The 2016 ACC football schedules will be announced later Tuesday, but Florida State sources have told us the schedule in advance. The Florida State Seminoles figure to be a bigger part of the national discussion this season, as they return all 11 starters on an offense that will once again showcase Dalvin Cook behind a line that gained some much-needed experience in 2015. Defensively, the 'Noles return six starters, including sophomore standouts Derwin James and Josh Sweat.
Here's who FSU will play, and when, along with a little bit about each matchup.
Monday, September 5 (Labor Day): Ole Miss (in Orlando, Florida)
For the second time in three years, the Seminoles will open the year against a power-five conference opponent in primetime at a neutral location. In 2014, FSU topped Oklahoma State in Arlington, Texas. This year will see the 'Noles and Ole Miss meet for just the second time (the Rebels won the only other matchup 33-0 in 1961). The Rebs saw a lot of elite talent depart for the NFL after their 2015 10-3 season, but they return quarterback Chad Kelly, perhaps the best in the SEC, and still figure to be ranked for this anticipated showdown.
Saturday, September 10: Charleston Southern
The Seminoles' only other meeting with the Buccaneers was in 2011, when the 'Noles hung a 62-10 beat down on CSU. Florida State will cut this Big South Conference FCS foe a $475,000 check to absorb another stomping in FSU's home opener, which should facilitate Seminole fans getting a good look at the depth on this year's roster.
Saturday, September 17: at Louisville
Across all sports, Louisville was a fantastic addition to the ACC. But they've yet to really make their presence felt in football, primarily because the Cardinals joined the Atlantic Division at a time when FSU and Clemson have flourished. That said, it seems more a matter of when -- and not if -- UL throws a massive monkey wrench into the standings. The Cards return Lamar Jackson at quarterback after his freshman year, and several other defensive players who could have opted for the NFL. As it was in 2014, this could be a tricky road test and FSU is lucky to be coming off the Charleston Southern cupcake, and to get its Northernmost outdoor road game early in the season.
Saturday, September 24: at South Florida
Did anyone overachieve more than USF last year? Many questioned whether the Bulls would win a game, which they did. Eight times. That should have the USF faithful gobbling up tickets for this early-season matchup, especially after the Bulls competed with FSU admirably in their 34-14 loss last year at Doak Campbell Stadium. But rest assured that 'Nole supporters will show up in droves for this contest that is one of three non-home games that is nevertheless within the state of Florida.
Saturday, October 1: North Carolina
All eyes are on Clemson's visit to Tallahassee, and rightfully so. But unlike the Tigers, the Tar Heels don't visit every other year, but, rather, once every twelve years. And this is an interesting time for the 'Noles to entertain UNC, as the Heels are coming off their first double-digit win season since 1997, when they went 11-1, with that lone loss coming at the hands of FSU. QB Marquise Williams is gone, but most of the league's best offensive line returns for a unit that was No. 9 in scoring last year. Florida State must avoid a lookahead situation here with Miami on deck.
Saturday, October 8: at Miami
The 'Noles will make their biennial trip to Miami Gardens, which means Hurricanes fans will make their biennial trip to Sun Life Stadium to actually attend a home game. FSU hasn't dropped one in this series since Jimbo Fisher took over in Tallahassee, which has certainly helped endear him to the Seminole faithful; new UM coach and former FSU coordinator Mark Richt will look to make the same impression on Miami fans with junior quarterback Brad Kaaya. The 'Noles are just two wins from tying the all-time series.
Saturday, October 15: Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons are an easy team to look over. And that's fine, because they're not very good at football. They went just 3-9 last year, and their lone win against a P5 opponent was a 3-0 "victory" over Boston College that could be characterized as forgettable if it weren't so memorable for its colossal ineptitude. Seeing Wake Forest on the schedule is always a good thing-- but getting them at home means FSU should avoid playing in blustery conditions and seeing half its roster suffer injuries, as has been the trend of late. FSU might do some Clemson prep this week, too.
Saturday, October 22: Bye week
A welcome respite before the most important game of the season.
Saturday, October 29: Clemson
Once again, this should be the ACC game of the year-- and why not, as its winner has represented the ACC's Atlantic Division in the conference championship since 2009. The Clemson offense returns all-world QB Deshaun Watson and seven other starters, but the defense brings back just three-- we'll see how acclimated coordinator Brent Venables has that defense by this point in the season in what will be a very hot ticket in Tallahassee.
Saturday, November 5: at NC State
Admit it: you hate this game. And you probably should. The Wolfpack has topped FSU four of the last seven times the two have met in Raleigh, as the Seminoles' two losses there under Jimbo Fisher tie only Clemson's Death Valley for the road venue at which the 'Noles have lost twice under Fisher's tutelage. Also, the 'Pack returns 14 starters, losing just three starters on defense. And this comes in an obvious letdown situation after playing Clemson.
Friday, November 11: Boston College (Friday, Veterans Day)
Ah, BC. Last year, the Eagles were the only ACC team without a conference victory, even if they did give the 'Noles a game (as they seem to perennially) up in Chestnut Hill. Their woes were due to an anemic offensive showing, which could well continue this season, although the Eagles at least got their freshmen QBs some experience in 2015. BC did field the No. 4 scoring defense in the country last year, and it returns all but three starters.
Saturday, November 19: at Syracuse
Dino Babers was a really nice hire for the Orange, especially since they play on turf in the Carrier Dome, where this one will be contested. He inherits a veteran team that returns eight starters on offense and nine on defense, and the offense did post 21 on the 'Noles in Tallahassee last year. What remains to be seen is if the defense, which allowed FSU 45 points, can take a step forward in a game that Babers is sure to have circled on his calendar.
Saturday, November 26: Florida
Jim McElwain impressed in his first season with the Gators, overachieving in leading UF to a 10-4 record and the title of the putrid SEC East. Once Florida got to some real competition, however, it was blown off the field, losing its final three games, to FSU, Alabama, and Michigan, by a combined score of 97-24. Gone from that team are star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and its most dependable source of offense, gritty running back Kelvin Taylor. Returning is QB Treon Harris (which isn't exactly a good thing for the Gators), although by this point, he may well be replaced by transfer Luke Del Rio or freshman Felipe Franks.
Saturday, December 3: ACC Championship Game (Charlotte, NC)
The 'Noles will look to win their fourth ACC title in the last five years and fifth since the conference installed a championship game in 2005. No other team has won more than three over that span (Virginia Tech).