Winning a national championship is very difficult. A team must be elite, stay healthy, catch a lot of breaks and have the right schedule.
In 2014 (yes, I know it is a long way off) Florida State has a chance to do all of that. Today we will look at two things: FSU's potential 2014 roster and the importance of the 2014 schedule.
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|Figure 1: 2014 Roster|
|C. Trickett* 5th year||C. Erving* (DT) 5th year|
|J. Coker 4th year||T. Jernigan (DT) 4th year|
|Running Back||D. Mitchell (DT) 4th year|
|D. Freeman 4th year||N. Lawrence (DT) 4th year|
|J. Wilder, Jr. 4th year||G. Newberry (DE) 4th year|
|M. Pender 3rd year||D. Stuckey (DT) 3rd year|
|E. Beverly 4th year||C. Casher (DE) 3rd year|
|Wide Receiver||D. Fowler, Jr. (DE) 3rd year|
|C. Green* 5th year||M. Edwards, Jr. (DE) 3rd year|
|R. Greene 4th year||Linebacker|
|K. Benjamin 4th year||H. Onwukaife* 5th year|
|Tight End||N. Terrell* 5th year|
|T. Sessions* 5th year||Ter. Smith 4th year|
|W. Tye* 5th year||A. Jenkins 4th year|
|N. O’Leary 4th year||M. Eligwe 3rd year|
|Offensive Line||Defensive Back|
|D. Foose* 5th year||N. Waisome (CB) 4th year|
|B. Hart 4th year||K. Williams (S) 4th year|
|T. Pettis 4th year||T. Hunter (S) 4th year|
|R. Carter 4th year||K. Smith (CB) 4th year|
|S. Lovelady 4th year||L. Brutus (CB) 4th year|
|J. Matias 4th year||PJ Williams (CB) 3rd year|
|J. Prestwood 4th year|
|T. Jackson 4th year|
|A. Barron 3rd year|
|A. Taylor 3rd year|
|A. Gholson 2nd year|
First, a look at FSU's potential roster. Obviously, the 2014 roster will be vastly different than figure 1. Some players will leave early for the NFL draft. Others will realize that they won't get playing time and in their upperclassmen years will elect to transfer in order to continue playing the game they love. Others will suffer career-ending injuries, struggle with grades, etc. But the quality should be the same-- and it could even be better if a few 4th or 5th-year players end up staying for their senior years. And there is no guarantee that all of the 2013 commitments will stick and qualify.
2014 will have the seniors/redshirt juniors from the #1-rated 2011 recruiting class and the juniors/redshirt sophomores from the already-acclaimed 2012 class, plus whatever Fisher & co. bring in for the 2013 class.
This roster stands to be really loaded with experience and talent at almost every position. FSU should be in prime position to make a run. That is, if they don't screw it up.
A team cannot control things like bounces and injuries. It can, however, control its non-conference schedule.
Below in figure 2 is the 2014 schedule as it is currently comprised. What do we notice? (And I fully acknowledge that many things can change between now and the 2014 season).
- FSU has a chance to play eight home games in 2014. That is a big moneymaker for the university and the local economy. It is also an enormous advantage for the team. FSU needs to schedule three automatic home wins to fill the remaining spots.
- As the schedule currently stands, Florida State is most likely to be favored in every game. Scheduling a difficult game that would cause FSU to play its starters longer and subject them to injury, cause FSU to have to focus on more games than necessary, and increase the chance of a loss, would be an enormous mistake. FSU needs to schedule three automatic home wins to fill the remaining spots.
- FSU does not draw Virginia or Duke from the Coastal Division. Florida State already plays the best non-conference game each season (in terms of impact on poll voters), in Florida. Any other game it could play does much more to potentially hurt the team than it does to impact voters. Some believe that it is appropriate for FSU to play another marquee non-conference game when the 'Noles draw the Virginia/Duke combo from the Coastal Division, but that is not relevant here as that situation does not occur again until 2016.
- An undefeated 'Noles team with wins over UF, an ACC opponent in the ACC Championship Game (Virginia Tech, UNC, or Miami), Clemson, @ UNC, @ Miami, Georgia Tech, @ N.C. State, @ Maryland and against Boston College is easily in the national championship game. That would be wins over eight or nine bowl teams. FSU does not need any other team on this schedule.
- Now is the time to address this issue. FSU can, right now, schedule a D1-AA team for the week before the Florida game. The Gators do it and it is an enormous advantage for them. FSU needs to do so as well, as it allows the team to rest up and be focused on the most important game of the year.
- That said, the other two games do not have to be against D1-AA teams. Any two off this list will be fine: UMass, Middle Tennessee, Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, UL-Lafayette, UL-Monroe, North Texas, Western Kentucky, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Temple, Western Michigan, Bowling Green, Ohio, Ball State, Buffalo, Toledo, Kent State, Miami-OH, Akron, Eastern Michigan, Nevada, Fresno State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, Utah State, San Jose State, Idaho, New Mexico State, Tulsa, Marshall, UTEP, UAB, Rice, Memphis, Tulane, Colorado State, San Diego State, Wyoming, New Mexico, UNLV, Baylor, Iowa State, Minnesota, Indiana, Washington State
- You as a season-ticker holder may say that you won't buy season tickets if FSU doesn't have another major non-conference game. But if FSU goes on the run that is expected over the next three years, you'll probably eat your words. People love winners. Additionally, how can someone complain about a home schedule featuring UF, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Boston College? Particularly if the season includes a trip to the ACC Championship and a BCS (and potential national championship) game.
- FSU refusing to buy three non-conference wins is refusal to do everything in its power to bring a national championship to Tallahassee. That's contrary to the "big boy football" attitude FSU wants you to believe it has.
|Figure 2: 2014 Schedule|
|Florida Gators||@ North Carolina Tar Heels|
|Clemson Tigers||@ Miami Hurricanes|
|Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets||@ N.C. State Wolfpack|
|Boston College Eagles||@ Maryland Terrapins|
|Wake Forest Demon Deacons|
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