It was another tough season in Tallahassee, but after watching its bowl streak end in 2018, Florida State will play Arizona State in the Sun Bowl. After going 6-6 during a tumultuous season that saw head coach Willie Taggart get fired after just 21 games, the Seminoles will try to beat the Sun Devils and notch a 42nd winning season in 43 years.
Offensive MVP: Cam Akers, RB
The offensive line for Florida State didn't improve a whole lot, but despite that, Akers still enjoyed an outstanding season. The junior running back finished the regular season with 1,144 rushing and 225 receiving yards to go with 18 total touchdowns. That's the fourth-most touchdowns for a single season in FSU history. Akers joined legends Dalvin Cook and Warrick Dunn as the only backs to have multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons in program history.
Defensive MVP: Hamsah Nasirildeen, S
Despite leaving in the first half due to an ejection against Wake Forest and to injury against Florida, Nasirildeen became the first FSU player since Reggie Northrup in 2014 to record 100 tackles in a season. Nasirildeen led the Seminoles with 101 total stops and forced fumbles while tying for the lead in interceptions and fumble recoveries. Nasirildeen scored the Seminoles' lone non-offensive touchdown of the year. In a 38-31 win over Boston College, Nasirildeen tallied 22 total stops -- the most for an FSU player since 1968.
Best Newcomer: Dontae Lucas, G
The offensive line continued to be Florida State's biggest sore spot on that side of the football, but Lucas has provided hope for the future. The rising sophomore has a mean streak in him that is hard to coach, even if it did lead to some unnecessary pregame trash talk. Lucas appeared in 10 games this season and made seven starts. At times, he showed real promise as a run blocker.
Best Play of the Season: James Blackman's Game-Winning Touchdown Pass to D.J. Matthews at Boston College
Florida State was 4-5 and in danger of enduring another losing season at it headed to Chestnut Hill to face Boston College on Nov. 9 in its first game after the firing of Taggart. FSU led 24-14 in the final quarter, but the Eagles had drawn even with more than two minutes to play. On the second play on a critical drive, Blackman found Matthews on a slant over the middle. Matthews outran defenders and reached the pylon on an amazing dive from about the 5-yard line. The 60-yard touchdown put FSU ahead for good in a 38-31 victory in what would be its only road win of the season.
Best Performance by a Player: Cam Akers vs. Syracuse
Akers and the end zone were well-acquainted during the 2019 season. Against Syracuse on Oct. 26, Akers found it five times with four rushing touchdowns and a two-point conversion. Akers' 26-point performance ranks second all-time at FSU behind only Ron Sellers' five-touchdown game against Wake Forest in 1968. The four rushing touchdowns tied a school record. Akers finished the afternoon with 144 rushing yards and 26 passing.
Best Game (Team Performance): Oct. 26 vs. Syracuse
Playing a complete game wasn't something that FSU did often in 2019, but the closest it came was on the final Saturday in October against Syracuse. FSU finished with a season-high 241 rushing yards and 487 of total offense with four Cam Akers touchdowns leading the way. Defensively, FSU held Syracuse to just 4.1 yards per play and tallied seven sacks. Defensive tackle Marvin Wilson was responsible for two of those sacks. Safety Hamsah Nasirildeen totaled 17 tackles.
Defining Moment: Second Half vs. Boise State
Florida State's season couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. With the threat of a hurricane, the opener against Boise State was moved from Jacksonville to Tallahassee and kickoff was moved up seven hours – a seemingly detrimental blow for a team traveling from two times zones away and bussing to the game. FSU started strong, racing to a 31-13 lead. The Seminoles would not score again as the Broncos scored the game's final 23 points and totaled 624 yards of offense. Fresh off the first losing season in 32 years, the loss would set the tone for another disappointing season and Willie Taggart's ultimate dismissal.
Biggest Surprise: Sack Total Increase
Generating a pass rush was hardly the biggest strength for Florida State in 2019, but the number of sacks did improve despite losing the leader in that category early to the NFL. Brian Burns was selected in the first round of this year's draft by the Carolina Panthers after tallying 10 of FSU's 28 total sacks in 2018. With Burns gone, FSU totaled 29 sacks this season and could add to it in the Sun Bowl against Arizona State. Defensive tackles Marvin Wilson and Cory Durden currently lead the Seminoles with five and 4.5 sacks, respectively.
Biggest Disappointment: Offensive Line
It was not expected to be a strength, but when it comes to pass protection, the offensive line may have actually been worse in 2019 than in '18. After allowing 36 sacks last season, the FSU offensive front has yielded 44 sacks this season. Some of that has to do with quarterbacks holding onto the football too long, but overall, the improvement that FSU had hoped to see under first-year position coach Randy Clements has been minimal -- at least when it comes to keeping the quarterback upright.
Senior That Will be Missed the Most: Ryan Roberts, T
The offensive line did not impress for Florida State this season, but Roberts, a transfer from Northern Illinois, did provide some stability. After making just two starts last season for the Huskies, Roberts held his own for FSU. Roberts started all 12 games at right tackle.
Player to Watch in 2020: Asante Samuel Jr., CB
Like most positions for Florida State in 2019, the secondary didn't overwhelm opponents, but Samuel showed promise. A sophomore cornerback from South Florida and son of a former NFL Pro Bowler, Samuel quietly earned All-ACC honorable mention. Samuel is an aggressive player who is not afraid to hit and has improved immensely when it comes to playing the football. Samuel leads the team with 12 pass breakups and 13 passes defended. If the progression continues, Samuel could be a lockdown corner next season.
Biggest Offseason Question Mark: How Smooth is the Norvell Transition?
For the second time in three years, Florida State will be transitioning to a new head coach. Former Memphis head coach Mike Norvell was tabbed to lead the Seminoles into the future, but he will have to assemble a largely new staff, new schemes, and try to salvage what's left of the 2020 recruiting class. With a lot to correct in little time, it will be interesting to see if and how quickly Norvell can turn things around.