The start of the Willie Taggart era at Florida State didn't live up to its hopes or expectations in 2018, but that doesn't mean there's no optimism for 2019.
After going 5-7 and missing a bowl for the first time since 1981, Taggart upgraded his coaching staff with the additions of offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, wide receivers coach Ron Dugans and offensive line coach Randy Clements. He also moved former defensive ends coach Mark Snyder to special teams coordinator.
For 2019, the schedule is neither easy nor brutal. The toughest games will be contests on the road against reigning national champion Clemson and Florida.
Aside from those, everything else appears winnable. The Seminoles have a relatively favorable home schedule with ULM, Louisville, NC State, Syracuse, Miami, and FCS opponent Alabama State. Contests against the Wolfpack, Orange and Hurricanes won't be slam dunks, but FSU could conceivably finish between 5-2 and 7-0 at home.
Road contests at Virginia, Wake Forest and Boston College also all appear to be games that FSU can win. Florida State opens in Jacksonville against a Boise State team that won 10 games last season. The Broncos will have to replace their two most productive offensive players in quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Alexander Mattison.
Of the 11 FBS teams on Florida State's 2019 schedule, nine made bowl games last season and only Louisville had a losing record. In addition to the reigning national champion Tigers, Boise State, Syracuse and Florida all won 10 games a season ago.
The Seminoles will be tested early with contests against Boise State and at projected ACC Coastal Division champion Virginia in the first three weeks. If FSU can avoid losing both of those, it could enter Death Valley with a record of 5-0 or 4-1.
Athlon asked a few editors and one of its college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for Florida State in 2019.
Florida State Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2019
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Willie Taggart inherited more personnel issues than some may have realized prior to last season, but after a disappointing 5-7 mark in 2018, I think Florida State rebounds back into a bowl game this fall. New play-caller Kendal Briles should help the offense improve after this group averaged only 21.9 points a game last season. The offensive line was the primary issue for a sluggish attack, and while this unit won't be drastically better, some small improvement should help new quarterback James Blackman and running back Cam Akers find room to operate. Florida State's defense shares some of the blame from last year’s record after allowing 31.5 points a contest. Similar to the offense, this unit should be better in 2019. However, coordinator Harlon Barnett's group needs to identify a couple of pass rushers to replace Brian Burns and tighten up a leaky secondary. The opener against Boise State will be a good barometer test for this program.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Florida State will have to battle to reach bowl eligibility. The Seminoles open with Boise State — and it's a great time to play the Broncos, who will be working in a new starting quarterback to replace four-year starter Brett Rypien. The ACC slate features a bunch of swing games; the home game with Louisville is a sure win and the trip to Clemson on Oct. 12 is a sure loss. Most of the other games seemingly could go either way. I've FSU picking up wins over NC State, Miami and Boston College and dropping games against Virginia, Wake Forest and Syracuse.
Mike Ferguson (@MikeWFerguson)
After its first losing season since 1976, Florida State will bounce back in a respectable way in 2019. The coaching changes should drastically help an FSU offense that simply could not block a season ago. How FSU performs in its opener in Jacksonville against Boise State could go a long way in determining the trajectory of the 2019 campaign. Teams like NC State, Syracuse and Boston College will have to deal with significant attrition, which should bode well for the Seminoles. They'll also get Miami at home after losing the last two matchups by a combined five points. FSU should finish the regular season with somewhere between two and four more wins than a season ago. If the Seminoles can get to nine wins, with a bowl victory or otherwise, that would be the largest increase in win total for the program since going from seven wins in 1986 to 11 in '87.