TALLAHASSEE, FL - NOVEMBER 12: EJ Manuel #3 of the Florida State Seminoles passes during a game against against the Miami Hurricanes at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 12, 2011 in Tallahassee, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
All summer long, I've shared the excellent work of the Pre-Snap Read site. It's run by Paul Myerberg, one of college football's finest writers. He's previewed 10 of Florida State's opponents, but we've had to wait for Florida State. That's because he really likes the 'Noles. As in, he has FSU at No. 3 in his countdown.
By now, you know how this works. I'll share a small excerpt, and you head on over to read the rest (free, of course). And give Paul your thanks for all of his excellent work in getting us through the offseason.
In a nutshell Barring injury, which sidelined Florida State's quest for a breakthrough last fall, this team will challenge for the national title. There's simply too much to like and too few question marks, even if the one issue does loom large: the offensive line. For me, the question isn't whether F.S.U. is going to do a better job running the football; the line's overall size - drastically improved over the recent past - and strong interior ensures that F.S.U. will taste far greater success on the ground. The question revolves around the line's ability to keep Manuel clean, and this will remain a concern until the two new tackles take on teams like Wake Forest and Clemson to end September. If the line rounds into form - and I think it will, though it won't be a dominating group - there may not be a better team in college football.
Manuel is going to have a superb season. Returning Thompson at running back grants the backfield a much-needed big-play threat to go with Wilder Jr., Pryor and Freeman. The receiver corps is one of the deepest in the nation. There's no better front four in the country: F.S.U.'s defensive line is going to rip game plans to shreds. While overshadowed, the Seminoles' linebackers are quick, flexible and strong in coverage, especially when Smith steps in for Williams at middle linebacker. There are two all-American candidates in the secondary, led by one of the nation's best in Joyner. There is a dangerous amount of talent, some wonderful coaching, some tremendous depth and competition across the board - and there's the feeling that this program is chomping at the bit for September.
I'm still convinced that last year's team could have made a championship run. Not to win the title, perhaps, but to hang in the mix deep into November. In other words, I don't think F.S.U. disappointed last fall, falling short of expectations for the umpteenth consecutive season; Seminoles were simply decimated by injuries. A year later, F.S.U. is ready to break out. There's too much here: there's too much for Fisher and his staff to work with. The schedule is too workable to miss this shot. There are seniors in key spots, gifted underclassmen at others, the program's best depth in years. It's all about living up to expectations, both along the offensive line and on a team-wide level. It's time for F.S.U.'s renaissance. The only reason I have F.S.U. here, behind Oregon and L.S.U., is due to the fact that I can think that the Seminoles have a better chance of losing a game - whether because the line struggles, or Manuel is injured - than the Ducks and Tigers. No matter how you cut it, this team is superb.
Dream season Florida State nets its third national title and second undefeated season behind Heisman-worthy quarterback play and the strongest defense in college football. A few choice scores: F.S.U. 41, Clemson 21; F.S.U. 38, South Florida 3; F.S.U. 56, Miami 2; F.S.U. 28, Virginia Tech 10; F.S.U. 39, Florida 7.
Nightmare season The Seminoles suffer another round of terrible injuries, especially along the offensive line, and finish 9-3 overall and second in the Atlantic division.
Check it out. Now.