With the college football awards ceremony tonight, Heisman trophy on Saturday and National Championship game on January 6th, the 2013 football season is still ongoing. However, I've decided to take a break from the BCS talk and look ahead to 2014 and establish some realistic thoughts of the 2014 schedule. All over TN there are comments about the 2014 schedule being very tough and brutal for the 2014 Seminoles. I'm here to inform you that the schedule isn't as tough as it appears to be and that creates an extra benefit for the football team.
The extra benefit for the football team is that the teams on the 2014 schedule have nationally-recognized names, more so than any FSU schedule in recent memory. Programs such as Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Louisville, Florida, Clemson and Miami are popular brand names in college football. These 6 "big-name" programs represent half of Florida State's 2014 schedule and that'll look wonderful to the brand new selection committee.
When the committee sits down at the end of the season to discuss which 4 teams deserve a spot in the playoffs, the names on FSU's schedule will pop out at the committee and it'll give the 'Noles a leg up on the competition compared to a schedule that mirrors the one from 2013. However, the committee will be fooled by the schedule just like many of you at this point. Similar to the AP and Coaches Poll voting certain teams much higher than they should be based on program name alone, the 2014 schedule will be overrated, but that's a good thing for the FSU football team. Let's take a look at the schedule:
2014: The Citadel, Boston College, Wake Forest, Virginia, AT NC State and AT Syracuse 2013: Bethune-Cookman, AT Boston College, AT WF, AT PITT, NC State, and Syracuse
These 6 games from 2013 and 2014 pretty much cancel out. The only semi-tough road games in these groups of teams are the games at Pitt on Labor Day and at NC State. The 2013 season had the game at Pitt on the night of Labor Day and the 2014 season has the game at NC State, therefore, these two games pretty much cancel out just like the rest of the games mentioned.
Now let's look at the 6 "big-name" games of the 2014 season. First let's look at our 3 main rivals:
2014: Clemson, Florida and AT Miami 2013: AT Clemson, AT Florida and AT Miami
Among the teams FSU plays on an annual basis, Clemson and Florida are by far the two most difficult stadiums to play in. Both Clemson and UF have two of the top ten loudest stadiums in the nation. Therefore, just having those two games at home compared to on the road is enough to make our rivalry games in 2014 easier than in 2013. Clemson will be losing some key players, especially on the offensive side of the ball and they definitely won't be a top-10 team when we play them in 2014 in TALLAHASSEE.
Under the assumption that the Gators will be healthier in 2014 than they were in 2013, it is almost guaranteed that they'll be better next season. However, as long as Will Muschamp is still head coach in Gainesville, the Gators will still be behind FSU in the return to glory.
Finally, the Miami Hurricanes. While this game in 2014 will be on the road, we all know that there is no such thing as a "road" game in Miami. There'll easily be 30k FSU fans in Sun Life Stadium next year like usual and this "road" game won't be nearly as challenging as a game in Clemson or Gainesville. The 'Canes also showed that they still aren't back to the glory days once again as they continued their streak of 0 Coastal Division titles.
Now let's look at the only part of the 2014 schedule that is more challenging than the 2013 schedule.
2014: Notre Dame, AT Louisville and AT-ish Oklahoma State 2013: Idaho, Maryland and Nevada
Notre Dame comes into Tallahassee in a game that'll surely sell-out quicky. However, you have to ask yourself, is that because Notre Dame will be really good next season, or is it because they are Notre Dame? I think the answer to that question is because they are ND. The Irish have a program that'll create publicity wherever they go, regardless of record. However, with the exception of 2012, the Irish have been mediocre at-best lately and I don't believe 2014 will be much different. The game will bring a lot of excitemt to Tallahassee and on paper it'll look like a really nice victory for the Seminoles. This is definitely a good game for FSU to have on their schedule (big-name program that poses little threat to a far superior FSU lineup).
Louisville joines the ACC in 2014 and they'll replace Maryland. Obviously Louisville as a program has greater football potential than Maryland and it'll be an upgrade for the ACC. However, 2014 is a perfect time for Louisville to join from FSU's perspective as Teddy Bridgewatter leaves for the NFL. The Cardinals will have someone new under center and they'll have big shoes to fill. Next year's Louisville team won't be as good as the 2013 team that was ranked in top top 10 for a while.
Oklahoma State will kickoff the 2014 season in a "neutral-site" game in Dallas. The game is basically a road game for FSU but there should be a good number of FSU fans that make the trip, especially if the 'Noles win the national championship in 2013. OSU will have the biggest drop-off from 2013 to 2014 than any team on FSU's schedule. This will setup perfectly for the 'Noles since it's the first game of the year and Oklahoma State will likely be ranked much higher than they should based on their top 10 ranking in 2013.
Don't get me wrong, the 2014 schedule is tougher than the 2013 schedule mostly due to the fact that Oklahoma State, Louisville and Notre Dame will be more difficult than Idaho, Maryland and Nevada. However, just keep in mind that several teams on the 2014 schedule have national brand names but that doesn't mean they'll be extremely tough games. Florida State will most likely still be favored in every single game next season.
As an FSU fan/alumni/season ticket holder... I am beyond excited to watch next season's games versus some big-name programs. The combination of a more exciting schedule and possible defending national champions... Doak Campbell Stadium will be rocking in 2014!