Florida State is coming off one of the best two-year runs by a program in recent memory. The Seminoles won 27 games from 2013-14, claimed the 2013 national championship and reached the playoffs last season. Additionally, Florida State has claimed three consecutive ACC titles and has four double-digit win seasons over the last five years.
Even though the Seminoles lost a handful of key players from last season, another run at the playoffs isn’t unrealistic. Of course, Florida State needs to answer several personnel questions and navigate a few tricky road tests, but coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the best in the nation and is primed for a quick reload in 2015.
The first season of the college football playoff was a huge success. With less than 50 days until kickoff, it’s time to evaluate some of the top contenders for the 2015 playoffs.
Here’s a look at three reasons why Florida State will make the playoff, followed by its schedule and three reasons the Seminoles won’t finish in the top four.
Three Reasons Why Florida State Will Make the CFB Playoff in 2015
Recruiting rankings aren’t 100 percent accurate, but there is plenty of value in the data. Using the 247Sports team rankings from 2011-15, Florida State’s five-year recruiting average (4.4) ranks No. 2 behind Alabama (1.0). There’s more to a roster and judging teams in the preseason than just pure talent from a recruiting perspective. However, there’s no shortage of potential and talent for the Seminoles. How quickly will coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff develop the young talent on the roster into key contributors? On paper, most of Florida State’s talent is in the freshmen and sophomore ranks for 2015.
2. Jimbo Fisher Will Find a Quarterback
The last three full-time starters at quarterback for Florida State under Fisher have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Extending that streak to four seems unlikely, but it’s safe to assume Fisher will find the right answer at quarterback. Sean Maguire finished spring at the top of the depth chart, and the junior has three seasons of experience within Fisher’s system. He also started the Sept. 20 showdown against Clemson – arguably the best defense in the nation – last year, completing 21 of 39 passes for 304 yards. However, Maguire isn’t guaranteed the starting job after former Notre Dame signal-caller Everett Golson announced he would transfer to Florida State in May. Golson is clearly more established as a quarterback on the FBS level, but he also faces a tough transition to a new offense. Regardless of whether Golson or Maguire takes the first snap, Fisher deserves the benefit of the doubt in finding the next quarterback.
3. Jalen Ramsey + Playmakers on Offense
While one player isn’t able to transform a defense into a shutdown group, defensive back Jalen Ramsey can make up for a lot of deficiencies for the Seminoles. The junior is arguably the best player in college football and is shifting from safety to cornerback in 2015. Ramsey’s all-around versatility on defense is a huge asset for second-year coordinator Charles Kelly. On the other side of the ball, the Seminoles have a core of young playmakers ready to emerge in 2015. The status of Dalvin Cook is uncertain after an off-field incident, but Jacques Patrick and Mario Pender should prevent a drop in the rushing performance. At receiver, sophomores Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane are rising stars. True freshmen George Campbell and Da’Vante Phillips are also worth watching as key contributors this season.
Florida State's 2015 Schedule
Athlon Projected Rank for 2015
at Boston College
at Wake Forest
at Georgia Tech
Three Reasons Why Florida State Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
1. Too Many Holes to Fill
Even though the rankings indicate just how well Fisher and this staff have performed on the recruiting trail, this team is losing a ton of key players from last season. Offensively, quarterback Jameis Winston is the biggest loss, but receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary must be replaced, along with four starters on the offensive line. The defense ranked ninth in the ACC in points allowed last year and lost both starting cornerbacks, end Mario Edwards Jr. and tackle Eddie Goldman to the NFL. The linebacking corps is also thin on depth.
Related: ACC Predictions for 2015
2. Road Schedule
If Florida State is going to return to the playoffs in 2015, it will have to win a handful of critical games on the road. Trips to Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida are key swing games for the Seminoles this season, and there’s an intriguing mid-September trip to Boston College – a team that has played Florida State tough over the last two years. Catching Miami, Louisville and NC State at home softens the road schedule a bit, but this is not an easy path for a rebuilding team in 2015.
3. Defensive Concerns
Charles Kelly’s first season as the defensive signal-caller had its share of ups and downs. The Seminoles finished ninth in the ACC in scoring defense and allowed 5.5 yards per play. However, Kelly’s halftime adjustments were a key cog in some of Florida State’s close victories. But this unit still has a ways to go in 2015, and a handful of key players left for the NFL. The defensive line may not have a dominant, first-team All-ACC performer this year, but there is depth and some promising young talent. The linebacking corps is arguably Kelly’s biggest concern with Reggie Northrup and Matthew Thomas recovering from offseason surgeries. Even though this unit has promising talent in spots and one of the nation’s top players in Ramsey, the Seminoles need another year of seasoning on defense.
Florida State is a team built to win in 2016 or 2017. Sure, there’s a lot of promising talent in place and a standout freshman class will add to the depth for Fisher. However, the Seminoles must replace four starters on the offensive line, break in a new quarterback and improve a defense ranked near the bottom of the ACC in the four main statistical categories. And there’s a schedule featuring road trips to Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida. That's a lot to overcome. Finishing with 11 wins in the regular season isn’t out of the question. However, a 10-2 campaign is more realistic considering all of the personnel question marks and roster turnover this year.
Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 9
Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 11-2 (6-2 ACC)
Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 9.5
CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 9.5
5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 9.5