Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher faces many challenges in the 2017 football season. Improving third-year quarterback Deondre Francois, adjusting to life without Dalvin Cook, and finding an offensive line that will not let Francois take shells a la Tet Offensive.
Oh, and Nick Saban’s No. 1 S&P+ ranked Alabama on Saturday, September 2 at Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Alabama was the focus of the national media’s offseason FSU coverage, and deservedly so. Alabama is, and deserves to be, the most widely discussed game of Florida State’s 2017 football season.
Fisher does not face just Saban and Alabama, however— the ’Noles play No. 6 Clemson and No. 15 Florida on the road, along with No. 14 Louisville and No. 18 Miami in Tallahassee. The No. 27 ranked NC State Wolfpack also comes to FSU.
All eyes are on the kickoff game in Atlanta, but FSU plays five preseason top-20 teams, and six top-30 teams. Half of Florida State’s regular season schedule is among the top quarter teams in the sport.
The ’Noles inarguably face one of the most difficult schedules in this college football season.
National contenders with similarly tough schedules are few and far between. Among the top-15 title contenders according to SportsBook.ag, only the following have schedules that compare:
Auburn: @ No. 6 Clemson, @ No. 4 LSU, No. 19 Texas A&M, No. 20 Georgia, No. 1 Alabama
A tier below: Michigan vs No. 15 Florida, @ No. 8 Penn State, No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 2 Ohio State
Florida State not only plays on the road at two of the most notoriously ear-splitting stadiums in college football (Clemson’s Death Valley and Florida’s Swamp), but also faces the greatest college football Dynasty in history in Saban’s Alabama at a neutral stadium.
FSU chose this path for a reason: because this caliber of a schedule follows not only the desires of the College Football Playoff Committee, but the tradition of Florida State Football: any one, any time, any where. There is risk in playing Alabama in a kickoff opener. But Florida State has never been averse to scheduling risk in the 40 years since Bobby Bowden joined the program.
Playing Alabama is a calculated risk, however. Any Playoff Committee committed to emphasizing schedule strength would take into account the difficulty of Florida State’s schedule.
A Playoff Committee considering schedule strength would recognize that FSU’s schedule is so strong that two losses to top-20 teams would be a rather stronger resume than a one-loss (or even undefeated) SEC East team featuring, perhaps, two top-20 games with the SEC West.
Florida State chose a difficult schedule with two top-15 SEC opponents away from home to complement its arduous conference trip to Clemson. The Committee and poll voters should certainly consider the Seminoles’ schedule when considering their playoff fate.