The first game of Florida State football's 2016 schedule, a neutral-site showdown with the Ole Miss Rebels in Orlando, kicks off a year packed with vaunted opponents for the Seminoles. ESPN's FPI has FSU's strength of schedule ranked behind only the USC Trojans and those same Rebels. In addition to the Rebs, the 'Noles will also face, among others, the Louisville Cardinals, the reigning ACC Coastal division champion North Carolina Tar Heels, the Miami Hurricanes, the Clemson Tigers, and the Florida Gators. But how does the 2016 slate compare to other schedules FSU has faced since Jimbo Fisher took over in 2010? Well, if you go by the opposition's combined winning percentage from the previous season, the answer is the same as where Florida State fans hope to finish the upcoming season: No. 1.
I took a look at FSU's regular-season opposition since the Jimbo Fisher era began in 2010, specifically aggregating opponents' entire win-loss records from the previous year, to determine which season seemed the most daunting, prior to anyone taking a single snap.
When Fisher assumed control of Florida State football prior to the 2010 season, his first-year, regular-season opponents posted a previous-year combined record of 84-65: a cumulative winning percentage of 56.38%. The 'Noles went 10-4, and 6-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In 2011, that prior-year opponents' record dipped to 76-75, a winning percentage of 50.33%. FSU went 9-4, and 5-3 in conference.
In 2012, when Fisher won his first of three straight ACC championships, Seminoles' regular-season opponents toted a combined 70-79 2011-record into the year, a lowly winning percentage of 46.98%. Florida State's undefeated, national championship season of 2013 followed, against regular-season foes with a 52% winning percentage (78-72) the year before.
2014 saw the 'Noles make the first College Football Playoff and featured a regular season in which FSU's regular season opposition brought with it a cumulative record of 83-68 (a 54.97% winning percentage). That was bettered by the 2015 season's previous-year opponents' win rate of 55.56% (derived from a total record of 85-68).
But back to the future: specifically, the coming season. Last year, the Seminoles' 2016 opponents went 96-61, for a winning percentage of 61.15%-- the highest in the Fisher era. In fact, as far as raw numbers go, FSU's 2016 regular-season opponents combine for better than 10 more previous-season wins than those in any other year under Fisher. Here's the breakdown:
- 2016: 96
- 2015: 85
- 2014: 83
- 2013: 78
- 2012: 70
- 2011: 76
- 2010: 84
Yes, there are myriad other factors to consider, including when, and where, each of these teams face off with the 'Noles. Another important consideration is how many players each team returns. But regardless of how experienced a team may be, it seems apparent that FSU will be challenged with navigating a tough field of recently successful programs-- programs quite accustomed to winning in the recent past.
And in case you're wondering, the last previous-year opponents' winning percentage to top 2016's is that of the 2009 team, the final year of legendary Head Coach Bobby Bowden. Those squads combined for a 101-55 record in '08 (a 64.74% winning percentage), and every FSU opponent, save one, boasted a winning record in 2008-- NC State narrowly missed the mark, going 6-7.