Every offseason, dedicated football fans will feed on a variety of preseason rankings by various publications as the manna to hold over their hunger for college football news until the first kickoff arrives.
Most of these rankings have no defined method, but rely wholly on a throw-it-all-in-the-pot analysis influenced by the gut feelings of the author who we are expected to trust is knowledgeable on the teams he is ranking and rational in balancing the various unrelated factors that inform his final instinct as to where a team should be ranked. Others, like SB Nation's own Bill Connelly, eliminate human perception completely with an all-inclusive predictive model, where every facet of his rankings are tied to a tangible on-field statistic or a consensus recruiting ranking.
But how about another method of evaluating FSU's opponents based entirely on the premise that it takes great players to make a great team. 247Sports recently published its list of the top 250 players in college football, using a variety of factors that can be seen in detail here, and the full list can be viewed here.
We assigned a point value for each player in these rankings, where the No. 1 player would receive 400 points, and each spot down the list would receive one fewer point so that the 250th-ranked player is worth 150 points. This method seems more correct in placing a value on a player than giving them a straight point value from 1-250, which would make having the 100th-best player (151 points) more valuable than the 200th, 225th, 235th, 240th, 245th, 248th and 250th player combined (114 points) -- something most fans can agree doesn't accurately reflect the reality of how valuable having multiple very good players is compared to just one great one.
With that said, we've totaled up the score of what seems to be Florida State's six toughest opponents for this upcoming year in the order they're scheduled:
And here they are sorted best to worse in offense, defense and overall:
Admitting that there are limitations to this kind of ranking, which we'll get to in a moment, some interesting (and fairly intuitive) results can come from this exercise. Clemson will have by far the best offense FSU plays, UNC is a clear second, Ole Miss is third. This seems about in line with the general consensus for each of these teams: Clemson should have one of the best offenses in the nation, UNC will be tough to stop behind an electric back and strong offensive line, and Ole Miss poses a major threat behind Chad Kelly regardless of their question marks in the run game and with offensive line turnover.
Defensively, the sheer talent Florida has spread across all layers vaults them up to being the second-most difficult team on this list. This might be enough to make you pause if you view the Gators, who may not be ranked in the AP preseason poll and have to make their way to Tallahassee this year, an almost sure thing. Louisville may well have the second-best defense FSU plays, with the kind of personnel that could frustrate Florida State's offense in an early road test.
There are, of course, limitations to a system that only measures the best players on a team. Namely, that it isn't counterbalanced by how much damage the worst players on that team are doing to the unit. UNC having no players from their projected front seven isn't actively hurting them in this ranking, but being 106th nationally in yards allowed per carry last year against FBS opponents probably makes the collective value of their defense less comparable to an Ole Miss team (who finished 12th nationally) than these rankings would appear. Similarly, a Florida team that has major questions to be answered on the offensive line and at skill positions likely won't pose the kind of offensive threat that Louisville -- a team bursting with young skill position talent not found on this list -- will bring to the table in 2016.
All that said, it's an obvious validation that FSU has threats all over both sides of the ball to make a legitimate run through this schedule. The Clemson game in particular could prove to be an amazingly balanced matchup without any major advantage for either team, regardless of who is driving and who is defending.