Coach: Jimbo Fisher (58-11, entering 6th season; 58-11 overall)
2014 record: 13-1, 8-0 in ACC; first in Atlantic Division
Look back: FSU endured what had to be one of the least enjoyable 13-win seasons in the history of college football. The Seminoles felt the pressure that comes with being a defending national champion and trailed during 10 of their 13 victories. FSU, however, found various ways to mask its shortcomings en route to a second consecutive undefeated regular season and third straight ACC title. The Seminoles also overcame a constant barrage of off-the-field issues surrounding quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston helped guide FSU to a College Football Playoff semifinal, where the Seminoles’ deficiencies were finally exploited by an explosive Oregon squad during a 59-20 loss. It ended FSU’s 29-game win streak.
Offensive starters returning: 4
Offensive starters lost: 7
Defensive starters returning: 7
Defensive starters lost: 4
Key losses: QB Jameis Winston, WR Rashad Greene, OL Cam Erving, DL Mario Edwards Jr., OL Tre’ Jackson, TE Nick O’Leary, DL Eddie Goldman, CB P.J. Williams, CB Ronald Darby, OL Josue Matias, OL Bobby Hart
Top returnees: DB Jalen Ramsey, RB Dalvin Cook, PK Roberto Aguayo, LB Terrance Smith, WR Travis Rudolph, OL Rod Johnson, QB Sean Maguire, DB Nate Andrews, DB Tyler Hunter, LB Reggie Northrup, DL Nile Lawrence-Stample
Strengths: FSU’s run game could be dynamic this season, although the statement comes with an asterisk. Sophomore running back Dalvin Cook, who surpassed the 1,000-yard mark as a freshman, faces misdemeanor battery charges and is suspended indefinitely. Even if Cook misses time, FSU has a stable of talented yet unproven backs in Mario Pender, Jacques Patrick and Johnathan Vickers.
The Seminoles’ defense dropped off drastically last season, going from third nationally in total defense (281.4 yards allowed per game) to 63rd (396.9 yards allowed per game) but talent does not appear to be an issue. All-American Jalen Ramsey moves from nickel back to cornerback and will be the de facto leader of the defense after struggling to fit into that role as an underclassman in 2014. Led by Ramsey, the Seminoles’ secondary has the athleticism and versatility – see Trey Marshall and freshman Derwin James – to become an elite unit.
Weaknesses: FSU has unknowns across the board on offense. The offensive line loses four three-year starters and the Seminoles must find replacements for tight end Nick O’Leary and receiver Rashad Greene, who each hold the school’s all-time record for receiving yards and receptions at their respective positions. However, no void is bigger than the one left by Jameis Winston, who was taken first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2015 NFL Draft. Notre Dame graduate transfer Everett Golson is competing with junior Sean Maguire for the starting quarterback spot, but either player will be a substantial downgrade from Winston.
On defense, FSU is thin at linebacker and will bank on Reggie Northrup to make a speedy recovery from a knee injury he suffered in January. The Seminoles must also find a consistent pass rusher after ranking 118th nationally in sacks per game (1.21).
Outlook: The raw talent is there for FSU to win its fourth ACC title in a row, but competing for a national title may be a bit of a stretch given the turnover on offense and uncertainty along the front seven on defense. The Seminoles, however, could make a playoff run if Golson plays at the same level he did during the first half of the 2014 season.
Sept. 5 Texas State
Sept. 12 USF
Sept. 18 at Boston College
Oct. 3 at Wake Forest
Oct. 10 Miami
Oct. 17 Louisville
Oct. 24 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 31 Syracuse
Nov. 7 at Clemson
Nov. 14 NC State
Nov. 21 Chattanooga
Nov. 28 at Florida
College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com