There is one date that stands out on the 2016 FSU football calendar — Oct. 29.
With both Clemson and Florida State welcoming back just about every key offensive player along with plenty of talent on defense, it’s more than likely that that game will again determine the ACC Atlantic Division champion. And unless you believe that two ACC teams will make the final four, there's a good chance that a College Football Playoff spot will be on the line that Saturday as well.
Related: ACC Football 2016 Predictions
But after witnessing what happened at Georgia Tech last October, Florida State fans know all too well that every game is important. And there are a lot of potential landmines on this year’s schedule.
Here is a ranking of Florida State’s schedule from the easiest game to the hardest.
12. Sept. 10 vs. Charleston Southern
Athlon Sports ranks the Buccaneers at No. 6 team in their preseason FCS Top 25 and they return a potent, senior-dominated backfield. But CSU has been run over by FBS competition, going 0-14 in program history, losing those games by an average score of 59-9.
11. Oct. 15 vs. Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons played a lot of underclassmen in 2015 and that experience figures to pay dividends this season. But the offense was underwhelming last fall and will need to make huge strides to become even average this year. Plus, the loss of star linebacker Brandon Chubb will be difficult to overcome.
10. Nov. 11 vs. Boston College
The Friday night contest comes following a game at NC State, making for a short preparation week. The Eagles’ defense should again be strong and they hope that Kentucky transfer Patrick Towles can solidify their quarterback situation. However, BC has very few threats on offense, especially if running back Jon Hilliman is not 100 percent recovered from last year’s broken foot.
9. Nov. 19 at Syracuse
The Orange will be adapting to new head coach Dino Babers’s fast-paced offense. The good news: sophomore quarterback Eric Dungey looks like he is a perfect fit for the offense. The bad news: the defense will again be shaky. Syracuse will be improved and the Carrier Dome will be noisy when the Noles come to upstate New York.
8. Sept. 24 at South Florida
When the Bulls lost to FSU last September, head coach Willie Taggart was on the hot seat. Now they are one of the favorites in the American Athletic Conference. USF returns 14 starters including difference-makers in running back Marlon Mack and quarterback Quinton Flowers. That South Florida is the eighth toughest game is a testament to how challenging Florida State’s schedule will be this fall.
7. Nov. 5 at NC State
It seems that Florida State always gets the Wolfpack in the most difficult spot. The week after playing Clemson in the game of the year, the Noles have to go to Raleigh. NC State loses quarterback Jacoby Brissett and the offensive line is in flux. But the defense should be good and there is a history of tough battles between the two programs.
6. Oct. 1 vs. North Carolina
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky steps in to lead what should be a very explosive Tar Heels offense. Running back Elijah Hood can churn up yards and Ryan Switzer is a dangerous wide receiver/return man. But Dalvin Cook’s eyes will light up knowing he will be facing last year’s 122nd-ranked rushing defense in this game.
5. Nov. 26 vs. Florida
Head coach Jim McElwain will eventually fix the Florida offense, but probably not this year. The Gators have question marks all over their offense with the biggest being at the quarterback position. The defense should once again be very nasty and the season-ending matchup is always an extremely emotional affair for both sides.
4. Oct. 8 at Miami
The Hurricanes have lost six straight to the Seminoles but the last two contests have been very close. Mark Richt brings a new attitude to Coral Gables and he has an outstanding quarterback to build around in Brad Kaaya. With three layups and Georgia Tech on the schedule before Florida State, everyone in south Florida will be ready for the Seminole invasion.
3. Sept. 5 vs. Ole Miss (Orlando, Fla.)
How good will Ole Miss be this year? Gone are wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Chad Kelly is back to direct the offense and there is plenty of athleticism on the defense. It helps FSU that this neutral site game is in Orlando.
2. Sept. 17 at Louisville
With all the talk about Florida State and Clemson, the Cardinals feel a little disrespected in the ACC Atlantic conversation. This will be their first opportunity to show the country that they are in the same class as the big two. Quarterback Lamar Jackson should be even better as a sophomore and it will again be tough to score on Todd Grantham’s defense.
1. Oct. 29 vs. Clemson
Deshaun Watson. Wayne Gallman. Artavis Scott. Jordan Leggett. And Mike Williams returning from injury. The Clemson offense could be scary good. The defense loses several key pieces like Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson, but defensive coordinator Brent Venables has a lot of talent at his disposal.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.