What is back? Is Florida State back?
It's a question that's been asked over and over again.
My answer? Not yet.
To me, back is consistently playing up to a program's caliber. In the last two seasons, FSU has played at a top-10 level. I think Florida State is a top-10ish caliber program. That's meeting the goal. That's on level.
But consistency is the key.
That FSU could lose as much as it has from the roster and the coaching staff, and still be expected to have a strong season, with a freshman quarterback, says a lot.
Back is about having the talent level and the organization in place to consistently play as one of the best teams in the nation.
If FSU plays as a top-10 team again this season, I'll be comfortable saying it is indeed, "back."
But will it? Perhaps. It's possible, despite not being picked to win its own division for the first time in a while.
This is an interesting schedule. The opener at Pitt is not likely to be a cakewalk. FSU is favored by just 10, which implies only a 75-percent chance of winning. That means one out of every four times, FSU would be expected to lose the game (assuming, of course, that the spread is accurate). By the same numbers, FSU will have about a 65% chance to beat the Hurricanes in Tallahassee. At Clemson and at Florida? Roughly a 40% chance, each.
FSU will be almost certainly favored by 14+ in its other eight games.
Again, that's per Vegas. Maybe FSU should be expected to win by more, or by less in those games. Who knows?
At right are my picks.
10-2 is the most likely, in my opinion, but 9-3 and 11-1 are also very, very likely (83% chance of landing in the 9-3 to 11-1 range). Anything else seems rather unlikely, barring either extreme health and luck (12-0) or extremely bad health and luck (8-4 or worse).
For comparison purposes, last year I gave FSU a 73% chance of going 10-2 or better. This year, I give Florida State a 65% chance of that. And considering all of the turnover on the roster and the staff, I think it says a heck of a lot about the program's health.
Of course, a 65% chance of going 10-2 or better is also a 35% chance of going 9-3 or worse. And it's not quite twice as likely that FSU goes 10-2 or better than 9-3 or worse -- a result that would cause some more extreme fans to go crazy, of course, despite the the fact that a 9-3 record would give FSU 40 wins in four years, regardless of the bowl result.
That's right in line with FSU's over/under from Vegas, which is 10. An over/under of 10 implies that 9-3, 10-2, or 11-1 are extremely likely.
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 a reasonable amount of starts.
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.
Staff predictions and thoughts
Minnick: 10-2, but my win shares are 9-3. I'm officially on the Winston train!
Dustin Tackett: I've been a little back and forth on this, but I'm going with 11-1. I know, I know.. While consistency is clearly the question, I think the new, experienced staff will do a lot to fix that problem. FSU definitely lost tons of talent to the NFL last year, but they're still stacked with veteran talent and an extremely talented defense. And Jameis? Well, we'll just have to see. Luckily he's surrounded by a veteran offense and backed up by what I think will be a top 3 defense by the end of the year - I think they score more frequently this year. Loss to Clemson or Florida, but not both. Can't lose "that game" that they shouldn't lose, and I think the new staff fixes that.
JMNPB: 10-2 Likeliness of loss: UF, Clemson, Pitt, Miami
Massnole: Probably going to regret this...11-1. We split UF-CU and we win all the games that we should.
TimScribble: 10-2. I think they split UF and Clemson and lose a game they shouldn't.
Fsued: 9-3 -- lose to Clemson, UF and the Jimbo burp.
Evenflow58: I'll say 11-1 with a loss at CU. Noles don't lose a silly game thanks to the new coaches. I'm drinking the Kool-Aid this year. Jameis is going to be everything we think he can as a first year starter and this defense is going to give him ample opportunity to do so.
Nolesblogger: I want to say 10-2 with a split in the Clemson/UF games and the typical Jimbo loss, but outside of Pitt I don't see where that loss could come from this year. I'm going 11-1 with the loss to Clemson (and I'm somewhat worried about Miami).
Ricobert1: 10-2, with 9-3 more likely than 11-1.
Pbysh: 10-2, we go 1-2 vs Clemson, UF, UM. I also feel like 9-3 is more likely than 11-1, really having some depth concerns the more I think about our team.
FrankDNole: No burps, no hiccups and no derps. 11-1 with a loss to either UM, CU, or UF. We will win the ACCCG and depending on our loss and the rest of the Top 5 records, 20% chance of playing in NC. Would almost rather lose to UF or UM over CU to achieve ACCCG goal and beyond.
Michael Rogner: 9-3
Truenole: I've got 11-1. Loss to Clemson or UF. I don't think FSU loses both, if reasonably healthy.
I do not believe Jameis will be brought along as slowly as some others. The FSU run game has a chance to be great, and it will be used as so, but the fact that Winston is in the position he's in at this early point in his career tells me a lot about his ability to eat up a learning curve pretty quickly.
The two major things for me will be OL health and how quickly the defense goes from thinking through the new scheme to playing full speed on every down.
DKFromVa: My win shares put me at a total of 9, and that's rounding up. It's this exercise that always serves to rein me back in. I had been thinking of this team as a ten-win squad for months, and it's hard for me to let go of that belief. So I won't, entirely. I think this team is equally likely to go 9-3 as it is 10-2. Honestly, there are so many unknowns that I won't feel comfortable projecting much for a few weeks. 2013 FSU will probably vacillate from very good to very bad without much notice. Flames in both directions. Lots and lots of flames.
Oline0175: I've got FSU at 10-2. I'm actually concerned FSU drops that game at Wake Forest after a tough three week stretch. Clemson being the other loss.
RaysNNoles: Can't believe that I actually believe FSU will only suffer one loss this year.
OBR: Win shares and probabilities: 7 wins: 3.6%, 8 wins: 12.4%, 9 wins: 26.3%, 10 wins: 32%, 11 wins: 20%, 12 wins: 4.9%. Numbers tell me that 10 is the most likely. However, 9 wins is only 5.7% difference. I'll say 9-3. Prediction bumped down one for rookie QB and a bunch of new staff.
What do you think? What will FSU's regular-season record be? What kind of chance does FSU have to go 10-2 or better?