TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 29: The Florida State Seminoles take the field during a game against the Clemson Tigers at Doak Campbell Stadium on October 29, 2016 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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The American-Statesman’s Top 25 countdown: No. 4 Florida State

The Seminoles lost so much from 2016, but still return a loaded roster of veterans and star freshmen. Is this a CFP year?

Posted July 26th, 2017

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Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 17 on our 2016 list.

Today’s team: No. 4 Florida State (Related coverage: Jimbo Fisher is ready to measure up against Alabama’s Nick Saban)

Best-case scenario: A dominant front seven anchors one of the best defenses in the nation, and quarterback Deandre Francois builds on his impressive debut season as the ‘Noles play for the program’s fourth national championship.

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Worst-case scenario: Departed running back Dalvin Cook meant more to Florida State’s offense than anyone in the program wants to admit, and Francois struggles to move the Seminoles attack with any consistency.

The key game: Sept. 2, Alabama. Games against Miami, Louisville and Clemson matter more for ACC title hopes, but the Seminoles have their eyes on a bigger prize. A win over Alabama in the season opener stamps Florida State as the nation’s team to beat.

 

INSIDE THE SEMINOLES

Coach: Jimbo Fisher (eighth year, 78-17)

2016: 10-3, 5-3 in the ACC (beat Michigan 33-32 in the Orange Bowl)

Returning starters: 7 offense, 9 defense

Goodbye: RB Dalvin Cook (Vikings, 2nd round), OT Roderick Johnson (Browns, 5th), WR Kermit Whitfield, WR Jesus Wilson (Buccaneers, undrafted free agent), G Kareem Are (Raiders, UFA), DE DeMarcus Walker (Broncos, 2nd), CB Marquez White (Cowboys, 6th)

Spring cleaning: Defense dominated the spring game, especially ends Jacob Pugh and Brian Burns. The pair combined for four sacks, four tackles for loss and multiple quarterback pressures. Expect them to ease the loss of Walker, who had 16.5 sacks a year ago. … The Seminoles’ 2017 signing class ranked sixth nationally, and only Alabama and Ohio State signed more five-star recruits; Florida State signed four of them — two running backs, a defensive tackle and a defensive end. Oh, the running backs were rated as the nation’s top-rated prospects, the defensive tackle also was No. 1 at his position (Houston Bellaire Episcopal’s Marvin Wilson) and the defensive end was ranked second in the country at his position.

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – DECEMBER 30: Deondre Francois #12 of the Florida State Seminoles scores a touchdown in the fourth quarteragainst the Michigan Wolverines during the Capitol One Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on December 30, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: QB Deondre Francois, 235-400-3,350, 20/7

Rushing: Jacques Patrick, 61-350-4 (2nd); QB Deondre Francois, 108-198-5 (3rd)

Receiving: Nyqwan Murray, 27-441-5 (5th); Auden Tate, 25-409-6 (6th)

Tackles: LB Matthew Thomas, 77 (1st)

Sacks: DE Brian Burns, 9.5 (2nd); DE Josh Sweat, 7 (3rd)

 

RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS (5)

Offense: C Alec Eberle (hon. men.), K Ricky Aguayo (hon. men.)

Defense: CB Tarvarus McFadden (1st), DT Derrick Nnadi (3rd), DT Demarcus Christmas (hon. men.)

ORLANDO, FL – SEPTEMBER 05: Derwin James #3 of the Florida State Seminoles reacts after a play against the Mississippi Rebels during the Camping World Kickoff at Camping World Stadium on September 5, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

FLORIDA STATE: FYI

Enter Cam Akers: Few freshmen in the country will draw as much attention as Cam Akers, one of those five-star running backs signed in February; the 5-11, 213-pound freshman from Clinton, Miss., could replace Cook. A high school hero who scored seven touchdowns in a state championship game in his final game, Akers enrolled early at FSU and earned offensive MVP honors in the spring game. He could start the opener against Alabama.

Making his move: Jameis who? Despite constant comparisons to former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston, redshirt sophomore Francois handled the hype during his first year as a starter. The dual threat with a cannon arm showed plenty of grit while throwing for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns a year ago, and he looks poised for his own Heisman campaign.

A special secondary: All-American safety Derwin James has drawn comparisons to luminous Seminoles defensive backs such as Deion Sanders and Terrell Buckley. If the 6-3, 210-pounder can fully recover from a season-ending knee injury suffered early last season, he’ll anchor a stellar secondary that also includes cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, who tied for first nationally last season with eight interceptions.

Florida State's schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)
Sept. 2Alabama (Atlanta)
Sept. 9Louisiana Monroe
Sept. 16Miami*W, 20-19
Sept. 23North Carolina State*W, 24-20
Sept. 30at Wake Forest*W, 17-6
Oct. 14at Duke*
Oct. 21Louisville*L, 63-20
Oct. 27at Boston College*W, 45-7
Nov. 4Syracuse*W, 45-14
Nov. 11at Clemson*L, 37-34
Nov. 18Delaware State
Nov. 25at FloridaW, 31-13
* ACC game

The last 5 years

YEARW-L (CONF.)RANKINGBOWL GAME
TOTAL59-9 (34-6)4-2 in bowls
201212-2 (7-1)7th/10thW Orange
201314-0 (8-0)11th/1stW BCS title game
201413-1 (8-0)1st/3rdL CFP title game
201510-3 (6-2)10th/14thL Peach
201610-3 (5-3)4th/8thW Orange

Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking

 

2016 NATIONAL STAT RANKS

Scoring: 31st (35.1 ppg)

Points allowed: T-44th (25.0 ppg)

Passing: 33rd (264.1 ypg)

Rushing: 40th (202.3 ypg)

Total off.: 25th (466.4 ypg)

Total def.: 22nd (349.1 ypg)

 

OUR TOP 25 SO FAR

No. 25: Boise State

No. 24: Oregon

No. 23: Tennessee

No. 22: Texas

No. 21: Kansas State

No. 20: Miami

No. 19: West Virginia

No. 18: South Florida

No. 17: Florida

No. 16: Stanford

No. 15: Louisville

No. 14: Georgia

No. 13: Wisconsin

No. 12: LSU

No. 11: Auburn

No. 10: Michigan

No. 9: Oklahoma State

No. 8: Washington

No. 7: Oklahoma

No. 6: Penn State

No. 5: Clemson

No. 4: Florida State

No. 3: Coming Thursday. Want a hint? This school produced the Houston Texans’ first pick of the 2002 NFL supplemental draft. He was an offensive tackle.

 

BY CONFERENCE

5 schools:

Big 12 (No. 7 Oklahoma, No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 19 West Virginia, No. 21 Kansas State, No. 22 Texas)

SEC (No. 11 Auburn, No. 12 LSU, No. 14 Georgia, No. 17 Florida, No. 23 Tennessee)

4 schools

ACC (No. 4 Florida State, No. 5 Clemson, No. 15 Louisville, No. 20 Miami)

3 schools:

Big Ten (No. 6 Penn State, No. 10 Michigan, No. 13 Wisconsin)

Pac-12 (No. 8 Washington, No. 16 Stanford, No. 24 Oregon)

 

1 school:

AAC (No. 18 South Florida)

Mountain West (No. 25 Boise State)

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