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Predicting FSU football’s 2017 record: Staff picks

Because if you get enough people to guess, someone will probably be right.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

It’s that time of year again when we unlock the basement and bring our staff up to catch a few rays of sunshine, eat a warm meal, and make some predictions. Then it’s back down to the film-review dungeon, where they won’t disturb the neighbors. So, just how do we feel the 2017 Florida State season will play out? Behold.

Perry Kostidakis:

Ha! I’m first, so let’s get this nonsense out of the way.

In the past, I’ve been pretty confident about my FSU season predictions. You might have heard of my soothsaying after the 2013 spring game, and other than last year, I’ve chosen FSU’s bowl game correctly each year since 2012.

The key part of that is, other than last year. I fell headfirst into the lie about Florida State’s defense and predicted an undefeated year. In case you didn’t know, the Seminoles did not go undefeated last year, losing three games due to defensive flaws, acts of God and a lack of offensive firepower outside of one Mr. Dalvin Cook.

I’d like to think that the first has been fixed, evidenced by FSU’s defensive play over the course of the last half of the season and the return of Derwin James, consumer of souls, but the third has me a bit concerned. Losing your top three receivers and your all-time best running back is never good, and then you throw in a still-shaky situation at offensive line. I’ve got faith in Deondre Francois taking another step, but if he stagnates or gets demolished because of the line, generating points will become one of Florida State’s biggest issues. I’m not saying things could be 2015 Florida State vs. Boston College bad, but I’m not not saying that.

When it’s all said and done, Florida State is one of the top four most talented teams in the country with a murderer’s row of a schedule. 9-3 is more likely than 12-0, but I think that splitting the difference and going with 10-2 is the right call. Now, depending on who those two teams are and how the losses come about, FSU could still be in a position to play for an ACC Championship and/or earn a berth in the College Football Playoff. Because I’m the bad boy wildcard, I’m going to go out on a limb and say things line up perfectly, and the Seminoles become the first two-loss team to make the playoff.

(Please don’t tell Old Takes Exposed.)

Lastnoleofkrypton (Syvad Young):

FSU will open with a four-point loss to Alabama, but that’s the only losing it’ll do in the regular season, as I’m predicting that it’ll finish with an 11-1 record. The biggest reason I’m bullish on this year’s ’Noles is because of the schedule (crazy, right?) and the lack of quality proven QBs facing what should be a really salty FSU defense. That’s the biggest reason for my soaring confidence in this year’s Seminoles. FSU’s defense should be elite with multiple first-round talents along the defensive line and two bona-fide first-round picks in the secondary that should help a young, rangy athletic linebacker group look much better than it might actually be at the moment.

I’m expecting Jimbo Fisher to break with his tendencies a little bit and ride a strong running game, play-action based offensive attack primarily taking advantage of FSU’s tremendous size outside at the TE and WR position. An offensive line with a rejuvenated Derrick Kelly and four returning starters should lead to a more impressive unit than last year’s bunch.

All in all, I’m very bullish on this year’s team and would be tempted to predict a clean 12-0 were it not for Alabama; the big question will be if the Seminoles get a few more lucky bounces along with better injury luck. I’m leaning yes.

NoleThruandThru (David Stout):

Thrilled to have another football season upon us! I tend to be more conservative in season predictions, but I have high hopes for FSU this season and fully expect an ACC Championship and playoff berth. I’ll say FSU finishes with a record of 11-1 with 10-2 more likely than 12-0. I fully expect the ’Noles to be run-heavy over the course of the year with Akers and Patrick doing a lot of damage and Rasul giving plenty of opponents glances at the back of his jersey, but the passing game will still have an impact, and Keith Gavin will be the top weapon of the WR group. While I’m not as high on Francois as others are, if Jimbo lets him run more, the offense will become even more dangerous.

I see the first FSU/Alabama game ending in favor of the Crimson Tide. Emboldened by how close it could come to knocking off Bama, FSU sets its sights on reclaiming ACC dominance. Jimbo whispers “Dracaris” in Francois’s ear and sees him torch the Hurricanes, and FSU narrowly avoids disaster the following week against a formidable NC State front line. After conquering the rest of Tobacco Road, Lamar Jackson is rudely reintroduced to Derwin James and Petrino considers putting his neck brace back on and leaving Tallahassee on a motorcycle with Jim McElwain on the backseat (YellaTeef turns down the invitation, stating he’s a “one shark kinda guy”). Syracuse puts a scare into the Seminoles before the big showdown with the Tigers. FSU invades Death Valley and emerges with a new clump of sod to bury, downing Clemson in a classic. Finally, the mighty Seminoles travel to Gainesville (east until you smell it, south until you step in it) and drain the swamp of the foul horde within. Your offensive MVP: Cam Akers. Defensive MVP: Derwin James. Most Improved player: Jalen Wilkerson.

FSU then faces an overachieving Pittsburgh squad (winning the Coastal with a record of 8-4 after upsetting the Fighting Richts in the finale) led by the resurgent Max Browne. The Panthers are no match for the Seminoles, as the ’Noles steamroll through to collect yet another ACC Championship and set their sights on the Playoff. Florida State narrowly defeats the Ohio State Buckeyes and ninth-year starter JT Barrett, forcing Urban Meyer into recovery from whatever illness he makes up this time. Nick Saban’s squad eeks out a win against the USC Trojans, setting up Round Two. The Seminoles make the necessary adjustments and win their fourth National Championship by a familiar score of 24-20, and all is right with the world once more.

Evan Johnson:

I think I’m slightly more bearish on the 2017 ’Noles than most. I’m not convinced Francois can get to where he needs to be to move this offense forward. He’s a fine quaterback but the next step could be beyond his ability. Can he anticipate throws more often and can he make the easy pass to keep this offense on track? I’m not so sure. Combine that with an offensive line yet to prove themselves at the highest level, a Dalvin Cook-less running back corps, and a gaggle of talented but inexperienced wide receivers and the question marks can start to add up.

The other side of the ball is very promising, but is it enough? The defense should be very stout, baring any terrible injury luck. After all the new faces last year, the defense is seasoned and boasts an amount of star power few other college teams can match.

However, the schedule is not a cake walk, especially early on. In its first four games FSU faces three of the top defensive lines in the country and that can lead to a lot of turnovers and lamentation. All three of those games are very losable, and then Florida State has to host the former Heisman Trophy winner in Lamar Jackson and a solid Louisville team.

I don’t think this is an undefeated season, but there could be enough parts and luck in the ’Noles to get through relatively unscathed. With the Big XII and Pac-12 looking quite weak, FSU could sneak into the playoffs as a two-loss team. The Seminoles must, however, lose to the right teams. I think that FSU is still a year away and will go 9-3 this year but will have enough bright spots to portend a very good 2018.

Andrew Miller (Andrew Miller):

I’m gonna go with Florida State finishing up the season with a 10-2 record with losses to Alabama and Clemson. I think Deondre Francois continues to play the way he did in 2016, which will neither win nor lose Florida State any games. I’m looking forward to see how Jacques Patrick performs. After that 20 carries, 125+ yard performance against USF, he only had more than four carries in a game once, which was during garbage time at Syracuse. He still averaged 5.7 YPC and I believe will be a viable RB1 throughout the season.

For the sake of not forcing ya’ll to read another 300-400 words of the same defensive predictions that are already in here 10 times, all I will include about the unit is one hot take— Ermon Lane will play well enough to get drafted as a defensive back in the 2018 NFL Draft.

TimScribble (Tim Alumbaugh):

I think Florida State has its best team since the Jameis years. But I also think it has one of the toughest schedules in the country. The Seminoles play the defending National Champion (Clemson), the national champion runner-up (Alabama), and a team that is returning the Heisman trophy winner (Louisville with Lamar Jackson). And let’s not forget rivalry games (Florida and Miami) and a game against a team that might have the best defensive front in the nation (NC State). Those are all games Florida State could potentially lose.

If the offense can just be average, I believe the defense can get this team a lot of wins. But that might be a big "if.” Deondre Francois was inconsistent last year, the offensive line is still a question mark, the wide receivers are still unproven, and oh yeah, you have to replace the best running back in school history.

I think Florida State goes 50% in their six games mentioned above. FSU ends up 9-3 and possibly ACC champs, depending on where the losses occur.

Matt Minnick:

Coming off back-to-back three-loss seasons, the big question for me is consistency. FSU appears to have the talent to beat any team in the country, but with a schedule tougher than Anquan Boldin (okay, maybe “as tough.” I mean the dude played with a broken jaw...) there will not be many weeks when the Seminoles can afford to bring less than at least their “B+” game. And when your QB is a sub-60% passer, well, that’s concerning.

I’m anticipating the defense to keep Florida State in every game, but the offense to cost us at least one. My win shares have the Garnet and Gold going 10-2, with 9-3 being ever slightly more likely than 11-1. However, find a way to beat ’Bama in the opener and the likelihood of 9-3/11-1 flip.

Ultimately, put me down for 10-2, ACC Champions, final CFP rank somewhere between 3 and 7, depending on the losses and the rest of the college football landscape.

salukinole (Sean Farrell):

Looking at how the schedule plays out, most would think it would be crazy to make it through this season with 0 or 1 losses. Well, consider me the conductor on this crazy train. The defense this year is going to be reminiscent of those greats of the mid 90s, spearheaded by the all-world Derwin James. I expect the development of the big bodied receivers/tight ends to make Francois’ life easier as well as some quicker decision making from Francois.

I foresee a loss to Alabama to start the year, but a great showing from the ’Noles in the opener. The team rallies together and runs off 11 straight to head to a meeting against Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game. One more victory there allows FSU to exact revenge in the playoff.

Kyle Griffis:

I’m taking FSU at 10-2 with losses to ’Bama and Clemson, but I still think the ’Noles will win the Atlantic Division and an ACC Championship. Whether or not FSU would become the first 10-2 team to earn a CFP berth would largely depend on the final records of the other four Power-5 conference champions, and the perceived weakness of the Big 12 and Pac 12 champs.

My primary concern with FSU’s offense stems from the offensive line, which has been rotated like musical chairs for most of the past year. How quickly FSU’s front-5 can develop cohesiveness will determine the success for the rest of our offensive unit. Regardless of the praise being heaped on our promising stable of young 4-and-5-star RBs, it cannot be overstated how difficult it will be to replace the best running back in school history. Elsewhere, our WR depth and development is a concern because most of these guys at the top of the depth chart are young and unproven. It also sounds like Francois’ accuracy issues have persisted, and he will need to show that he’s learned not to take unnecessary hits and not make the wrong reads. With the opening game against Alabama looming, Francois will need the offensive line to keep him off his back, and our promising RBs will need holes to run through.

Many FSU fans point to our defense as the stalwart unit that the ’Noles will be able to rely on in 2017; but isn’t that what we said in 2016? The defense has a lot of talent and a lot of potential, but I refuse to be fooled again until I see vast improvement from Charles Kelly’s unit. The LB depth remains an issue, particularly with the absence of Matthew Thomas and Dontavious Jackson. The defensive line should be one of the nation’s deepest and best, but it will have to replace DeMarcus Walker’s pass rushing abilities and leadership. Derwin James is an unbelievable freak of nature, and perhaps the most gifted and versatile player in the country, but even he can’t be a bandaid to fix every mistake this defense makes. This unit has the potential to be great, but it must show that it has corrected the errors and learned from the breakdowns that haunted it most of last season.

And if the overall game plan is for the offense to run the ball (and run the clock), and the defense to shut down offenses and play keep-away, I sure hope punter Logan Tyler has a better year this year. Flipping field position and avoiding special teams mistakes will be crucial.

Lastly, this schedule is very tough. I think FSU would have a better chance to beat ’Bama if this game was played later in the season, but I’m not feeling confident in an opening matchup against the Tide. FSU has beaten Clemson in Death Valley one time since 2001. Even if the Tigers have an average season, that matchup will still mean everything to that team and fanbase. Worse, if they’re still in the running for the Atlantic Division in mid-November, that matchup is terrifying. I think Clemson will likely be humming by then, even if they stumble out of the gates. Meanwhile, Miami, NC State, and Louisville will be tough games, but I don’t see any of those three rolling into Tallahassee and beating the ‘Noles in Doak Campbell.

All that being said, Florida State is good enough to beat most teams on talent alone, and I think the ‘Noles are one of the five or ten best teams in the country. In my opinion, they are the frontrunner to win the ACC title (assuming Clemson drops 2-3 conference games this year, as I suspect they might) and should be a borderline CFP team. Whether or not this 2017 FSU squad can reach that level will depend on its toughness and discipline.

Dakota Moyer:

I think this is going to be a very weird year in college football.

On the surface, I don’t see many teams that will finish in the zero or one loss range. Even Alabama, the monster that has dominated the sport for the past decade, has weaknesses that could lead to one or two losses on its schedule. I think that this is the first year that we will see a two-loss team in the playoffs.

That being said, I think FSU’s chances of getting into the playoffs are very good even if it has two losses.

The main areas of concern for me on this team are wide receiver health, offensive line stability, and linebacker depth. The trio of Tate, Murray, and Gavin might be as good as any in the country at receiver, but the drop off from them to the backups is significant. FSU needs those three to stay somewhat healthy if it wants Francois to take the next step forward in his development.

Likewise, this offensive line needs to stay together. FSU will be trotting out its 14th different offensive line combination since the start of 2015 when it lines up against Alabama. There are some talented pieces along this line, but they need to finally put it all together if they want to return to the playoff.

Finally, linebacker depth is a concern. With the major question marks surrounding Matthew Thomas’ situation, sophomores Emmett Rice and Dontavious Jackson will likely see more playing time. Can they hold up in coverage? Do they know their responsibilities? Luckily, the defensive front and secondary are good enough to mask some of these issues, but these young players will have to grow up fast.

The ’Noles have recruited as good as any team in the country not named Alabama or Ohio State and certainly have the talent to go undefeated. On the flip side, I could see things falling apart and FSU stumbling to an 8-4 type of season. Not likely, but possible.

That being said, I have Florida State going 10-2 this season and winning the division. An early loss to Alabama is likely, plus another loss to one of NC State, Miami (FL), or Clemson. Right now, I have NC State penciled in as the loss, simply because it’ll be a tough game in a letdown spot after an emotional test against Miami.

Winning the division will put the Seminoles in the ACC title game versus 9-3 Virginia Tech, with the ’Noles claiming victory to finish at 11-2. Jimbo Fisher gets his fourth ACC title in his career, Cam Akers wins ACC rookie of the year and Derwin James gets an invite to New York City as a Heisman finalist.

An 11-2 Florida State team will definitely be in the conversation for a playoff spot, especially if it has signature wins on the road against ranked Clemson and Florida. Right now, I have Florida State getting in as the fourth seed over 11-2 Big 12 champs Oklahoma and 11-2 Pac-12 runner up Washington.

The three other seeds will belong to 12-1 Big Ten champs Ohio State, 12-1 SEC champs Alabama and 12-1 Pac-12 Champs USC.

Florida State plays, and defeats, No. 1 seed Ohio State, which sets up a rematch with No. 2 seed Alabama in the national title game.

What better way to end the season than Florida State and Alabama in Atlanta for a rematch?

Michael Rogner:

I haven’t predicted a loss since 2012, but I don’t like this team. Yeah, the offensive line will be pretty good, we’ve got some guys who can throw and catch, and we have about nine running backs who could start for almost every team we face. Our defensive line is sick, the backfield is sicker, and we have the best player in college football. We’ve got a coach with a natty, and better staff, support staff, and facilities than almost everyone. We’ve even got the best band and mascot. But I don’t have to like this team, I don’t have to like their chances, and I certainly don’t have to like the big dumb numbers on their uniforms.


Curt Weiler:

What to make of this team?

A year ago, I was decently high on a Florida State team that was talented defensively and had options on offense, even if it was breaking in a first-year quarterback. However, as we all now know, James’ injury started the derailing of that train, which nearly resulted in a catastrophic season, had it not been for FSU’s late season run.

This year, the ’Noles are even more talented defensively, losing a pair of talented seniors but growing a year older and more experienced in a number of key spots.

Offensively, the loss of Dalvin Cook has a significant impact, but I am of the belief that the Seminoles’ exceptional running back depth and Francois with a full year under his belt will somewhat negate Cook’s loss.

Provided FSU’s wide receivers stay healthy and the ’Noles find their right offensive line combination, I like this team to finish the regular season 11-1. Alabama is the obvious choice for the loss and, although I admit it’s the most likely, I’m not entirely convinced that it will be the loss.

If FSU wins that game, it sets the team up in great shape to return to the College Football Playoff, almost giving the ’Noles a mulligan of sorts to play with.

In the end, I think an ACC Championship Game win over Virginia Tech clinches the Seminoles’ spot in the CFP as the No. 2 seed.

David Visser:

Borrowed time: I feel that both Clemson and FSU could be playing on it in the 2017 season, in different ways. The Tigers could (should?) have very easily suffered three regular-season ACC losses last year, but fortune smiled on them en route to their second national title. And that’s nothing new— any national champion tends to garner some good luck along the way. Still, it seems like Clemson may be due to see some of those breaks go the other way in 2017.

Similarly, I could not believe how many times Francois got up after being ear-holed last year. Does that require toughness? Of course. But there’s also an element of luck involved there, because no amount of toughness can keep you on the field if you’re truly injured— see James, 2016.

If Francois, behind what’s been a rotating, almost improvised offensive front that we could call “Whose (Offensive) Line Is It Anyway?” continues to take more shots than Tom Cruise in Cocktail, then, like Clemson, the odds have to catch up with him eventually. And yeah, I just made a Brian Flanagan reference, so I’m probably now in line for some terrible karma myself.

Sure, I like the FSU defense a lot— especially that DL, which is big, deep, talented, and experienced. Don’t be surprised if it approaches opposing offenses with the same mantra that Dale Doback and Brennan Huff took into group job interviews in Step Brothers. You know what I’m talking about.

I think Fisher schemes Francois into fewer hits, because there is basically no experience behind him— at least, none that anyone outside of Houston cares to remember. But this schedule is still ridiculously tough. However, the ball bounces a little differently for Clemson this season, so FSU’s 10-2 record will be good enough to win the division and, ultimately, the conference. The Seminoles will need some breaks to make the College Football Playoff, but 2017 seems primed for chaos, which could just facilitate that. Plus, you’ve gotta have dreams. Cocktails and Dreams (that’s twice— I’ll stop typing now).

Keep listening to the Nolecast, as Bud and Ingram will make their picks thereon.