As the 'Noles finished the first half of their 2015 campaign with an unblemished record, we decided a roundtable discussion was in order. Let us know who you think is most correct in the comments section.
Q: Has your expectation changed from your preseason expectation, and if so, does that have to do with team quality or the quality of FSU's opponents?
Bud: Mine have. I was in the 9-3/10-2 camp, and I'm bumping that up by a full win. Part of this is that FSU has already won three of the seven games I thought it could potentially lose (BC, Miami, Louisville), and two of its remaining opponents (Georgia Tech, UF) have had their fortunes changed by injury and/or suspension. But FSU has also been somewhat better than expected. Jimbo Fisher has really adapted the offense to fit its personnel in the last two games after trying to see how much of his traditional pro-style attack Everett Golson could run in the first four, and it has paid dividends.
pbysh: I was a solid believer we would go 10-2 this year, and I am keeping my expectations at that. I don't think this team is going to beat Clemson on the road, and I think there's a coin flip chance we drop one other one, the likeliest choice being @Florida, who are obviously better than expected and not as bad as they are made out to be with Treon Harris under center.
DKfromVA: I leaned 9-3 pre-season, and my expectations have definitely moved upward. I now expect 10-2 and wouldn't be at all surprised with a 11-1 regular season. The quality of the team has been better than I expected, at least of late. The Louisville game convinced me, as this team turned in a quality performance in a spot that wasn't really conducive to it. While the Cards are an example of a team that hasn't been as good as I expected them to be, it was an impressive output nonetheless. The schedule has also broken very well for the ‘Noles. I think it's fair to say only Clemson, Florida, and BC's defense are as good or better than we expected them to be before the season. While FSU may not win the division this year, there's just about no way I see myself being disappointed with the 2015 season when all is said and done.
Curt Weiler: Entering the season, I believed that the two most likely regular season records were 9-3 followed by 10-2. At the halfway point, I think the two most likely are now 10-2 followed by 11-1. Although part of it is that the schedule has looked weaker than anticipated with a down Louisville team and a GT team that has been overwhelmed by the injury bug, more of the reason is simply that this Florida State team is improving at a much faster rate than I expected. If you had told me preseason that Everett Golson would be turnover free through six games, I probably would have laughed at you. The offensive line is better than I thought, the pass rush is much improved, and Dalvin Cook has exceeded my expectations for him that were already incredibly high. Unbelievably, an undefeated regular season in a rebuilding year is not out of the question.
Evan: Absolutely. I was not as bullish as most on this team as I wasn't sold on Golson coming in. However, he's done a good job of not turning the ball over and Fisher has done a good job of scheming the offense to Golson's strengths. Start of the season I was at 8-4 and while they still could reach that mark (this is still a young team with some difficult road games) I believe they are much more likely to hit 10-2 with 11-1 being a very good possability.
Josh: I thought this FSU team would most likely go 9-3 or 10-2. My expectations have changed, as it now seems these boys could easily go 11-1. The Noles are better than I thought they'd be (mostly Golson), and Clemson and Florida are the only opponents who have been better than I expected before the season started.
Q: What has surprised you (positively or negatively) most so far this season?
DKfromVA: I would have lost a large sum of money if you had bet me in the pre-season that FSU would have no offensive turnovers through half the season. As we noted, FSU has benefitted from some turnover luck, but the majority of the ‘Noles' success in taking care of the football has been due to risk-averse play calling overall. I'm a bit surprised that Jimbo has made such drastic changes to his offense to accommodate this year's personnel, but I'm glad that he has.
Bud Elliott: Ditto DK on the turnovers. Kermit Whitfield and Giorgio Newberry have been much better than expected. I am a bit surprised that Ermon Lane and Pigg Harrison have not taken the next step, and as a result FSU's receiving corps is very small.
Curt Weiler: Despite losing a pair of excellent defensive linemen in Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards Jr. to the NFL after last season, Florida State is only 2 sacks away from matching last year's total with 6 games left in the regular season. A lot of this can be attributed to the emergence of Demarcus Walker, Jacob Pugh, Derrick Nnadi, and freshman Josh Sweat, as well as a healthy Nile Lawrence-Stample. However, I feel that the main difference behind this improved pass rush is the addition of new defensive ends coach Brad Lawing, who coached the likes of Jadaveon Clowney at South Carolina and Dante Fowler at UF before arriving at FSU. Whatever tactics Lawing brought with him have made a humongous difference in-game with regard to pressuring and affecting the quarterback.
pbysh: Positively I've been very pleased with the DL as a whole, and specifically with the fact Sweat has been able to give us as many quality snaps as he has. The fact he is contributing so early in his career is amazing, and I can't wait to see his career progress. Next year with a front of Walker, Nnadi, Christmas, Sweat plus depth we should be very formidable in the trenches. Negatively I've been largely disappointed with the offensive line. While Cook has done them a ton of favors and they occasionally open up good holes, they have been ineffective through large stretches of the first half of this season. It reminds me a lot of the growing pains we went through with a young OL in late 2011, but they would grow up to be a very strong group. I'm hoping for the same here.
Josh: Who would've thought this team could play almost half the season without an offensive turnover, especially considering Everett Golson's propensity for coughing it up at Notre Dame? That's obviously been a major surprise. I though the DL would be good, but they've been even better than that, especially against the run. As far as disappointments, I expected the JUCO guards to be better, and I would've liked to see some more consistency from the young wideouts.
Q: Who are your offensive and defensive MVPs to date? For the sake of keeping things interesting, try to name someone other than Dalvin Cook.
DKfromVA: On offense I'll go Kermit Whitfield. He's gotten back into shape after a rough 2014 season, and has also learned how to run routes and catch passes. I would have been surprised and worried if you'd told me he would be FSU's best receiver at the halfway point in 2015. On defense, DeMarcus Walker has had an outstanding campaign to date. He has really elevated his level of play and is a major reason the defensive line is having as much success as it is.
Curt Weiler: For offense, I will go with transfer quarterback Everett Golson. Not for all that he is doing but rather for all that is he not doing. With a running back as talented as Cook, your job as quarterback is simply to play mistake-free football and make the occasional downfield throw to prevent defenses from just sticking eight in the box to shut down the running game. Although he had his moments of inconsistency earlier in the season, Golson has really come into his own in the two most recent games, making some big time throws in big time moments, none bigger than the dart he delivered to Bobo Wilson on 3rd and 8 on what would end up being Florida State's game-winning drive against Miami. Defensively, I will play contrarian and go with Marquez White. Coming into this season, it was known that Jalen Ramsey would return to cornerback but who would be playing opposite him at the other corner spot was extremely unknown. Late in fall camp, White was announced as the starter and as the season began, it was understood that White would be tested early and often with few teams willing to test Ramsey. However, White established himself from the beginning of the season as a physical corner and cemented his starting spot with an endzone interception against USF. As it turns out, he has not been tested too often through FSU's first six games but when he has, he has risen to the challenge and shown why he was chosen as the second starting corner.
pbysh: Golson is not Jameis Winston. That's the understatement of the year. He had a rough couple of games to start the year (besides Texas State, who I'm not counting). All things considered, though, Jimbo has adapted to what Golson does best and given him a chance to succeed. Against Miami and Louisville we were able to move the ball at will through large stretches of the game, and most importantly we didn't turn it over and forced them to march the length of the field if they wanted to score on us. Golson has done everything he could reasonably have been expected to do, and I believe he could lead us to a playoff appearance if we get the right breaks. Defensively, aside from Ramsey being Ramsey (although he has been picked on a bit at times...) there's been quite a few surprises and I'm not really sure who to give the edge to so I'll just give shoutouts to Marquez White, Demarcus Walker, and Giorgio Newberry, all of whom have played great football so far this year. I'm a big fan of Newberry in particular for sticking through position moves and coaching changes and finding a way to contribute in his last year here.
Bud: It's Dalvin Cook. Replace any other player on offense and FSU is still undefeated in my opinion, but probably not with Cook. Defensively, it's either Jalen Ramsey because that boundary spot is so important in college, or Demarcus Walker.
Evan: Easily Jimbo's handling of this team. He's really grown leaps and bounds as a head coach in the last 2 years. Pre-Winston fans would be treated to a nice dressing down by Fisher of his QB in the heat of the game and now it's very rare to see. Part of it is his recognition of the limits of his QB and part of it has to be the lessons he learned from EJ. Going a step further Fisher is "dumbing down" his offense to be more palpable to players. I'm not sure he has anymore tricks up his sleeve for Clemson and Florida down the road like he did for Miami but starting the season 6-0 in a rebuilding year is quite impressive.
Josh: Offensive MVP is Golson. He hasn't been spectacular, but he's doing what he's supposed to do, and he continues to improve (Jimbo Fisher deserves loads of praise for his coaching job this season, as well). Defensively, how can you not say Jalen Ramsey? He completely shuts down one half of the field in the pass game and run game, and he's also the undisputed leader of that unit.