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Countdown to Kickoff: The Preseason Top 50—No. 33 Florida State Seminoles

Kristofer GreenSenior Writer IAugust 16, 2009

28 Sep 1996: Head Coach Bobby Bowden of Florida State University during the Seminoles 13-0 win over the University of North Carolina at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida.

The 2009 college football season will kick off in a couple of weeks. To make the time go a little faster, I have been counting down my top 50 teams one team at a time.

No. 34  Rutgers Scarlet Knights

No. 33  FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES

Florida State's season-ending blowout victory over Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl seemingly left the Seminoles riding high into the 2008 season.

Then came the thud.

Arrests, suspensions, and the NCAA sanctions that stripped him of 14 victories in connection with an academic fraud scandal that permeated the entire athletic department chipped away at the legacy of Bobby Bowden.

Instead of talking about the best season in Tallahassee for several years, off-field issues once again were generating most of the headlines.

Now, most of the legal and NCAA problems have been addressed, appealed, or resolved and Bowden and the Seminoles want to get back to playing football.

"Still excited as I've ever been," said Bowden, addressing the recent ACC football media days about his 34th season with the 'Noles. "When I don't look forward to it, then it will be time to get out."

On the field, the Seminoles are like many other teams this time of year. There are reasons to be excited and hopeful, but there is also a lot of doubt.

Offensively, the presence of coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher has finally started to pay off for the Florida State offense. Last season's offense, while by no means a finished product, did produce their best output in several years.

Returning quarterback Christian Ponder gives the Seminoles a clear-cut starter behind  center for the first time in a few years. Though Ponder is a bigger threat to scramble than to pass, the junior has spent time this off-season working on his vertical passing.

Finding a receiver to throw to may prove to be a harder problem to solve. Not only are last year’s top two receivers, Greg Carr and Preston Parker, gone, but injuries and suspensions have cut even deeper into Florida State’s already questionable receiving depth.

The ground game, which produced its best numbers of the decade in 2008, is left without leading rusher Antone Smith.

Enter sophomore Jermaine Thomas, who impressed in his rookie campaign by racking up 482 yards and three scores on only 69 carries for a jaw-dropping seven-yard per carry average.

The definite strength of the offense is a front wall that used three true freshmen in 2008. With left guard Rodney Hudson as the centerpiece, the offensive line could very well be the best in the ACC.

Last season, the defense looked good on paper, but close up there were glaring signs that this wasn't a typical Micky Andrews coached defensive squad.

Heading into 2009, Andrews was tasked with finding replacements for much of his defensive line, half the secondary, and all three of his all-ACC players.

The biggest concern is up front, where ends Everette Brown and Neefy Moffett are gone. The pressure will be squarely on Markus White and Kevin McNeil to produce. If they fail, an average secondary will most certainly be exposed.

The strength will come from the middle, where linebackers Dekoda Watson, Nigel Bradham, and Kendall Smith have All-ACC skills and aspirations.

The 'Noles have not played in the ACC championship game for four long years—a streak that Bowden thinks will soon come to an end.

"I feel good about our recruiting, our coaches," Bowden said. "We're getting back to the way it used to be around here."

Even with some question marks on both sides of the ball, there’s no reason this program shouldn't win a division that has no other top 25 members entering the season.

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