Florida State Football: Power Ranking 2014 Schedule from Easiest to Toughest
The 2014 Florida State football schedule is a far cry from the 2013 version that drew criticism from analysts and fans.
Toss out Bethune-Cookman, Nevada and Idaho on the nonconference slate. In are Oklahoma State, Citadel and Notre Dame (Florida is the mainstay, of course). The Seminoles now have one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the nation, with The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel ranking FSU's No. 1.
While it may be a tough schedule, it's not inconceivable for FSU to go 12-0 and play for the ACC title. The Seminoles gain a few schedule breaks, earning bye weeks before the ACC opener at home against Clemson on Sept. 20 and before a Thursday night game at Louisville on Oct. 30.
Still, state rivals will be waiting in November. FSU will have to win again at Miami on Nov. 15 and then defeat Florida at home on Nov. 29 to have a chance to repeat as national champions.
Let's take a look at FSU's schedule from the easiest opponent to the toughest.
The Citadel (Sept. 6)
Florida State has routed FCS opponents under Jimbo Fisher, winning five games since 2010 by a combined 299-25. FSU fans will no doubt celebrate the defending national champions in the home opener before facing The Citadel on Sept. 6, but there won't be much of a game.
The Citadel is in rebuilding under new coach Mike Houston. The Bulldogs lose top rushers Ben Dupree and Darien Robinson, who combined for 1,974 yards and 25 touchdowns. And the entire starting offensive line has graduated.
Administrators are paying The Citadel $440,000 to play in Tallahassee, according to financial records provided by FSU.
What to expect: Plenty of points on the scoreboard for FSU. This is the kind of game where FSU's second- and third-teamers will see all of the snaps in the second half.
Wake Forest (Oct. 4)
Wake Forest loses its starting quarterback (Tanner Price), leading rusher (Josh Harris), top receiver (Michael Campanaro) and best defensive player (Nikita Whitlock). It all leads to a rebuilding season for new coach Dave Clawson.
That said, Wake has a soft early schedule that includes Louisiana-Monroe, Gardner-Webb, Utah State and Army. It's conceivable that Wake wins three of those games and builds some confidence before playing at Louisville on Sept. 27 and then traveling to FSU.
Clawson has recruited well, grabbing 3-star prospects like quarterback John Wolford, defensive tackle Zeek Rodney, defensive end Rashawn Shaw and linebacker Zack Wary. Things will get better for Wake again, just not in 2014.
What to expect: FSU beat Wake 59-3 in 2013 and 52-0 in 2012. FSU should put up a similar point total while holding Wake to single digits yet again.
Virginia (Nov. 8)
Coach Mike London is just 6-18 the past two seasons, so the hot seat is feeling quite warm going into 2014.
Virginia has taken its lumps, going without a win in the ACC in 2013. But London and his staff have recruited well, signing the No. 20 class in 2012, No. 27 class in 2013 and No. 35 class in 2014. Those groups should start to deliver for Virginia.
London has named Greyson Lambert as the starter going into August camp. He threw for 220 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in Virginia's spring game. And Lambert has some talent around him with tailback Kevin Parks, who ran for 1,031 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
The defense should be improved after allowing 35 or more points in seven games last season. Returning are safety Anthony Harris, cornerback Demetrious Nicholson and a pair of 5-stars who were signed in 2014: safety Quin Blanding and defensive tackle Andrew Brown.
What to expect: There's nowhere to go but up. Virginia should be better. Not nearly good enough to put a scare into FSU, but it will be interesting to see how an improved defense fares against the Seminoles.
Boston College (Nov. 22)
Losing Heisman finalist Andre Williams to the NFL takes a huge bite out of Boston College's offense. Williams ran for 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, including a 149-yard effort in a 48-34 home loss to FSU.
Former Florida offensive line coach Steve Addazio will replace graduated quarterback Chase Rettig with Tyler Murphy, who started for the Gators in 2013, graduated in December and will play his senior year for Boston College. Murphy threw for 1,216 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions for the Gators, faring well in wins over Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas before struggling down the stretch.
Addazio would rather build the offense around the run, but at the moment, his best bet is to have Murphy carry the offense and take the pressure off of tailbacks Myles Willis and Tyler Rouse.
A defense that is led by linebacker Steven Daniels should keep Boston College in games.
What to expect: Despite the loss of Williams, BC should be able to win six games and be bowl-eligible. But there doesn't look to be nearly enough firepower on offense for the Eagles to keep up with FSU.
At North Carolina State (Sept. 27)
Dave Doeren's first year in the ACC couldn't have gone worse. North Carolina State went 3-9 and 0-8 in the conference. But the fact that eight of those nine losses were by double figures is disturbing.
N.C. State is banking on Jacoby Brissett, a former Florida quarterback who sat out 2013 as a transfer. After losing out in the quarterback battle in Gainesville, Florida, to Jeff Driskel, Brissett waited for his chance but opted to move on to Raleigh, North Carolina.
Brissett has a few playmakers around him, and the offense should be better. Shadrach Thornton ran for 768 yards and four touchdowns, and Bryan Underwood had 382 receiving yards and a touchdown.
The defense is a sore spot. N.C. State allowed 38 or more points in five of its past six games.
What to expect: A more efficient offense should lead to a few more wins. The Wolfpack could open 4-0 with a nonconference slate that includes Georgia Southern, Old Dominion, South Florida and Presbyterian. But then comes FSU on Sept. 27. N.C. State could put up some points on FSU but is too porous on defense.
At Syracuse (Oct. 11)
Coming off of a 7-6 season in Scott Shafer's first year at Syracuse, there is plenty of optimism.
Quarterback Terrel Hunt showed promise late in the season, accumulating 1,638 passing yards and 500 rushing yards. Syracuse will miss Jerome Smith (12 touchdowns), who opted to leave a year early. But the Orange have Prince-Tyson Gulley, who had 456 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 2013.
Ashton Broyld (452 yards) and Brisly Estime (257 yards) return to lead the receiving corps. They only had one touchdown reception in 2013, so both need to find ways to get open in the red zone.
The defense was inconsistent in 2013. When Syracuse lost, it was ugly. The Orange allowed 48 points to Northwestern, 49 to Clemson, 56 to Georgia Tech and 59 to FSU. Syracuse returns leading tackler Durell Eskridge (78 tackles), and seniors Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch will lead the receiving corps.
What to expect: Syracuse should be better on defense. How much? That's the big question. The Orange will go bowling again, but FSU should be able to move the ball with ease versus Syracuse once again.
Clemson (Sept. 20)
Gone are Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd. Clemson's offense won't be the same, although defensive coordinators around the ACC shouldn't breathe too easily.
Cole Stoudt has wrapped up the No. 1 quarterback spot heading into preseason camp. As a senior, Stoudt has the experience, but he also won the job because early enrollee Deshaun Watson suffered a broken collarbone and Chad Kelly was dismissed and opted to enroll at a junior college.
With Sammy Watkins (Buffalo Bills) and Martavis Bryant (Pittsburgh Steelers) now graduated and on to the NFL, Clemson will look to Adam Humphries (483 yards, two touchdowns) and Mike Williams (316 yards, three touchdowns) to lead the receiving corps.
Clemson's defense gave up too many points against the best teams on its 2013 schedule, with Georgia scoring 35 in a season-opening loss, FSU putting up 52 in a loss and South Carolina scoring 31 in the regular-season finale. That can't happen again. The defense could be better, as end Vic Beasley (13 sacks) opted to return for his senior season, and leading tackler Stephone Anthony (131 tackles) anchors the linebacking corps.
What to expect: Stoudt has enough practice and game experience to lead the offense, but he will need help from the receiving corps. Clemson won't drop off dramatically, but don't expect anything like the 40.2 points the Tigers averaged per game in 2013 (sixth-best in the FBS).
Vs. Oklahoma State (Aug. 30, at Arlington, Texas)
Oklahoma State won 10 games in 2013 but will be fighting an uphill battle this year.
The Cowboys lose seven defensive starters and five offensive starters. But the roster has also been decimated by graduation, as Oklahoma State loses 32 lettermen while returning 38, which Phil Steele said is the lowest among the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Coach Mike Gundy has plenty of holes in the depth chart, but the roster is not devoid of talent. Gundy hasn't named a starting quarterback, but it could be J.W. Walsh (1,333 passing yards, nine TDs in 2013). If Walsh wins the job over Arizona transfer Daxx Garman and freshman Mason Rudolph, he will be supported by a powerful running back in Desmond Roland, who ran for 811 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
JUCO transfer Tyreek Hill was a star on the track team this spring, and he could be used as a running back/receiver.
What to expect: Oklahoma State will find a way to score points, especially against an FSU defense that is still making adjustments after losing five starters. But FSU shouldn't have any trouble putting up points on the Cowboys.
Louisville (Oct. 30)
Bobby Petrino is back in Louisville. And the Cardinals are moving to the ACC. It's a year of change for the program.
Despite quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's early departure to the NFL and coach Charlie Strong's move to Texas, the roster is loaded with talent. Will Gardner appears to be the front-runner for Bridgewater's spot, and Louisville has plenty of receiving talent.
Receivers DeVante Parker (885 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Eli Rogers (536 yards, four touchdowns) and tight end Gerald Christian (426 yards, four touchdowns) could form a strong passing attack.
New defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who left Georgia for the same job at Louisville, will switch to a 3-4 scheme. James Burgess (72 tackles) and Lorenzo Mauldin (40 tackles, 12 tackles for loss) will lead an experienced linebacking corps.
What to expect: There could be some rocky moments as Louisville adjusts to a new coaching staff and a first-year starting quarterback. But expect Louisville to find success again under Petrino, who went 41-9 from 2003-06 at Louisville. A Thursday night matchup where FSU travels to Louisville could be an entertaining game.
Florida (Nov. 29)
Plain and simple: If the Gators can stay healthy, they will be better. There's no reason to think the team will go 4-8 again.
Florida lost seven straight to close the 2013 season, and late in November, it had 21 players who lost at least one game to injury, according to Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army. No program can survive a season when the roster is hit that hard by injury.
The Gators return quarterback Jeff Driskel, who was lost for the season in September 2013 with a broken fibula. Coach Will Muschamp hired Kurt Roper away from Duke to be the offensive coordinator and install a spread offense, which should suit Driskel well. It's a fun offense to watch, not to mention tough to defend, but Florida will need to get some consistent receiver play. Quinton Dunbar had 40 catches for 548 yards but no touchdowns in 2013, and Andre Debose (knee) returns after missing the season.
Florida's defense wasn't bad in 2013—the Gators were eighth in total defense (314.3 yards per game) and 15th in scoring defense (21.1 points per game). The defense was just worn out by the offense's inefficiency. Florida has a pair of stars in defensive end Dante Fowler and defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III.
What to expect: Florida should see significant improvement and no doubt a return to bowl eligibility if the team stays healthy and wins a few SEC battles. Florida was overwhelmed by FSU last November, but the Gators should put up more of a fight if the offense finds a rhythm in Roper's system.
At Miami (Nov. 15)
Miami should make a run at the wide-open ACC Coastal division—if the defense improves. The Hurricanes allowed 26.8 points per game last year, placing them 65th in the nation in scoring defense.
The offense was prolific a year ago until injuries to tailback Duke Johnson (ankle) and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett (knee) caught up with them. While Johnson sat out the spring, he is expected to be 100 percent in the fall and will be the workhorse that carries the Miami offense.
Miami has a rising star in Stacy Coley, who had 33 receptions for 591 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns as a freshman in 2013. And the Hurricanes hope Dorsett returns to the form that he displayed as a sophomore, when he grabbed 58 passes.
Now, the question is an unusual one: Who will Miami start at quarterback? Ryan Williams injured his knee in the spring, and it's not clear when he will return this fall, although coach Al Golden said Williams' rehabilitation is going well. After Williams' injury, redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen received extra reps in practice. But the Hurricanes also added Kansas transfer Jake Heaps on Sunday.
What to expect: Miami opened 7-0 but fell flat in the second half and lost at FSU, 41-14. The rest of the season didn't go well. But the Hurricanes, if the defense turns things around, will give FSU a run for its money in November.
The keys to Notre Dame's offense are once again in the hands of Everett Golson, who led the Irish to the BCS championship game as a freshman in 2012. Golson practiced this spring but was officially readmitted to the school earlier this month.
Golson has 2,405 passing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012, and there's plenty of talent surrounding him on offense. In 2013, he worked out with quarterback guru George Whitfield.
Receiver DaVaris Daniels (745 yards, seven touchdowns) and tight end Ben Koyack (171 yards, three touchdowns) should be Golson's top targets.
Cam McDaniel (705 yards) and Tarean Folston (470 yards) should provide a strong one-two punch in the ground game.
New defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is moving to a 4-3 scheme. Defensive tackle Sheldon Day is a run-stopper, and Jaylon Smith has emerged as a star at linebacker, writes 247Sports (subscription required), with 67 tackles as a freshman. Safety Cody Riggs graduated from Florida and transferred to Notre Dame in the offseason.
What to expect: Notre Dame has enough pieces to have a successful season. But the schedule is again daunting with October games against Stanford, North Carolina and at FSU. Still, Notre Dame could be rolling, and a top-15 team when the Irish head into Tallahassee, Florida, on Oct. 18. It could be one of the best college football games of the season.
Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, all quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. All statistics courtesy of team websites or media guides. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.