FSU must navigate through tough slate to put 2018 in the past
Florida State is coming off of its worst season since Bobby Bowden was the head coach... at West Virginia.
The Seminoles finished a dismal 5-7 last season with six of the seven losses coming by at least 19 points. In the process, FSU suffered its first losing season since 1976 — Bowden's first in Tallahassee — and missed a bowl for the first time since '81.
Under second-year head coach Willie Taggart, FSU will look to get back on track. It won't be easy as FSU plays two teams on the road that won New Year's Six bowls, including the defending national champions. Here's a look at FSU's 2019 foes from easiest to most difficult:
12. Nov. 16 vs. Alabama State
In what is little more than a tune-up game two weeks before the regular season finale against rival Florida, Florida State should have little difficulty with Alabama State on what will likely be Senior Day in Tallahassee. Out of the SWAC, the Hornets won just four games a season ago. In two games against FBS competition, Alabama State was outscored 108-16.
11. Sept. 7 vs. ULM
Florida State is hoping that ULM will be its home opener this year. That was what the schedule set for two years ago, but Hurricane Irma forced the Seminoles to postpone and move the game to the first weekend in December, a change that was necessary as FSU needed a win to become bowl eligible. The Warhawks did go 6-6 a season ago, but lost 48-10 to Texas A&M and 70-21 to Ole Miss in their only two contests against Power 5 competition.
10. Sept. 21 vs. Louisville
Florida State needed an improbable comeback to beat Louisville last season on the road, but this year's contest will be in Tallahassee. The Cardinals were the only ACC team not to record a conference win last season. Louisville went just 2-10 and struggled in its two victories against Indiana State and Western Kentucky.
Louisville also will be replacing arguably its best playmaker in wide receiver Jaylen Smith. It's safe to say that new head coach Scott Satterfield has his work cut out for him.
9. Nov. 9 at Boston College
Boston College has stayed in the six- or seven-win territory for virtually all of head coach Steve Addazio's tenure. The Eagles will get the Seminoles in Chestnut Hill this season and return star running back AJ Dillon and quarterback Anthony Brown. The problem for Boston College is it is losing a ton on defense.
Leading tackler Connor Strachan, standout defensive end Zach Allen, and safety Lukas Demas are all gone. Boston College is expected to take a step back and it was a team that the Seminoles managed to defeat last season.
8. Sept. 28 vs. NC State
NC State has won the last two contests against Florida State, but will look quite a bit different this year. On offense alone, head coach Dave Doeren is tasked with replacing his starting quarterback, a 1,000-yard rusher, a pair of 1,000-yard receivers, and his center, who was a first-round NFL draft pick. This one also happens to be at home for FSU.
7. Oct. 19 at Wake Forest
Florida State blew out Wake Forest last season at Doak Campbell Stadium, 38-17, but the last two meetings in Winston-Salem have been one-score games. As last season went on, the Wake offense seemed to improve immensely with Jamie Newman at quarterback.
Wake does lose wide receiver Greg Dortch, but 1,000-yard back Cade Carney returns. On the defensive side of the ball, the Demon Deacons return their leaders in tackles and sacks in linebacker Justin Strnad and defensive lineman Willie Yarbary. After falling to FSU last season, Wake Forest won four of its final six games with all four victories coming away from Winston-Salem.
6. Oct. 26 vs. Syracuse
Don't look now, but third-year head coach Dino Babers is building something special at Syracuse. Last season, the Orange won 10 games for the first time since 2001. This year, Syracuse will have to travel to face Florida State. It has never won in Tallahassee.
Syracuse should again be a force to be reckoned with in the ACC. Winning 10 games again, however, might be a tall task. The Orange will be replacing a four-year starter at quarterback in Eric Dungey and leading receiver Jamal Custis. Syracuse does return some key pieces on the other side of the ball, but overall, the Orange were abysmal defensively in 2019.
5. Nov. 2 vs. Miami
Florida State had Miami on the ropes for most of its trip to South Florida last season, but the Hurricanes scored the game's final 21 points to escape with a 28-27 victory. Miami remains a team with a lot of talent, but the attrition on the defensive side of the ball is significant with the losses of defensive tackle Gerald Willis, defensive end Joe Jackson, and safety Jaquan Johnson.
Miami may be the most talented team in the ACC Coastal division, but there are question marks on offense, including at quarterback. Ohio State transfer Tate Martell and sophomore N'Kosi Perry are expected to battle for the starting job. It should also be noted that Manny Diaz has no prior experience as a head coach.
4. Aug. 31 vs. Boise State (Jacksonville, Fla.)
After winning 10 games a season ago, Boise State will serve as a tough opening test for Florida State. The Broncos will have to replace their best two offensive players in quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Alexander Mattison. Defensively, linebacker Curtis Weaver returns after recording 9.5 sacks and could serve as a real thorn in the side of a porous FSU offensive line.
Boise State has never been a stranger to knocking off big-name programs. Over the last 10 years, the Broncos have defeated Oregon, Georgia, Virginia Tech and Washington — and that is just in season openers alone.
3. Sept. 14 at Virginia
A popular preseason pick to win the ACC Coastal, Virginia will serve as a tough test for Florida State to open ACC play. The Cavaliers will get the Seminoles in Charlottesville and at night. That's rarely been a recipe for success for the Seminoles.
Virginia was known for its defense last season, but at quarterback, Bryce Perkins is a dual threat who accounted for 34 total touchdowns a season ago. Linebacker Jordan Mack finished second on the team in tackles last season and tallied 114 total stops in 2017.
2. Nov. 30 at Florida
Florida snapped a five-game losing streak to Florida State last season and enter 2019 as a popular pick to dethrone Georgia in the SEC East. The Gators made significant strides in year one under Dan Mullen, winning 10 games and thumping Michigan in the Peach Bowl, 41-15.
Florida loses some key pieces on defense, but offensively, quarterback Feleipe Franks improved significantly in 2018. He'll be surrounded by a deep corps of playmakers in wide receivers Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland as well as running back Lamical Perine. Defensive end Jabari Zuniga and cornerback CJ Henderson are two of the best in the SEC at their positions.
1. Oct. 12 at Clemson
Defending national champion Clemson will try to make it five in a row over Florida State and will get the Seminoles at home in mid-October. Last season, the Tigers scored 59 straight points against FSU in Tallahassee and ultimately wound up handing FSU its largest home loss ever.
Clemson had three defensive linemen taken in the first round of the NFL draft, but offensively, the Tigers may have more talent than any team in the country. Trevor Lawrence is one of the nation's most polished passers, even as a true sophomore, and running back Travis Etienne brings versatility to the backfield after scoring 26 total touchdowns last season. The Tigers also are loaded at receiver.