This is more about predictions for Florida State football than it is a preview. Our staff has already previewed the 'Noles over the last two months in a way that is more comprehensive than any in the history of Florida State football: a full-length feature article on each important player. 61 in total. You can find them all linked at the end of this piece.
Bud's Preview & Prediction
In 2010, Florida State was roughly the 15th-best team nationally, with the 7th-best offense, the 41st-best defense, and the 15th-best special teams. The 'Noles had good health, the third-best QB in the program's history, and a defense that was vastly improved from the sieve that graced BBF at DCS in 2009.
2011 took a small step forward on the field overall, with roughly the 8th-best team, 32nd-best offense, 6th-best defense and 2nd-best special teams. But it didn't show up in the win column, as FSU won nine games and not 10. Of course, Florida State did suffer a ridiculous amount of injuries. The most injured offense in the country resided in Tallahassee (the only unit, offense or defense, to lose more than 40 starts to injury).
We actually noted the possibility of 8-4 given that very scenario in last year's preview:
I could see 8-4 or worse only if a lot of injuries mount at positions which FSU cannot afford and a bunch of bounces go the wrong way.
Readers balked at the notion. Most of them, anyhow.
But I want to point out this discussion from the comment section of that very article, because a few readers realized 8-4 was possible given the right circumstances, and "CornNole" managed to nail three of the four major guys who would go down to injury.
Do you remember what you were thinking last year about this time? How do your thoughts on last year's team affect your opinions of the 2012 squad?
The bottom line is that college football teams are absolutely fallible. Particularly when injuries mount on one side of the ball. And especially if those injures are on offense, due to the teamwork heavy nature of offense.
The players on the field matter, folks.
Our predictions today are based on average injury luck. That is, losing starts that would put the 'Noles somewhere between teams 30-95, and not between 1-29 and 65-124.
Bounces matter a lot more than fans want to admit, too. I won't cover it here, but just know that turnovers of the fumble variety (and somewhat of the interception variety) have a significant component of luck beyond the control of either team. Google "fumble luck" for more on this.
Again, our predictions are all assuming normal fumble luck, I think.
Predicting a season is about two teams: knowing one's team, and knowing the opponents.
First things first. I expect the offense to improve from its mark of 32nd a year ago. How much? How about a return to one of the 20 best. That seems safe. The defense was sixth a year ago. I expect that will improve as well, thanks to the beastly rotation at defensive line. The room for improvement is crazily small, however, because of how good this unit was a season ago. I think top-5 makes sense. The special teams will not be as good. Losing Ray Guy finalist Shawn Powell and amazing punt returner Greg Reid will cause this unit to take a bit of a tumble. I think top-30 is safe, but No. 2, like in 2011, isn't reasonable.
I do expect the offensive improvement to far outpace the negative of the downturn in special teams.
Second, the opponents.
Going through Florida State's schedule and the future vegas lines available at numerous brick and mortar shops and online outlets, I began to see a pretty distinct pattern. I think the chart shows it quite well. Let's review.
The season of opponents breaks down into two groups of six, and within those two groups, there are four subgroups.
|Week||FSU Favored By More Than 2 TDs & FG||FSU Favored By Less Than 2 TDs|
|10/06||at NC State|
|11/08 Thu||at Virginia Tech|
The Big Favorites
Currently, Florida State projects as a favorite of at least five touchdowns over Murray State and of at least seven touchdowns over Savannah State.
Wake Forest follows, and while this line isn't publicly available anywhere, I've spoken to two bookmakers and they say that Florida State will likely be favored by 20 or more.
A similar number will be hung for Boston College, and a larger one for Duke.
Maryland already lacked talent, and is now in a world of hurt with a ton of preseason injuries which will keep key players out for the season. Maryland does not have capable backups to replace them. Vegas won't even let you place a wager on the Terps' over/under win total. That's how bad things are in college park.
Murray State, Savannah State and Duke are no doubters. They'd be Appalachian State beats Michigan types if they were to win.
Wake Forest, Boston College and at Maryland are the quasi-locks (and yes, if Maryland were playing in Doak, they'd be in the no doubters group). Upsets by teams that are underdogs of 17-8 happen more often than fans of the elite teams want to admit or think about.
The Smaller Favorites
'Nole fans, I know you're not used to this, but Florida State is almost certainly going to be favored in every game. I think the amounts by which they are, however, might surprise you.
There are five teams over which Florida State should expect to win, but the expectancy is such that they shouldn't be shocked if they lose. These are the games in which FSU will likely be favored by between 6 and 13 points.
The game at Miami represents the largest such favorite in this class. I think this will be the worst Miami team in a while, and the crazy difficult schedule will make the 'Canes' record much worse than they really are. That will, eventually, push the line up, but FSU is currently favored by about 11 points in Miami.
Depending on the casino, Florida State is currently favored over Clemson by about 11 points! Vegas is not buying the defending ACC Champions. At all.
Following Clemson, the 'Noles will actually play two road games in which they will be smaller favorites than they are hosting Clemson: at USF and at N.C. State. Hosting Florida, the 'Noles will be a similar sized favorite (likely more than a TD but less than 10).
Finally, the final subgroup: the tossup.
There's only one team that Vegas and myself truly consider a tossup for Florida State: at Virginia Tech on a Thursday night. Tech has a freakish QB, the nastiest defense it has had in several years, and a bunch of new, but veteran skill players. FSU will likely be favored by a field goal, though whether they should be is another question. Vegas' numbers on Florida State are a bit inflated this year due to the public nature of the 'Noles and the attention FSU is getting in the press. Do you really believe Florida State is ~8 points better on a neutral field than Virginia Tech, as the current line of FSU -3.5 implies? Or ~11.5 points better than the Hokies were the game played in Tallahassee? I don't either. Which is why I have this game firmly in the tossup category.
So 10 or 11? 10-2 or 11-1? I can't decide. So I won't. I've plugged in my projected chance of FSU winning in each of its games (which, by the way, is very close to what Vegas has, if not a bit pessimistic). And I'll give you my outputs. This is, I believe, the best method. It involves the least gut feel and the most analysis.
The great takeaway here is the great variability and unpredictability of college football. There are no locks. Many different records are in play and can be reasonably expected.
|How Likely Are Each of These Records For FSU?|
I can tell you that my prediction, the predictions of our staff, and really everyone out there covering Florida State, are the highest they've been in a long time.
A 10-percent chance of going undefeated might not seem like much to the casual college football fan, but college football experts will tell you that is one of the highest for any team nationally.
Perhaps the most telling thing about the chart, however, is that with decent health and bounces, this team is more likely to be undefeated than it is to go 8-4. When is the last time you could say that with a straight face? Not last year, despite high expectations. Not in the last decade.
And that's a good thing. As we wrote earlier this week, Florida State needs to take that next step. It needs a BCS game, to win 10+ in the regular season (and add to the total in the postseason). It looks like they're ready to do so.
And it looks like that will happen, barring disastrous health or bounce luck. Both 11-1 and 10-2 look like they're 50-percent more likely than 9-3.
And I'm still not going to predict the results of conference championship games, in which I don't know the opponent.
Staff Preview & Predictions
We have a great staff here at TN. Not all of them write, but they all fill an important role.
SWFL Nole: Unlike in past years Florida State's schedule is a navigable one, primarily due to adding an automatic win when West Virginia backed out of their scheduled game. This FSU team as currently assembled only has to be "up" to beat 4-5 teams on the schedule, something that in past years was not true because the roster wasn't that much more talented than the rest of the ACC, or we had terrible injury luck.
If the injury luck isn't terrible this team should get to 10 regular season wins, and I believe that 11-1 is more likely than 9-3. They should win their division and be favored in the ACC Championship Game.
Ricobert1: I have the Noles with 10.25 wins. I have FSU favored in every regular season game. So I expect FSU to win in all of the games, but will not be surprised to see FSU lose against VT (65% win chance) or UF/Clemson (70%). I just don't think it's likely.
2011 taught me that injuries can turn a very good team into a very average one, especially if you lose 42 games to injury along your offensive line. And lose your starting QB to injury which net resulted in 2 conference losses.
Injuries happen. They're mostly random. Great teams who win championships have A) great injury luck and/or B) great depth. The first is not controllable; they just happen. The latter is a program strategy, and FSU is close to having great depth at all its positions. Though talented, the depth at OL is still not great - especially with Krug out for a while. This year's OL recruiting class looks to finally shore up the issue.
So I'll give two predictions for FSU's season. Great injury luck: Give me 12-0 with an Atlantic Divisional crown, ACCCG appearance, and potential BCS bowl. Bad luck: 10-2. 2011 luck: 9-3.
Nattylite: Give me 11-1 on the season with an ACCCG win and a BCS berth and I will be extremely happy. The eternal optimist in me wanted to type 12-0 but the running track record tells me we will lose at least one to a team we shouldn't lose to. Until proven otherwise, I have to make that exception a standing prediction. I think the loss comes out of a pool of 3: Virginia Tech, NC State, USF in that order. Clemson, while explosive at the skill positions just doesn't have the horses in the trenches this year.
I think this young coaching staff is finally popping on all cylinders and are making the decisions they need to make to insure success, especially when it comes to holding back in the off-season to avoid catastrophic injuries before the train even leaves the station. See the abundant use of blue no contact jerseys this year.
As a special bonus to this season prediction, I would also like to add in one player prediction. We will see Karlos Williams at HB at one point this year.
Pbysh: Short and sweet: I think we are going to finish 10-2, losing to VT and one of Clemson/NC State/USF. We are nonetheless going to win the Atlantic, and in the ACCCG beat VT on a neutral field. While we are on bonus predictions, I think Clint Trickett starts at least one game this year.
Eric Fisher: Looking at the depth the program has accrued at almost every position and the continuity of coaching and infrastructure in year 3 under CJF, I think this is the payoff season FSU has been waiting for. Barring another catastrophic year for the o-line, I think this is a 10-2 or 11-1 ACC championship team. Officially, I'll go 12-1 with a bcs bid on the strength of the defense, more effective offense, and some better luck to make up for a snake bitten 2011.
DKN: I had win shares slightly better than 9-3 last year and went with 10-2 and ACCCG appearance against VT. I still don't think that was a bad call--after thoroughly covering all the factors that led to 8-4. Going with the same prediction this year, assuming somewhat neutral in-game and season luck (injuries, bounce of the ball, officiating, etc.) and I think we have a better chance at 11-1 than 8-4 this year.
I'm betting on at least moderate improvement on OL. This is the most talent up front we've seen in a long time at FSU and pretty much everybody has game experience (at least a little). We know EJ was far from perfect last year, but I believe his own injuries and lack of confidence in his protection played a much bigger role in contributing to his mistakes than most people seem to think. We are loaded at WR and have, at the very least, potential weapons and competence at TE. Even though we're thin at RB, loaded at WR and OL is probably the biggest question mark, I think the running game will be solid and perhaps the strength of the offense.
Defense....should be top 3 or 5 and maybe the best in the country. Not much more to say there.
Special teams is a bit of a concern. Expect a drop off in punt returns, although it will likely be invisible to casual observers. The hidden yards Reid saved by fielding everything in front of him will be missed. But the big play potential will still be there. And how do you replace Powell (#1 punting unit in the country)? If we're merely above average this year, fine. KR, PK, KO and coverage units should be outstanding.
This is the year we were all pointing to after Fisher took over and it should be "the year". To say there are "no excuses" for underachieving is stupid, but the deck is pretty stacked in FSU's favor.
Scott Crumbly: With a stacked defense, what should be an improved offensive line and a very manageable schedule, I really want to predict a 12-0 regular season for FSU in 2012. I can't bring myself to do it though.
Although the 'Noles have a better overall squad than Virginia Tech this season, I think that the atmosphere on a Thursday night in Lane Stadium will give the Hokies the adrenaline advantage they need to knock off FSU on Nov. 8. Regardless, I see Florida State finishing the regular season at 11-1 to set up a rematch with VT in Charlotte for the ACC Championship (barring any kind of 2011-like injury decimation).
Games at NC State and USF have been points of concern for some, but I don't think that the Wolfpack have the horses to hang with FSU for 60 minutes and the memory of a 2009 loss to the Bulls should be enough to avoid a trap in Tampa.
DKfromVA: I am a worrier by nature, and this translates entirely to my fanhood of FSU football. I worry about depth at running back and linebacker. I worry about the greenest of green offensive tackles. I worry about the Clemson-NCST stretch, the VT Thursday nighter, and the Florida game. The list only multiplies exponentially as the season begins.
In response to these anxieties, I have developed a therapeutic exercise. I look at this: http://www.seminoles.com/sports/m-footbl/depthchart.html
Up and down that list are some of the nation's best athletes. And when it comes down to it, that's really it. Find me a depth chart outside of Alabama and LSU that compares favorably. This is a program that has been built from the ground up on solid foundations, and while it hasn't always been perfect or pretty, this is the year I believe we will see a significant payoff. My win shares have me between 10 and 11 regular season wins, which, as long time TN readers know, is a difficult total to reach with that method. It can be hard for battered FSU fans to step out of the snake-bitten mentality only furthered by last year's injury luck, but look at that depth chart. I'm not afraid to say that I like this team a lot. I will lean towards 11-1, with 10-2 more likely than 12-0, though the undefeated season is certainly not out of the question for 2012. This team should earn a berth in the ACC Championship game and be favored. The BCS is likely, in my opinion, to include Florida State this season. Man, it feels good to say that.
No excuses. (Drink)
Michael Rogner: I'm going 12-0. I went 12-0 last year, and I'm going to go 12-0 next year, and one of these years I'm going to be right. And when I'm right I'm going to rub it in your face, but you won't care because we'll be 12-0.
Fsued: I am a pesssimist.
When the handy dandy Tomahawk Nation wins predictor spreadsheet thingamajig comes out every summer, I always end up at the low end of the spectrum. (If filled out one of those for Miami, I think I'd have them at 2-9).
I tend to think first about what can go wrong.
In the past few years, that's been easy. The offensive line. Defensive line depth. The offensive line. The offensive line.
Now, it's not so easy.
There is ... the offensive line. But then all I can really find is: linebacker depth; running back depth; unproven punter.
That's not much, compared to everyone else.
This team is flat-out loaded. Almost all the players being coach by Jimbo Fisher were recruited by Jimbo Fisher.
Also, this is a team coming off a lot of bad luck. Dealing with bad luck makes people stronger.
I think this schedule will turn out to be even weaker than it currently looks.
My "don't want to look like a stupid homer" prediction is 11-1.
My gut tells me Virginia Tech is the only game we can lose and it's a coinflip.
We're due to win a coinflip.
So, 12-0 regular season -- then two more coinflips.
Matthew Minnick: I really hope all y'all are right. For whatever reason, I just am not sold on the offensive line, or the offense in general. Maybe Jimbo being less distracted by off field stuff this year really will be enough for us to prove y'all right and me wrong? (not that I doubt how tough last year was for him, or how much of an impact it made, more stating that I'm not entirely convinced it will be much better this year).
You put a gun to my head and make me choose a record right now, I go 9-3. Loss to VT, loss to either USF or UF, and another loss in there that we have no business losing at all. That said, (primarily due to how easy the schedule is) 8-4 would surprise me a lot more than 10-2.
I would be quite (pleasantly) surprised with 11-1 or 12-0.
On the bright side, I do think we beat Clemson and either get revenge against VT or beat GT and win the ACC.
FSU44: Last season, I went with my proportionate win share projection of 9 regular season wins, with the caveat that if the team made it out of September unscathed, there was no limit on what they could accomplish. Given the starts lost to injury and notwithstanding the Noles failure to reach that mark, I think that prediction was a bit too conservative. The way the schedule sets up this year, I am saying proportionate win shares, shmashortionate win shares. With Miami likely to struggle to make it to .500, with Florida and Clemson at home, and with the fortunate removal of West Virginia, this is likely to be the opportunity in the next 4 years for FSU to contend for a national championship. I like Florida State to win 11 games this season, and I think 12-0 is equally as likely as 10-2. This is, on paper, the best team FSU has fielded in at least seven seasons. Anything less than 10 regular season wins, given the depth this team possesses, should be considered an absolute failure.
NTAT: Short and sweet: we lose one close game during the regular season (@ VT) and win several more close games against Clemson, NC St, UF, and maybe even Miami (rivalry game, who knows), building character and propelling FSU to a victory in the rematch vs VT in the ACC CG. I'm more excited about this team than I've been in a decade and I think this is a breakthrough year. This is assuming FSU faces normal injury attrition as opposed to the plague last year.
After the season, Mark Stoops will accept a HC position and likely take Eliot with him. Lets pray it isnt Mark Richt v2.0. Rick Trickett may retire- if not this year then definitely next year.
Most improved/breakout stars on offense: Nick O'Leary and Cam Erving
Most improved/Breakout stars on defense: Terrance Brooks and Tank Carradine
RaysNNoles: Florida State undoubtedly has the talent, experience and coaching to contend for a BCS title. As many have already mentioned I find it difficult to picture them in the final game of the season due to the letdowns over the previous seasons, although some were out of their control. I see 11 wins on the Seminoles regular season schedule, losses to teams like WF and USF are completely unacceptable in my opinion, a loss versus VT, NCST or Florida would seem more acceptable and still leave the door open for a possible national title bid.
OBR: Florida State has the defense to be a championship team but I don't think the offense will be there. You don't fix the level of poor play in the trenches in one season that FSU had in 2011. Even with the new players on the offensive line, depth is still a concern. The amount of returning starts for the o-line is one of the lowest in the country. Being stronger and more physical will only get you so far. Technique, assignment football, and chemistry are huge question marks that remain for this newly assembled o-line. Special teams may also take a step back. Still, the schedule sets up nicely with a chance to play Virginia Tech twice. I'll predict 10-2 regular season and 11-3 overall. Maybe with some breaks and some above average health, it could be a better season.
FrankDNole: OK, I’ll be that guy, or rather, one of those guys.
As one-half of the TN historian (old guys) team who has followed and seen it all with this team, I truly believe 2012 will be the year FSU returns to the National Championship game. However, without knowing who our opponent will be for the NC, I am not quite ready to proclaim FSU the National Champion at this point. Sure every year I hope we go undefeated, but I see something special about this team. Screw all stats, logic, and win-shares, this team feels like it’s predestined and I feel good karma coming out of Tallahassee.
There is no reason, excluding complete team decimation due to injury (odds are against 2 years in a row), for this team not to finish the season undefeated, beat VT or GT in the ACCCG, and play for all the marbles on January 7th on our South Florida home field.
There will be some close games with Clemson, UF, and even UM (yes, the UM located down south). All of these games will be won in the 4th quarter due to our advantage in depth and talent, and I would not be surprised if one of them comes down to a final FG kick by Hopkins.
The defense will be dominant in every game but there will be a couple games which will be closer than we would like, which will likely be low-scoring/defensive battles. I don’t see any games that will turn into shoot-outs but FSU will have more offensive explosiveness than last year and rout those who we are supposed to pound.
Finally, there will be no Wake moments this year.
I’ve been using this for over 3 years now, but this year I really mean it: "Spearing ’em and scalping ’em like it’s 1999."
MattDNole: I have a 9.53 win share prediction so I'll go with 9-3, because I'm a pessimistic son of a gun. Yet I do think we make the ACC championship game and win it. We won't play in a BCS bowl however because the Mayans are better prognosticators than any of us and the world will end on December 21, 2012.
NolesBlogger: I also see the same things as Frank and have a strong belief that 12-0 is well within reach. However, I'm not actually bold enough to predict it. I see one loss somewhere along the road to a team that we all expect to beat. I think we'll get wins against Clemson, VT, Miami, or Florida. Over his two seasons as head coach, Jimbo has shown that he has the team ready to go for big games. Instead, it will be a loss to a team that leaves us all frustrated and wondering what could have been.
FSUvaFan: Optimist turned pessimist by the lost decade and games like last year against Wake Forest, my win shares predict 9.53. Last year at this time I was predicting 9-3 so with a fresh year upon us, and a better defense, I'll stick my neck out enough to go 10-2. Thats based on the hope we get lucky with less injuries and Jimbo figures out a a way to mold the play calling and personnel to EJ's strengths (perhaps even his motivation tactics). The questions with the offensive line, running back, and loss of Shawn Powell keep me from predicting a 11-1 finish.
Kyle Griffis: I can't bring myself to predict 12-0. I think anything less than 11 wins is a disappointment with this schedule and this defense. I'll go with 11-1 and Atlantic Division champs, a slip up either occurring at VT or one of those "slip-up" Wake-UVa games from last year where the boys aren't as up for it, maybe an NCSU. Assuming we stay healthy.
Adam Tolliver: My expectations of this team are high. Given the unlikelihood of suffering the same types of injuries as last season, the favorable schedule and what I firmly believe will be a competent offensive line at worst, I have the Seminoles at 11 wins this season. 10-2 being more likely than 12-0.
I do not expect trap games or surprises to be an issue for FSU this season. If losses occur, I expect them to be against the likes of Clemson, Virginia Tech or UF. I anticipate a more consistent offensive attack and a defense that either maintains or improves upon its overall performance from 2011.
The K-Man: When FSU's 2012 schedule was released in the spring, I thought "This is a joke, right? We've got an inside man making the schedules for us?". It seems almost perfect, all things considered. Then I started talking to the resident Tomahawk Nation Ne'er-do-wells: "Going to Tampa after an emotional Clemson game, straight to Raleigh and that experienced squad, a jacked up Logan Thomas on Thursday night..." My glistening candy castle began melting in the sun.
But screw the calculations. And the perspective. And the rationale. And rolls upon rolls of disappointing FSU history. I'm using one metric alone to predict the 2012 season...Jimbo Fisher's demeanor. Happy. Beaming. Borderline cocky. Folks want to continually ask when will FSU be "back"? I don't know where back is. But I know where "here" is. And it's 12 wins with zero losses. I peeked into Jimbo's pre-race stall and he's pissing a powerful stream of golden excellence. Giddy up.
TRM Noles: Bare minimum expectation for the 2012 'Noles has to be 12-2 with an ACC Championship, an Orange Bowl win, and a third straight win over rival Florida. That's what I'll predict with the most likely losses coming at Virginia Tech and at N.C. State. And I know it's especially silly to predict the bowl outcome, but I can't imagine FSU drawing an opponent in Miami that it won't be favored to defeat by a touchdown or more. I can't think of a whole lot that hasn't been covered, but I do fear Jimbo panicking in a close end-game situation or mismanaging a close game down the stretch. Hopefully that's just the battered 'Nole in me and Fisher has a new-found confidence in a roster full of talent and void of excuses. Depth at RB concerns me more than others, but that's about it. Go 'Noles!
EvenFlow58: I'll go with 11-1 like most everybody else. Sure FSU's offensive line is questionable at this point in the season but the only teams with elite level defensive lines are VaTech and UF and they have their own offensive line problems. I really think the offense will be better than most say as long as the line can stay healthy of course. I really expect a good year from Nick O'Leary and hope he can help open up the middle of the field for EJ. The defense will be dominate of course but the kicking game might be a problem.
What is your prediction for the year? Let us know in the comment section!