When evaluating opponents on Florida State's schedule, there are four key components that we should be interested in: (1) overall strength of the opponent, (2) match up of the opponent's strengths and weaknesses versus FSU's own, (3) location/venue, and (4) timing of the game. The first component is obvious enough: how good are they? Oklahoma will be damn good; Duke will not be. The second component is focused not on overall strength of the opponent, but how their particular strengths and weaknesses match up with our own. Third and fourth, we want to know where the game is being played (home, away), as well as when (early in the season or late, days of rest, before and after).
Let's take a look at FSU's 2011 schedule through that lens. Below I offer my own take on the schedule from least-difficult game to most. Feel free to disagree in the comments.
- September 10th vs. Charleston Southern: This is a 1-AA team and not a particularly good 1-AA (err, "FCS") at that.
- Septembed 3rd vs. the Louisiana Monroe Warhawks: Not as bad as a 1-AA, but slightly worse than Wake or Duke, and at home.
- November 19th vs. the Virginia Cavaliers: Senior day. Last home game of the year. Virginia is probably not a bowl team. FSU has excellent defensive depth and should have fresh legs for this game. There is some worry about the comedown from Miami and the lookahead to UF.
- October 8th @ the Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Wake Forest might be the worst team in the ACC. FSU matches up extremely well with what they do defensively. The 'Noles are coming off a bye week here.
- October 15th @ the Duke Blue Devils: Wallace Wade is anyhing but intimidating. Duke is not a good football team. The Blue Devils throw the ball a ton and FSU is good at rushing the passer. Why is this tougher than at Wake? It's the second road trip in as many weeks.
- November 12th vs. the suspension-riddled Miami Hurricanes: If Miami is without nine of its starters, they belong here.
- October 22nd vs. the Maryland Terrapins: Maryland was a 9-win team that should have been a 7-win team last year (hello, luck). New coach, 15% practice time NCAA penalty, lots of attrition, first home game for the 'Noles in over a month. Maryland does, however, have a good coach, a good quarterback, and some talent. It will be interesting to see what the first six games do to their depth.
- October 29th vs. the N.C. State Wolfpack: This is a well-coached team with a lot of veteran talent. I see them as better than Maryland, and the timing is tougher as FSU had the road trip to BC coming up just five days later.
- November 3rd @ the Boston College Eagles: Thursday night on short rest! These are never easy. BC should have a much better offense this year to accompany a typically excellent defense. This game is BC's home superbowl, and they will be incredibly pumped. Having to travel on a Thursday after playing on a Saturday, can FSU match the Eagles' intensity?
- November 12th vs. the full-strength Miami Hurricanes: if they have everyone, Miami is still quite dangerous. We've covered them here extensively. Even before the NCAA stuff, this was slated to be the last good Miami team for at least 2-3 years. 21 seniors is a big deal.
- September 24th @ the Clemson Tigers: Clemson has a ton of talent. They always have an excellent defense under Kevin Steele. Dabo Swinney fired their incompetent OC, brought in a proven OC and staff, and has been hands off. Early reports are very promising. FSU has not won in Death Valley in a decade. Oh, and the 'Noles must travel there after playing Oklahoma. Can you say potential letdown?
- November 26th @ the Florida Gators: Look up and down that roster. You'll see a ton of kids for which Urban Meyer beat out Jimbo Fisher, Nick Saban, and others on signing day. This team is still loaded with talent. Muschamp brought an excellent coaching staff with him. If UF stays healthy, this game will be very tough. FSU is currently only favored by a single point.
- September 17th at the Oklahoma Sooners: The #1 team in the country according to both the AP and the Coaches. They were up by five touchdowns last year when they pulled the starters in the third quarter. 'nuff said?
What do you think? How would you order the games?