On the heels of the pre-season top 25 poll released by ESPN yesterday, I got to thinking about Florida State's schedule. The 'Noles are slated to play three ranked teams on that list, though I suspect two more may end up ranked.
In my opinion, here are Florida State's six toughest opponents in 2012, in order:
The first four are pretty clear, though the order is in dispute. I think USF is a clear five with eight or nine returning starters on defense. Is Wake better than Miami? I'm not sure. Both teams lose a lot, but Wake has a much better quarterback at this point, and the better coach.
But how does that list of toughest opponents compare to a list of FSU's toughest games?
I think it's a bit different. And I know not everyone will agree. Here's how I see it:
at Virginia Tech
at NC State
at South Florida
Home field advantage matters. At Blacksburg is the clear top choice, but at N.C. State and USF are going to be tough. Both teams bring back a lot, and both stadiums will be packed to the gills with fans as this is their superbowl. I'm more comfortable with this team facing a slightly better opponent at home than a pretty good team on the road. Plus, USF and N.C. State are back-to-back road games after the biggest conference game of the year (Clemson).
How would your two lists look?