in a row in the series, but the Hurricanes are loaded with young talent and looking to knock off the Seminoles in Tallahassee. Al Golden now enters his third year at Miami and welcomes back 18 starters this season.
The offense brings back 10 starters from a unit that put up over 31 points per game last year. However, the defense was less than impressive last season. This game has shootout written all over it.
@ Florida Gators: Although The Gators were a legitimate national title contender last year, this Florida team is much less talented and lacks big game experience with only 10 starters back. The defense was stellar last season but the Gators lost five of its top six tacklers.
If the Gators are going to beat the Seminoles, they will need quarterback Jeff Driskel to take his game to the next level. While he was serviceable last season, he could be very good in 2013.
In 2012, Florida State ran the ball 55 percent of the time and that number will not decrease in 2013 with a new quarterback. The Seminoles ran the ball for 205.9 yards per game last season. That was their highest average since 1995.
Moreover, Florida State was ninth in all of college football with 40 rushing touchdowns.
Although the Seminoles will have a new quarterback at the helm this season, the drop-off at that position will not be as great as some might think. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston is the likely starter and could be one of college football’s top breakout players for 2013.
Though having a quarterback with zero college experience is dangerous, the Noles have a lot of talent around him. Florida State returns 75 percent of their receiving yards last season with only Rodney Smith moving on from Tallahassee for the Minnesota Vikings. The 6'5'' and 225-pound wide receiver was third on the team in receiving yards last season.
However, when the Noles get into the red zone, expect a strong dose of the running game. In fact, FSU is adding jumbo packages with defensive ends Jacobbi McDaniel (267 lbs) and Mario Edwards (285 lbs), as fullbacks.
The mere idea of those massive structures clearing paths for 225 pound running back James Wilder is intimidating. In my opinion, the Noles will once again run the ball about 55 percent of the time. However, that number will jump closer to 70 inside the 20 yard line.
The Seminoles did lose their leading rusher from last season, Chris Thompson. However, behind Wilder, junior running back Devonta Freeman and freshman running back Ryan Green keep the running back stable full at Florida State.
As they establish the run early, it will open up the pass and take the pressure off of Winston. If he is able to keep his turnovers down, the Noles could reach close to their 39 points-per-game average of last season.
Florida State finished 2012 as the No. 2 ranked defense in total yards. In fact, they only gave up four more yards per game than the BCS National champions Alabama Crimson Tide. The defensive coordinator at the time, Mike Stoops, was rewarded with the head coaching job at the University of Kentucky.
As a result, they went to the Alabama football program and hired Jeremy Pruitt. Although Pruitt has been groomed in the 3-4 defense, do not look for a major overhaul this season.
The bad news for Florida State is that they only return four starters off of the 2012 defense. The good news is that they return five of their top seven tacklers from a year ago. The Florida State defense should be much more aggressive this season as they attempt to force more turnovers.
The defensive backfield is very talented. As a result, Pruitt will blitz much more than Stoops did. Pruitt desires to use the Seminoles superior athleticism to make big plays. During the fall, Pruitt has added several new blitzing packages.
The story line for the Seminoles is simple: Are they really back? Was 2012 a fluke or will it become the norm?
No one is expecting them to match the amazing 14 year span they had that ended in 2001. It is reasonable, however, to believe they can be a perennial top-15 school.
If the new coaching staff can gel, the Seminoles could be the most dangerous threat to end the SEC run of national champions.
The Seminoles schedule lines up perfect for an undefeated run. If they can beat the teams they are supposed to beat, then only Clemson, Florida and Miami stand in the way.
If Fisher can win a BCS national championship this season, he will forever be out of the shadow of former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.
Regular Season Prediction: 11-1 (7-1, ACC)
Bowl Berth Prediction: Allstate Sugar Bowl
The Seminoles are back and this year will be the proof. The Seminoles only have three games on their schedule that they will not be multiple touchdown favorites. Those game are against Clemson, Miami and Florida.
With their first major test coming against Clemson, I think they drop a close one in Death Valley. I believe by the end of the season Florida State will be the better team but with a young defense, new coordinator and freshman quarterback, I have to take the Tigers.
I believe that Florida State will rebound to beat the Miami Hurricanes at home and the Florida Gators on the road.
If the Seminoles are able to beat Clemson early on and stay healthy during the season, they could be looking at their first undefeated season since 1999.