Through the first half of the 2017 college football season, one would be hard-pressed to find a more disappointing team than Florida State. Ranked No. 3 nationally in the preseason, the Seminoles now find themselves at 2-3 on the season.
The two wins have come over Wake Forest and Duke. Each required a game-winning, fourth quarter touchdown. Injuries have certainly played a factor as quarterback Deondre Francois was injured in the season-opening loss to Alabama and multiple key receivers have missed time.
For the second year in a row, the Seminoles are out of both the College Football Playoff and ACC title race before the second week in October. Head coach Jimbo Fisher's job isn't on the line, but the majority of the fan base is clamoring for staff changes.
With just six games remaining, the Seminoles are going to have to find a way to win four just to become bowl-eligible. FSU hasn't missed out on a bowl game since 1981. There have been reports that FSU could look to reschedule a contest with ULM that was originally scheduled for Sept. 9, but canceled because of Hurricane Irma.
Here, we reflect on the first half of a disappointing campaign and look forward to the second:
Offensive MVP: WR Auden Tate
The Florida State offense has not come close to running as planned, but it's scary to think where this team might be without Tate. The junior wideout has battled through injury in each of the last three weeks, but still manages to make plays when the team needs him. Tate has 19 catches for 312 yards and five of FSU's eight touchdowns this season. Tate scored the game-winner against Wake Forest on Sept. 30 and nearly did likewise a week later against Miami before the Hurricanes answered with six seconds left.
Defensive MVP: DE Josh Sweat
Stars like safety Derwin James and cornerback Tarvarus McFadden steal the headlines for Florida State, but Sweat has been perhaps FSU's most consistent defender this season. The junior end ranks fifth on the team with 20 tackles, but leads the Seminoles in both sacks with 2.5 and tackles for a loss with 5.5. Sweat also has a pair of pass breakups.
Best Moment of First Half: Blackman to Tate for the game-winner at Wake Forest
With Florida State and Wake Forest tied at 19 with less than a minute to play on Sept. 30, the Seminoles needed to take advantage of great field position. FSU had just forced a three-and-out and took over at the Wake 40-yard-line following a punt. It took just one play to go ahead for good as freshman quarterback James Blackman rolled right and let one fly to the end zone where he found Auden Tate for a 40-yard touchdown in an eventual 26-19 win.
Best Newcomer: RB Cam Akers
In a season that has been a disappointment, the freshmen have been one of the bright spots. So far, none have been brighter than Akers. He leads the team in both rushing (379) and yards from scrimmage (418). His first career touchdown — a 42-yard scamper with 8:25 remaining — at Duke on Saturday served as the game-winner in a 17-10 Seminole victory.
Biggest Surprise: QB James Blackman
Few expected that the true freshman would be the starting quarterback for Florida State just a few months ago, but that has become reality. Despite having redshirt junior J.J. Consentino and fellow freshman Bailey Hockman, who enrolled early, in front of him at the start of fall, Blackman has ascended to become the starter since the injury to Deondre Francois. Although Blackman is just months removed from high school and generously listed at 180 pounds, the first true freshman signal-caller to start at FSU in 32 years has shown poise and moxie beyond his years.
Three Things to Watch in the Second Half
1. Maturation of freshmen
With half a season in the books, it will be worth noting what key youngsters for Florida State do down the stretch of their freshman seasons. James Blackman and Cam Akers will likely continue to be a vital part of the FSU offense, but expect others like wide receiver DJ Matthews to take on bigger roles. Defensively, linemen Joshua Kaindoh and Marvin Wilson are expected to continue to get mores reps up front while defensive backs Stanford Samuels III and Hamsah Nasirildeen look to remain part of the rotation in the secondary.
2. Explosiveness on offense
Despite being loaded with dynamic skill players, the FSU offense has been largely anemic for most of this season. The Seminoles are averaging just 18.2 points per game, last in the ACC and 120th out of 129 FBS teams, and have been inept when it comes to finishing drives. With high-scoring opponents like Louisville and Clemson on the schedule, it will be interesting to see how things improve for FSU moving forward.
With the ACC and national titles out the window and having already lost to rival Miami, it will be worth watching to see how motivated Florida State is for the remainder of the season. With the exception of Delaware State, there are no real gimmes left on the schedule. Will seniors and players likely to declare early for the NFL draft be motivated to try to win big rivalry games and help FSU reach a bowl for a 36th straight year or will the season spiral out of control?
Ranking the Toughest Remaining Games on the Schedule
1. Nov. 11 at Clemson
Although Clemson recently fell at Syracuse, the Tigers are the perceived front-runner in the ACC. Having to go to Death Valley in late November will not be easy. Neither will be asking a 180-pound quarterback to stand in and take shots from perhaps the nation's best defensive line.
2. Oct. 21 Louisville
This one is at home and the Cardinals are atrocious on defense, but they still have a guy name Lamar Jackson, who can rack up points and yards in a hurry. Last season, Louisville scored more points than any FSU opponent ever in a 63-20 win at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
3. Nov. 25 at Florida
Like FSU, rival Florida is having a disappointing season, but the atmosphere at The Swamp is sure to be electric for the annual rivalry game. By the time this contest rolls around, Florida's young team will have gained valuable experience and it's possible some suspended players could be in the lineup.
4. Nov. 4 Syracuse
After a recent upset over Clemson, Syracuse isn't the pushover that it was expected to be early in the year, but this one is at home for Florida State. The Orange may be improved, but they have a huge gap to close. In four games against FSU since joining the ACC, they're losing by an average margin of more than 32 points per game.
5. Nov. 18 Delaware State
FSU and Delaware State currently have the same number of wins over FCS schools. FSU hasn't played one. Delaware State has played five.