Two of Florida State's most dynamic offensive players from 2015 -- running back Dalvin Cook (left) and wide receiver Travis Rudolph (right) -- return for the Seminoles in 2016. The duo combined for 26 touchdowns. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25: No. 3 Florida State

Posted July 28th, 2016

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Sure, it’s just July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last season’s four College Football Playoff semifinalists were rated Nos. 3, 6, 13 and 24 on our 2015 list.

Today’s team: No. 3 Florida State (Related coverage: Dalvin Cook eager to improve, ready to lead)

The Seminoles will contend because … they’re the most experienced of the top five teams in our poll and they own national-championship pedigree. In fact, No. 6 LSU, with 18 returning starters, is our only Top 25 team that welcomes back more starters than Florida State, which has 17, including everybody on offense.

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INSIDE THE SEMINOLES

Coach: Jimbo Fisher (seventh year, 68-14)

2015: 10-3, 6-2 in the ACC; lost to Houston in the Peach Bowl, 38-24

Returning starters: 11 offense, 6 defense

The key game: Clemson, Oct. 29

Hello: QB Deondre Francois, DT Demarcus Christmas, LB Ro’Derrick Hoskins, LB Matthew Thomas, CB Tarvarius McFadden, S Derwin James

Goodbye: CB Jalen Ramsey (Jacksonville Jaguars), PK Robert Aguayo (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), DT Nile Lawrence-Stample (Cleveland Browns), LB Terrance Smith (Kansas City Chiefs)

Spring cleaning: The one and only question revolves around the most important position on the field — quarterback. Sean Maguire is back, but he is underwhelming. Redshirt freshman Deondre Francois looked good in the spring game, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he unseats Maguire at some point. Remember, Jimbo Fisher wasn’t afraid to turn the reins over to another redshirt freshman with high upside — Jameis Winston — in 2013. That worked out pretty well. … Recruiting went great again. The Noles signed the nation’s No. 2-ranked class behind Alabama, with 16 four- or five-star players. Their previous classes ranked No. 7 (2015), No. 4 (2014), No. 12 (2013) and No. 3 (2012) in the 247Sports composite ratings.

Sean Maguire (10), who threw for 1,520 yards and 11 touchdowns in a backup role last season, is back. But he'll be pressed for the starting job by redshirt freshman Deondre Francois, who had a strong spring game performance. (Tyler Smith/Getty Images)
Sean Maguire (10), who threw for 1,520 yards and 11 touchdowns in a backup role last season, is back. But he’ll be pressed for the starting job by redshirt freshman Deondre Francois, who had a strong spring game performance. (Tyler Smith/Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Sean Maguire, 112-189-1,520 yards, 11/6 (2nd)

Rushing: Dalvin Cook, 229-1,691-19 (1st)

Receiving: Travis Rudolph, 59-916-7 (1st); Jesus Wilson, 58-622-3 (2nd); Kermit Whitfield, 57-798-6 (3rd)

Tackles: DB Derwin James, 91 (2nd)

Sacks: DE DeMarcus Walker, 10.5 (1st)

RETURNING ALL CONFERENCE (9)

Offense: OT Roderick Johnson (1st team), RB Dalvin Cook (1st), WR Travis Rudolph (2nd), WR Kermit Whitfield (WR 2nd, RET honorable mention), OG Kareem Are (3rd), OG Chad Mavety (honorable mention)

Defense: DE DeMarcus Walker (2nd), DT Derrick Nnadi (3rd), DB Derwin James (3rd)

FYI …

  • Dalvin Cook is sixth in the Heisman Trophy odds at 12-to-1 after being the only major-college back to average more than 7.0 yards (7.4) with 200 or more carries. Cook, who averaged 7.4, is a darter and a slasher who played through leg and shoulder injuries and behind a new line. This year FSU returns its top 10 linemen and Cook is healthy. Imagine the possibilities …
  • Florida State vs. Clemson has become one of the nation’s best rivalries. Over the last five years, FSU-Clemson has accounted for 62 NFL draft picks, including 12 first-rounders. Only Alabama-LSU (71/16) and Florida-FSU (64/14) have more. Texas-Oklahoma, by the way, has produced 40 NFL picks and 12 first-rounders. Over the last five years, the FSU-Clemson winner has gone on to capture the ACC, and the loser still averaged 10 wins.
  • The Seminoles face the third-toughest schedule in the nation, according to ESPN’s power index, behind USC and Ole Miss. The No. 3 Noles and No. 12 Rebels meet on opening day in Orlando, Fla., and FSU also has Top 25 foes Louisville and North Carolina in the first five weeks.

Florida State's 2016 schedule

DateOpponentLast yr's result (if played)
Sept. 5Ole Miss
Sept. 10Charleston Southern
Sept. 17at Louisville*W, 41-21
Sept. 24at South FloridaW, 34-14
Oct. 1North Carolina*
Oct. 8at Miami*W, 29-24
Oct. 15Wake Forest*W, 24-16
Oct. 29Clemson*L, 23-13
Nov. 5at North Carolina State*
Nov. 11Boston College*W, 14-0
Nov. 19at Syracuse*W, 45-21
Nov. 26FloridaW, 27-2
* ACC game

Florida State: The last 5 years

YearW-L/Conf.RankBowl
201510-3 / 6-210th / 14thChick-fil-A Peach Bowl, L
201413-1 / 8-01st / 3rdCFP title game, L
201314-0 / 8-011th / 1stBCS title game, W
201212-2 / 7-17th / 10thOrange Bowl, W
20119-4 / 5-36th / 23rdChamps Sports Bowl, W
Total58-10, 34-66 bowl games (4-2)
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking.

 

2015 NATIONAL RANKS

Scoring: 31.7 (47th)

Scoring defense: 17.5 (9th)

Passing yards: 255.8 (38th)

Rushing yards: 168.2 (69)

 

TOP 25 SO FAR …

No. 25: Washington State

No. 24: Boise State

No. 23: Louisville

No. 22: Oklahoma State

No. 21: Oregon

No. 20: North Carolina

No. 19: Baylor

No. 18: Iowa

No. 17: Washington

No. 16: Georgia

No. 15: Michigan State

No. 14: USC

No. 13: TCU

No. 12: Ole Miss

No. 11: Houston

No. 10: Notre Dame

No. 9: Tennessee

No. 8: Stanford

No. 7: Ohio State

No. 6: LSU

No. 5: Michigan

No. 4: Oklahoma

No. 3: Florida State

No. 2: Coming Friday. Want a hint? This school played in last year’s CFP title game. Have fun guessing. Your odds of getting it right are 50/50.

 

BY CONFERENCE

5 schools: Pac-12 (8-Stanford, 14-USC, 17-Washington, 21-Oregon, 25-Washington State)

4 schools: Big Ten (5-Michigan, 7-Ohio State, 15-Michigan State, 18-Iowa); Big 12 (4-Oklahoma, 13-TCU, 19-Baylor, 22-Oklahoma State); SEC (6-LSU, 9-Tennessee, 12-Ole Miss, 16-Georgia)

3 schools: ACC (3-Florida State, 20-North Carolina, 23-Louisville)

1 school: AAC (11-Houston); Mountain West (24-Boise State); Independents (10-Notre Dame)

 

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