Head coach: Jimbo Fisher
2016 record: 10-3 (5-3 ACC)
Over 9.5 wins (-157); Under 9.5 wins (+128)
Odds to win ACC Championship Game: -105
Odds to win 2017 Title: +816
Futures odds c/o Bookmaker
The Florida State Seminoles should be able to build on last season’s 10-win campaign, even after losing its leading rusher Dalvin Cook to the NFL. At QB, the Seminoles return sophomore Deondre Francois, and Cook should be adequately replaced by Jacques Patrick, who rushed for 664 yards and five yards per carry over the past two seasons. The Seminoles also landed a top recruit at tailback in Cam Akers. Akers had 87 yards on 10 carries in the spring game, and at 5’11” 213 pounds, he can get physical while also possessing plenty of breakaway speed. Expect Akers to be eased in early in the year, but by the end of the season he could be seeing plenty of touches to help diversify the Seminoles offense.
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This pair of running backs, along with Francois himself, will give head coach Jimbo Fisher the delicate balance between the run and pass that has defined his success at FSU. Francois threw for 3,350 yards and 20 TDs a year ago, while throwing just seven interceptions.
The Seminoles averaged 33 points per game against FBS opponents, and Francois will only improve with that year under his belt. His timing and decision making can bear some improvement, but he has a strong and accurate arm that Fisher should be able to take full advantage of. His starting receiving options will be Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate, both juniors, while at tight end he has a returning starter in Ryan Izzo.
Offensively, the biggest question marks for the Seminoles are on the line. Josh Ball is a redshirt freshman who should be able to spell Roderick Johnson (who departed for the NFL), but the other spots are mostly up for grabs. It will take some masterful development by the Seminoles OL coaches to help get the most of the talent at the other positions.
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Defensively, the Seminoles should improve this year, and there is one headlining reason: Derwin James. He suffered a season-ending injury a year ago, but he was an absolute monster in 2015 when he recorded 91 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a freshman. The Seminoles ranked No. 2 in the nation last year in sacks, and even with DeMarcus Walker leaving for the NFL, FSU has plenty of bruising options to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Brian Burns and Josh Sweat had 16.5 sacks between them last year, and both are very athletic on the end. Tackle Derrick Nnadi is also valuable and had six sacks last season. At cornerback, the Seminoles should be able to get some disruption from All-American Tarvarus McFadden. He came up with eight interceptions last year, and the Seminoles will play five DBs in their base formation. Levonta Taylor and Kyle Meyers are both good defensive playmakers and could potentially start this season at corner and nickel, respectively.
Ricky Aguayo is an accurate field goal kicker, but he lacks distance having hit just 7 of 14 from beyond 40-yards last year. Logan Tyler averaged only 40.3 yards per punt last year, but coaches are saying his hang time helps make up for that low figure, and they also expect it to improve if only incrementally. The special teams will be good, but not great. The fact both punter and kicker bring experience as returning starters is probably the best thing FSU has going for it in those departments.
The Seminoles should be able to cruise to an ACC title, and certainly college football oddsmakers project such with the favorable conference title odds. FSU does have a particularly tough schedule in drawing Alabama as its opener (in Atlanta), then hosting Louisville and Miami. The only caveat is that the Seminoles do have some down weeks between the elite matchups.
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