Of course, this will be obviated by the release of the actual schedule, but I thought it might be fun to do a little process of elimination based on knowns and recent trends in FSU's schedule, along with some thoughts about what Jimbo Fisher might prefer (#NotThatTheACC-Cares).
The timing and venue of opponents within the schedule played a huge role in Florida State's football season in 2011. As the ACC either does not have the clout or the sense to establish guidelines for its member's non-conference scheduling, only a stroke or two of luck will prevent scheduling from placing similar pressures on Fisher's crew in 2012. Venues, as they apply to win-ability will improve in 2012, but as we saw in 2011, too many difficult games in-a-row take a toll on a team, especially when/if injuries to players at thinly-staffed positions relegate a team to playing more than a few semi-prepared players.A) Opponents possible by schedule-date, based on already-announced non-conference games:
1 Sep: Murray St @ FSU
8 Sep: WF or Non-Conference opponent TBD
15 Sep: Duke, WF, at UM, or Non-Conference opponent TBD
22 Sep: Clemson, BC, at UM, or Non-Conference opponent TBD
29 Sep: FSU @ USF
6 Oct: Clemson, Duke, WF, at MD, at NC State, at VT, or Non-Conference opponent TBD
13 Oct: BC, Clemson, Duke, WF, at MD, at NC State, at VT, or Non-Conference opponent TBD
20 Oct: BC, Clemson, Duke, WF, at MD, at UM, at NC State, at VT, or Non-Conference opponent TBD
27 Oct: BC, Clemson, Duke, WF, at MD, at UM, at NC State, at VT, or Non-Conference opponent TBD
3 Nov: BC, Clemson, Duke, WF, at MD, at UM, at NC State, at VT, or Non-Conference opponent TBD
10 Nov: Clemson, Duke, WF, at MD, at UM, at NC State, at VT, or Non-Conference opponent TBD
17 Nov: BC, Clemson, Duke, at MD, at UM, at NC State, at VT, or Non-Conference opponent TBD
24 Nov: UF @ FSU
1 Dec: ACC-CG
2) Thursday games available by schedule-date, assuming ESPN schedules one marquee match-up per Thursday:
1 Sep: Murray St @ FSU
8 Sep: No Scheduled Thursday ESPN game as of this writing
15 Sep: No Scheduled Thursday ESPN game as of this writing
22 Sep: No Scheduled Thursday ESPN game as of this writing
29 Sep: FSU @ USF
6 Oct: Thursday ESPN game: So Cal @ Utah
13 Oct: Thursday ESPN game: Arizona State @ Colorado
20 Oct: Thursday ESPN game: Oregon @ Arizona State
27 Oct: No Scheduled Thursday ESPN game as of this writing
3 Nov: No Scheduled Thursday ESPN game as of this writing
10 Nov: No Scheduled Thursday ESPN game as of this writing
17 Nov: No Scheduled Thursday ESPN game as of this writing
24 Nov: UF @ FSU
D) Games FSU could theoretically play on Thursday night:
@ NC State: More likely...Expected to be a competitive match-up.
@ Va Tech: Less likely-but-possible, as the ACC would theoretically want one of its best match-ups available for Saturday ABC prime time (more TV & stadium viewers). Disney can get a reasonable Nielson percentage with a reasonably-competitive Thursday match-up, given its command of Thursday night college football viewership, so it does not need, and often does not get, a blockbuster match-up in this slot.
@ Maryland: Less likely-but-possible...Given the white-hot dumpster-fire that is Maryland football, this game is not expected to be competitive. While FSU's win-hungry fans might want this game as its Thursday match-up in order to rack-up the W, remember that this game will likely be in late October or November, when it is much colder in the DC area.
@ USF: Unlikely. Being center of the state, mid-week travel is not as much of an issue, however, local business interests would rightfully revolt at the possibility of far-afield fans not spending the weekend at the game and a Tampa attraction. Additionally, USF is using an NFL stadium, which presumably books other entertainment, so moving the game to Thursday 27 September might not be easy to do for logistical reasons. Finally, since this is a Big East game, this particular Thursday slot would not count against the ACC's contractual promises to Disney.
Any home game: While it has been done (rarely), this remains unlikely. Mid-week cross-state travel is simply a different geographic issue for FSU than any other ACC school, which would so adversely impact FSU's gate receipts that I doubt the ACC and ESPN would force this on FSU again. Additionally, ACC is generally sensitive to FSU's classrooms-in-the stadium issues that impact parking and the "fall-break for a football game" stigma.
@ Miami: Highly unlikely...Doubt either team would permit this - too dificult for FSU fans to travel down-state mid-week, and consequently too difficult for UM to fill the stadium for its biggest gate of the season. Additionally, ABC/ESPN can use FSU @ UM on Saturday on Saturday night, if both teams are playing better than expected. Game is still a big draw nationally.
Green) An aside regarding venue impact on FSU's season record :
Since the 2003 ACC expansion, even-numbered years have, and will, benefit(ed) Florida State football.
> Having Florida and Clemson, arguably FSU's toughest contemporary opponents, at home is the biggest advantage of the even years.
> FSU defeated Miami in South Florida in 2006, in 2008, & in 2010, and holds the series edge when the game is played in Miami. Given Miami's situation (mis-recruited talent, 2004-2010 coaching malaise, likely NCAA sanctions), while it is still a huge game, Miami no longer wields the FSU-voodoo-doll it once did from 1985-1992 and from 2000-2004.
> FSU also gets Wake Forest, Boston College, and a Coastal opponent at home.
> In 2012, only the always-tricky NC State game and the every-six-year contest in Blacksburg mitigate FSU's even-year scheduling advantage.
> Look for FSU to win more games in even years than odd years, on average, unless and/or until, the aforementioned factors change drastically.
Buttafuoco) 2012 September schedule likelihoods...
> A key scheduling issue: When to play Miami? Would FSU (administration or fans) want to play Miami in South Florida in September (15th or 22nd are technically available)? Too hot,and too early right?
Such a presumption likely moves the UM game to 20 Oct or after. Given that FSU doesn't like to play Miami too close to Florida game, I can imagine that FSU has lobbied to place this game in October. With FSU occupied by USF on 29 September, Miami plays in Chicago against Notre Dame on 6 Oct, then hosts Bethune-Cookman on 13 October, making 20 October a likely target for the FSU @ UM game.
Personally, I would like to play Miami in September. Barring Haulstead-esque injuries during fall camp, FSU would enter this game with a lot more answers (than questions), as compared with Miami. But most-likely, Miami's big trip to Manhattan (KS) on 8 September would cause them to decline playing our rivalry the following week.
> FSU is really pinched in who it can schedule in September. The only road-game possibility is @ Miami, which is discussed above. Among conference opponents, Wake on 8 Sep, Duke or Wake on 15 Sep, and Clemson or BC on 22 Sep are available. Pro-FSU scheduling would attempt to spread-out the tough games, so assuming @ Miami is in October or later: Wake on 8 Sep, Duke or the non-conference patsy/replacement on 15 Sep, and BC on 22 Sep.
My thinking here is: Go ahead and play Wake (proven to be a tough game for FSU, year-over-year) at home after the Murray State tune-up, lick any wounds against Duke or the non-conference patsy/replacement at home, procrastinate the Clemson game into Oct/Nov, and wilt BC in the Florida heat, before going down to Tampa for what will be a more-difficult-than-it-looks-on-paper game in Tampa. The atmosphere and USF's motivation to knock off a Big Three team will make that one a trap game if not pre-scheduled smartly, in my opinion, despite the significant difference in player-quality (on-paper).
> Due to the likely unavoidable necessity of playing four home games in September, all five road games will probably be played in an eight-game span from 6 Oct through 17 Nov. This means at least two away games in-a-row. This blows, as autumn is a much better time to be in North Florida, versus the September swelter.
Lilliputia) Flipping to the end of the 2012 schedule and working backward...November...
> General note: I imagine that FSU will want the ACC to give it a Bye before its Thursday night contest, instead of something similar to 2011's NC-State-followed-five-days-later-by-a-trip-to-Boston screw-job. FSU would likely also want to place its Bye/Thursday combo between two difficult games.
> I imagine that the ACC will want the Clemson game as close to the end of the season as possible, as it will likely decide the Atlantic Division. FSU will likely push the ACC to not schedule the Clemson game immediately before the Florida game. With Florida being at Doak, perhaps we might see FSU travel to Maryland on 17 Nov, enabling FSU to host Clemson on 10 November.
> Because the Clemson game is a big one, this is where FSU would be wise to push for playing at NC State on Thursday night, 1 November. This would give a little extra time for FSU to lick its wounds from the Raleigh trip to prepare for the Clemson showdown.
e=mc^2) Finally, October 2012...
> Because the NC State game is presumably on a Thursday night, FSU would petition the ACC to get its Bye on 27 October.
> Of the dates remaining (6, 13, & 20 October), and assuming all of the aforementioned eventuates, Miami's non-conference schedule dictates that the FSU @ Miami game would be on 20 October.
> Remembering that FSU will likely be coming off of a tough game in Tampa on 29 Sep, I think it makes the best sense for FSU to try to host Duke or the non-conference patsy/replacement (whichever team FSU did not play on 15 September) on 6 October, in-prep for its trip to Virginia Tech on 13 October. While this means that FSU would play in Blacksburg followed by the trip down to Miami in successive weeks, the way the schedule sets-up, there are really no ways to avoid playing two tough games back-to-back. My thinking is that FSU's players will not look past a game carrying the importance of the Va Tech match-up, and will quickly turn their focus to Miami, win or lose in Blacksburg.
Eventually, something from Greensboro, as influenced by Bristol (CT), will render this projection totally wrong, but it was fun to speculate. Your thoughts...?