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Florida State football preview: Staff predictions for FSU

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Tomahawk Nation is previewing the Florida State Seminoles 2014 season with a series of roundtable responses. Our authors chimed in on questions that piqued their interest.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The magic of 2013 cannot be lost, and yet, it cannot be recaptured. It lives forever in 2013, and in the memory of anyone who experienced it. It was a special kind of season -- one that conquered all of the demons FSU has built up over the previous decade. I won't waste much time recapping the incredible year.

2014 must be an independent season. And I think it's important to have realistic expectations. I expect this team to win the conference and to make the college football playoff. I expect it to win at least 11 games, and I think that 12-0 is absolutely more likely than 10-2. Anything more is gravy.

I also expect more close games in 2014, largely due to the schedule being tougher. I don't think this team will be as good as 2013's, though on paper, it has the chance to be.

And I do and I don't think FSU will win the national championship. As I wrote in the recent vegas profile, the field is clearly a better bet than Florida State. As the same time, FSU is a better bet than any other individual team to take home the trophy.

Given that we're all picking a national champion in this article, I'll go with FSU, 15-0.

In many ways, 2014 was supposed to be the year. So many unknowns came together in 2013 a year early. While this group looked like it might have reservations for a seat at the table in 2014, it won it all as a walk-in during 2013.

There are certainly potential pitfalls. Depth at linebacker is not what it appeared to be in the spring, and defensive tackle depth remains a question. Just how big the dropoff at receiver really is troubles me as well.

But this team has one of, if not the best offensive lines in the country. It has a loaded stable of running backs, one of the nation's best tight ends and receivers, and plenty of young talent that inspires confidence that someone will emerge. Defensively, the Seminoles have surefire future NFL players in Mario Edwards, Jr., Eddie Goldman, Ronald Darby, P.J. Williams and Jalen Ramsey, plus a host of other athletic talents. It also has Roberto Aguayo, the nation's best kicker.

Oh, and FSU has Jameis Winston, arguably the best player in college football leading it from the QB position. Though I don't think he repeats as the Heisman winner.

Keeping perspective is important. Florida State's issues pale in comparison to those facing most of their opponents. Clemson lost a ton on offense and has perilous depth at offensive tackle. Louisville lost its best receiver for 6-8 weeks and he may not be back in time for the FSU game -- and that's on top of losing Teddy Bridgewater. Miami is starting a freshman QB after the main starter got hurt and another contender failed yet another drug test, leading to a suspension. Florida is breaking in its third offensive coordinator in four years. Oklahoma State lost more lettermen than any team in the power conferences. Notre Dame just suspended three starters indefinitely for a cheating scandal.

And that includes other potential playoff opponents, too. In Tuscaloosa, Jacob Coker has still not locked down the QB job over a competitor who was looked at for a potential move to running back. Auburn lost its best pass rusher for the year and a starting guard to a back injury for the season, as well. Oregon has questions at receiver, on defense, and in coaching. It's yet to be seen if Michigan State's offense can step up to offset what it may be losing on defense. Ohio State has already lost Braxton Miller for the year, and Oklahoma at its best is a dynamic team, but it rarely played at that level in 2013 and might not in 2014. UCLA is still largely unproven, and Baylor still has major questions on defense, and on the road.

FSUed

I'm notoriously a "picks" curmudgeon - my win shares always seem to be lower than the rest of the TN team and I'm always on "upset alert." And, yes, I know how hard it is to repeat at anything - much less winning a college football national title (and/or the Heisman). But if you look at the variables in play for the 2015 season, it is clear that no team has a better chance to repeat than this one. In a schedule which has some appearance cache but is actually not too tough, the toughest games are at home. The talent level is high - it will be until the playoffs (and probably not even then) that FSU faces a team with comparable talent. Key injuries can obviously change things, but assuming nothing extraordinary happens, I'm going with:

12-0 regular season, with closest games at Louisville and home vs. Florida, then an easy win in the ACC title game. Defeating an SEC and a Pac-12 team in the playoffs to win the national championship. AND, becoming the first team to ever win back-to-back national titles while having back-to-back Heisman trophy winners. That means FSU will start the 2015 season on a 31-game winning streak. The curmudgeon is dead.

Phenomenoles

Regular Season: 12-0. I don't see a team on the schedule that can beat FSU. The depth of the roster gives me confidence that FSU can shoulder some inevitable injuries. I think the difference this year is the running game and secondary. If you can run the football and shut down the pass in this era of the game, you're going to be tough to beat. I'll be particularly focused on the young studs in the interior DL to watch their development as FSU heads into the playoffs, that's probably the only position right now that Seminole fans should be slightly concerned about. Should be fun.

Playoff Prediction: 1. FSU 2. Bama 3. Oregon 4. Oklahoma.   I'm not one of those folks that think Oklahoma or Oregon are elite teams, but I like them both to come out as their respective conference champions. I would be totally shocked if the 4 playoff teams aren't conference champions. Would love to see FSU exact some revenge on Oklahoma and play Bama for the championship.

Ricobert1

Regular season record: 11.5-0.5. FSU loses 2 quarters this year.

Playoff prediction: 1-1. Pesky NCG loss to UGA.

Other thoughts: I think this will be one of the best teams to not win a NC.

Matt Minnick

Matt Minnick: In a vacuum, my head says we roll into the playoffs at 13-0 and have the best shot of any at taking down the crown. But It's just so hard to repeat...and honestly, who wins 31 games in a row in this day and age? I wouldn't be surprised if went Wire-to-Wire; we are just so freaking talented and experienced. But I don't think I can bet on it.

So, we drop a game somewhere (I can't even pick which specific game because on paper we really should win them all) and make the playoffs as the 3rd seed at 12-1. From there we flip the switch into championship mode and beat both teams by more than a TD. Repeat as champs, but we don't match Nebraska's mid-90s run of back-to-back undefeated teams.

FSU over UNC in the ACC Championship Game.

Heisman: Winner - Marcus Mariota; Runner-Up - Nick Marshall; Third - Jameis Winston

Playoffs: 1. Auburn; 2. Oregon; 3. FSU; 4. Michigan State -- All 4 teams finish the regular season with 1 loss. Baylor is the odd man out as the Big 12 champs at 11-1. Not having a Big 12 title game hurts them and it's a big bruhaha in the media.

FSU's slows down Oregon's spread and our monster O-line overpowers their D-line, allowing us to dictate tempo. Michigan State upsets Auburn on a late FG, and twitter crashes with Big 10 vs SEC honks. Michigan State gives FSU a tremendous battle, but superior depth wins out and the Noles win in a game that was much closer than the score indicates.

NoleThruAndThru

12-0 regular season with closest wins coming against Louisville and Notre Dame.
14-21 point win over North Carolina in the ACC CG.
Enter the playoffs as #1 seed, beat Oklahoma in game 1, edge out Oregon in game 2.
Win back to back national championships, but Winston misses out on back-to-back Heismans in favor of Mariota.

This is incredibly optimistic for me. However, I do think FSU will have to overcome more significant injuries this season- I'd be shocked if the 2013 injury luck continued throughout this season. Let's just hope they don't come at QB, DT, or LB.

JMNPB

FSU 12-0 regular season. Win shares would probably be closer to 11-1, but my prediction is 12-0. The margin of error is already massive with this group of talent, and at the risk of sounding silly with intangibles, I don't think a Winston led offense has UF or NCSU 2012 moments. He's already shown ability to recover from a bad outing.

Playoff prediction:
1. FSU
2. Oregon
3. Oklahoma
4. Bama

Noles lose to Bama in New Orleans. While the DT depth figures itself out over ACC schedule, jumbo fronts you'd need vs Bama are more than FSU can handle even with improved depth. On the other side of the ball, Bama's all star secondary becomes an all star secondary again - and that and their DL combine to physically beat up this team. Noles unlucky to get 11-1 Bama as the fourth seed who wins it all.

This will be a very good team again that should challenge for the title, and playoffs are not an unreasonable expectation against this schedule. I'm just not as confident without Brooks at safety that they'll be as good on defense in the run game. No one on the regular season schedule is capable of challenging that. Maybe Miami, but it's hard to see a freshman QB having success vs these cornerbacks, even with a good set of WRs. I just see Bama as a particularly bad matchup for this team. This OL is by no means soft, but it doesn't remind me of the vicious 2012 Bama line that just destroyed teams, and physicality in the passing game disrupted FSU heavily in 2013 - and that was with better receivers.

I originally thought that edge players (Sam/Jack/WDE/pick your names) on line of scrimmage would be a strong point for this team, but I've since changed my tune a bit. Eligwe is hurt and recovering from an injury that isn't easy to recover from, Thomas seems to have some sort of issue going on, and I don't believe the light is going to come on quick enough for Chris Casher. This leaves you with just Demarcus Walker as a known quantity (with Hoskins behind him) and then you're using Edwards as an edge player as 5/7 tech in nickel sets. That is OK for the regular season. Just doesn't leave me with a lot of confidence for the playoffs against physical running teams.

Offense will hum, running backs will have a great year both running and catching out of the backfield as Jameis becomes more efficient in finding them in space. This OL will be able to survive a couple of injuries and still be good - nice to finally have talented depth at this group. The receiving players should be very good, but not at the big time level they were last year. Having NOL and Greene both return is very important, given what they can force defenses to do. If defenses feel they have to bracket Greene, O'Leary or a kid like Rudolph can punish them. And the threat of this running game should do more than enough to keep these defenses honest.

Should be a great team with a couple flaws that only one or two teams can exploit. If the Noles can avoid Bama or other similar teams, Jimbo should be hoisting the trophy after completing the Dallas Double.

TimScribble

I'm the ultimate pessimist, it'll probably cause me to die at a young age.

I think FSU drops 1 somewhere (reverse jinx?). UF will always scare me (insert pessimism), their defense should be good. Also, such incredible injury luck last year for FSU.

Win the ACC. If 1-loss FSU makes the playoff, I think they will win game 1 over Oregon and play the SEC champ in a toss up.

Nolesblogger

I see an undefeated regular season and another ACC championship. After that it's anybody's guess, but I don't see back-to-back national championships. There's a loss for this team lurking somewhere out there. My only hope is that it if it finds them it comes before the playoffs.

This team should still make the playoffs with one loss. However, that loss cannot come against Clemson. A loss against the Tigers could leave FSU out of the ACC Championship Game and, thus, out of the playoffs. Not making the playoffs would be a big disappointment. The goal should be getting there. Then worry about the rest as things play out.

I also don't see a repeat Heisman campaign for Winston. The voters will look for someone else to give it to. I think Nick Marshall will have the numbers, but Auburn may not have the record. The other candidate is the obvious one in Mariota.

We should all still be enjoying last season. Heisman winners and national championships don't come around often.

Michael Rogner

Undefeated regular season and I'll be celebrating by halftime of the ACCCG. Playoffs will be FSU, Ohio State, UCLA, and Auburn w the Noles beating OSU for the title.

Pbysh

It's tough, really. On one hand I remember back to last season and the ease and absurdity with which we marched through the regular season and it's hard not see us picking up right where we left off. On the other hand, the last time this team took to the field I got to watch an opponent I thought was outmatched get out to a 21-3 lead and give us absolutely everything we could handle (you can say all you want about sign stealing but there was more to it than that).

Ultimately, I do not think any team in our regular season schedule will be able to have the kind of success Auburn found against us. Perhaps Notre Dame or Florida could give us scares, but I think this team is talented enough to put one dimensional teams away eventually. Even though my win shares say 11 wins, I will say we go undefeated through the regular season and dispatch of whoever comes out of the Coastal (my money is on North Carolina right now) for an impressive run of 29 straight victories. As for the playoffs, I think FSU goes 1-1 with a NC loss to Alabama.

Evenflow58

It seems almost silly to predict another undefeated season but the numbers back it up. There are certainly land mines on the schedule such as Louisville, Notre Dame and Florida but it's going to take a lot of complacency from FSU for those games to turn into losses so I'll say 13-0 with a win over...*puts hand in hat, pulls out piece of paper*...Pitt in the ACC Championship game.

While playoffs are mostly a crap shoot I'll go with a close win over Baylor followed by a blow out of Alabama, who beat USC because there's always some weird team that jumps up in the polls late in the season.

RaysNNoles

The Noles have the talent, depth and experience to make it to the playoffs undefeated and I believe they will be able to accomplish that. They were however extremely fortunate with injuries last season and something in me feels that it would be very difficulty to duplicate that injury luck two years in a row. Repeating is extremely difficult and while I feel Florida State is completely capable of winning it all again the odds are against them.

DA-2

I keep going back and forth between 11-1 and 12-0. I'm going to go with 11-1. It's hard to see where, but it's hard to see for many teams coming off championships where they'll lose. How often do teams have back to back regular seasons? It's too easy to become complacent. These are 20 year-old guys. With that said, I think it'll be a blessing in disguise. Similar to that other school in Florida got when Ole Miss stopped Tebow on the goal line. Winston will reinvigorate this team for a repeat championship. The only position I'm truly worried about is NT. Alabama and Oregon are known for their run game. It'll be imperative for Goldman and NLS to man the front line. I really hope Winston can get us out to an early lead in playoff games (as opposed to this past National Championship) and force the opponents to pass the ball in the playoffs.

1. Alabama
2. Oregon
3. Florida State
4. Michigan State

Florida State vs. Alabama - apprentice defeats master. Noles repeat.

Dustin Tackett

For months now, I have tried and tried to talk myself into a regular season loss on this schedule, but as Homer Simpson once said, "trying is the first step towards failure."

I just can't do it. This FSU team is far too talented for a regular season blunder, especially in the ACC, and I see them with a 12-0 record heading into the ACC Championship against UNC.

Once in the ACCCG, it's smooth sailing from there as well, where they'll defeat the Tarheels by a double-digit margin - somewhere along the lines of 34-14.

And then today's questions begin to come into play. Will they stay healthy into the playoffs? Will the defensive line develop throughout the season into a force to be reckoned with? Will the young receivers do the same? Will Winston remain hungry? Will the team remain hungry?

I believe so.

Playoff teams: FSU, Bama, UCLA and Michigan State.

By this time, I think Florida State will have come together with the same type of chemistry that held them together last year. I think the young receivers and the new and improved, dangerous run game presents a problem for any team FSU may face. The defensive tackle unit now has a season under their belt. Oh, and Jalen Ramsey is a Thorpe Award finalist.

FSU beats Michigan State in the Sugar and goes on to meet Bama for the title. By then, the interior defensive line is ready.

I don't like picking teams to go undefeated because it's just too damn hard to do these days, but this team has what it takes.

Noles repeat as National Champs.

FrankDNole

Early on the morning of January 7th, 2014, I added this third line to my TN signature; "2014 Wire-to-Wire AND Back-to-Back National Champions." Of course at the time it was a combination of pride, homerism, confidence, intoxication, and the euphoria that the sweet release of that soul crushing feeling that hung over my program for a good part of the beginning of the 21st century had finally been achieved. Since that date nothing has changed that makes me feel any differently toward this years team or my prognostication.

FSU will finish the regular season 12-0, but it will not be the cakewalk it was last year. There will be some games this year where the game won't be decided until late in the third and even some into the fourth quarter. Specifically, I think the OSU, Clemson, UL, Miami (FL), and Florida games are not going to be blow outs many are predicting. We are not going to catch any team on our schedule off guard and I can promise you every opponent has already circled their game against FSU on their calendar. However, while emotions might carry an opponent early on during a game, our talent level, depth, and coaching will have all the games decided by mid way through the 4th quarter in the worst case. Also, believe it or not, and I pray I am dead wrong, I think the Miami (FL) will be our closest game, even though we will be basically playing a home game at Doak South. The reason I feel this way is because I've seen and know things.

FSU will beat Miami (who wins the woeful Coastal in a tie-breaker with UNC/VT) for a second time this season in the ACCCG, but this time in a rout.

The playoff teams will be FSU, Oregon, Ohio State (yes I know injuries), and Alabama. FSU will beat OSU, and Oregon will beat Alabama.

FSU vs. Oregon for all the marbles, and this years FSU's "Arlington to Arlington" goal and theme will become a reality. It will be a good game for 2 or 3 quarters, but will not come down to the wire like last year, and FSU players and fans will be celebrating midway through the 4th quarter and mugging for the cameras.

Meanwhile on January 13th, 2015, I will changing my TN third signature line to "2015 Wire-to-Wire-to-Wire AND Back-to-Back-to-Back National Champions."

Florida State season preview

FSUVaFan

Regular Season and ACC Champ: 13-0. We beat anyone who faces us in the Coastal in the ACCCG, but I'll predict UNC with a 14-17 margin of victory. FSU's talent across the board and dominating OL should get us through the regular season without any stumbles, although I think we do so with a less blowouts as the running game becomes a more important factor in our gameplan. Notre Dame and Florida will be a close games and make us all question title hopes. Really don't like playing Florida after BC late in the season, but at least its not a short week and they're both in Tallahassee.

Playoff: FSU vs Michigan St; Bama vs Oregon. FSU and Bama win the semifinals and meet for the championship. To me it would largely boil down to on what our DL situation is by the end of the year and Bama's QB quality. My head says loss, but my heart says win. In the words of "Fat Tony" from the Simpsons when Louie asked whether Krusty (Homer when he went to clown college) should be shot gangland style or execution style: "Listen to your heart". -WIN- We squeek it out against Bama for another NC.

Other: Jameis doesn't get another Heisman as public perception is too strong to compensate against. I cannot wait to see what LOS does behind this OL! Curious to see what the offense will look and feel like moving down the field now that we don't have Benjamin. He obviously made huge plays for us in big games (even besides the obvious NC game.). Again, I think our margins of victory decrease overall for the year but very few games are left in doubt by the middle of the 4th Q. Is it Saturday yet?

SalukiNole

My prediction for the season is 11-1 regular season and ACC Champions. I do not have an idea what team we will drop that game to, but going undefeated in back to back seasons, no matter how talented the team is, seems too difficult. Case in point, did anyone foresee Alabama dropping a game to Auburn looking at the beginning of last season? I look forward to a different looking team this year with the strength being the offensive line leading the way to one of the best rushing attacks in the nation. I do not foresee Jameis repeating his Heisman trophy win due to the media's coverage of everything he does wrong as opposed to what he is doing correctly. Even if he is better this year than last, the media will push for the next big thing.

As far as the College Football playoff, I see the Final Four consisting of Florida State, Georgia, Michigan State and Stanford with the Championship ending up in FSU's grasp.

DKFromVA

This is not the 2013 team. It is not a continuation of the 2013 team. This team will have to do everything that the 2013 team did on its own to have the same success. That said, this team is far more talented than the teams it is scheduled to play. It has a great chance to beat everyone currently on the schedule, but I would not be shocked if it lost a game. I think Florida State will make the playoff, almost necessarily meaning that it will win the ACC. Alabama, Michigan State, and Oregon will also make the playoff. By win shares, FSU would have to be 75%+ favorites in each game to expect a national title. I'm not willing to bet on that. The ‘Noles have a better shot than anybody to get to the playoff, in my opinion, but once there it's the same as any tournament - the hot team is valued more than the best team. I think that all any team can do is strive to get to the playoff in any given year, and I believe the Seminoles will do so in 2014.

Onebarrelrum

It is really difficult to not go with the "UNDEFEATED 15-0 KNEEL BEFORE ZOD" prediction. But, I'll stick to win shares as they help keep things in perspective. Last year was not a normal season. There was a bunch of talent, the team and coaches meshed, players put in the work, and just as importantly, there was luck. Players stayed healthy. Last year, the offensive line needed to stay healthy. This year, the defensive line can't afford to get banged up. To say the least, winning a national title is difficult. Two in a row? The fact that we can honestly debate that question shows just how far this program has come.

Breakdown for Regular Season:

9 wins: 11.2%, 10 wins: 27.9%, 11 wins: 37.4%, 12 wins: 20.6%

So only a 1 in 5 shot to go undefeated in the regular season. However, I think FSU gets into the playoff with one loss. That means, according to the percentages above (assuming ACC Champ win), a 58% chance to get into the inaugural playoff. If Florida State makes it to the playoff, it becomes a real guessing game. How many had FSU against Auburn at the beginning of 2013, heck, what about week 9? I think it is more like 55% chance of winning a game in the playoffs for FSU. Final: I'll say FSU loses one regular season game and loses either in the first round or the championship game. But seriously, 15-0 KNEEL BEFORE ZOD .