By now, Florida State fans have weathered the storm— both figuratively and literally. So in Hurricane Irma’s wake and a lengthy layover, we figured it would be worth reconsidering our season projections, especially with a loss to Alabama in hand, a true freshman QB set to take over against NC State, and a juggled schedule. Once more unto the breach:
Before Francois’ injury and the loss of a gimme win, I had said 9-3. I am sticking to three losses but much more likely to lose four than two. NC State is a tough game for Blackman to start out with, but it is definitely a winnable game. Maybe Blackman turns out to be something special, and I am proven wrong, which I will gladly accept. But I need to see it to believe it.
It seems like an eternity ago that Florida State lined up against Alabama. Since then, so much has happened to this program between Francois’ injury and the schedule shifts due to Hurricane Irma. It almost seems like the final ten games of the season should be considered a separate season entirely.
I still think this team is going to be good, despite starting a true freshman quarterback. Against Alabama, the defense showed that it can be among the nation’s best. If Derwin James and company can limit opposing offenses and create turnovers, it will put James Blackman and the offense in a position to succeed. I think, for the most part, that scoring at least 24 points will guarantee a win for FSU this season.
With playmakers around him like Auden Tate and Keith Gavin, Blackman doesn’t have to be a world-beater. If he can be even an average college quarterback, Florida State’s offense will flourish. I think the running game starts to take off early on, led by Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers. Don’t read too much into its lackluster performance versus Alabama. The Crimson Tide routinely shuts down everyone’s ground game.
Unfortunately, Florida State is 0-1 with ten games left. With a true freshman at the helm, I think the ’Noles drop two more games on the schedule. Games against Louisville, Miami and traveling to Clemson are the ones I have circled right now. That being said, I have Florida State finishing at 8-3, still good enough for a respectable bowl game to end the season.
The more things change the more they stay the same. My win shares go down by roughly one, with the loss of the ULM game, but before the season began I predicted a loss to Bama and one other team; I’m sticking with that prediction.
The loss of Francois likely increases the game-to-game variability of the offense, but I think we will actually have more chunk plays with Blackman. And the reality is, I just don’t believe we won games because of Francois last year...and I don’t believe that was going to be any different this year.
Last year, FSU won games because of Dalvin Cook, a solid run-blocking OL, and an opportunistic (if up and down) defense. This year we will win games because of a stable of horses at running back, a solid OL, physical, big play receivers, and an elite defense. In fact, the biggest threat to a 9-2 season would appear to be finding a way to avoid catastrophic special teams blunders.
Pre-season, I had 10-2 as most likely with 11-1 and 9-3 being next in line and sharing roughly equal chances. For the re-set, I’ll say 9-2 and an ACC Championship Game appearance, with 8-3 a bit more likely than 10-1.
Seeing Francois get injured flat out sucked and I truly feel for him. That said, I’m still very high on this team and haven’t lost much faith. I think Jimbo will shrink the playbook just enough to help JB1 grow in the passing game while still allowing for a heavy run game to lead the way. Clemson should provide an excellent blueprint on how to defend Lamar Jackson this weekend, and the FSU defense is still a force to be reckoned with. NC State is a big challenge, but I am not as concerned with that game after seeing the OL against Bama. I’m actually glad the Miami game was pushed back and by that time, hopefully JB1 has gained more confidence. There will be 3 or 4 games that could go either way, but I believe (or want to believe) the bad luck is behind this squad. FSU will extend its in-state dominance and will finish second to Clemson in the Atlantic with a record of 9-2, 8-3 being much more likely than 10-1. Call me overly optimistic but I think the Seminoles will exceed expectations and still perform like a top-12 team in the country.
Is it weird to still feel confident in this team? I think that the Alabama performance, along with pretty much two extra weeks of fall camp, has validated my positive opinions about this year’s team.
Now, that’s not to imply that there aren’t obvious faults. Special teams were probably repped ad nauseam over the last two weeks, but I’d wager they’ve been repped pretty consistently throughout the last four years, and there hasn’t exactly been much to show for it. The play of the wide receivers vs. Alabama was encouraging, but for James Blackman to succeed they’re going to have to give him a ridiculous amount of cushion.
With all that’s been said about Blackman (aka Groot aka The Slim Reaper aka Gumby aka Jimmy Beanstalks aka Black and Mild aka Long, Tall and Finna Ball aka Slim Jim aka Slenderman aka The Terrifying Twig), I have faith in his ability to run a 2010/2011-esque Jimbo Fisher offense. Give him some easy reads, let him rely on the insane stable of running backs that Florida State has stockpiled and you’ve got a recipe for success.
(Or at least, a recipe to squeeze 21-34 points out a game and let the Seminoles’ defense demoralize opponents.)
In our first edition of staff season predictions, I went with a 10-2 season, with 9-3 being more likely than 12-0. My main worry then was Florida State’s potential to score points and that still remains a concern, but I was especially impressed by how well the defense played in the season opener. If they can rally around how close they played Alabama and Francois’ injury, the weirdest season in recent Florida State history could turn weird in a really fun way.
I’m going to put my faith into the weirdness, and say that FSU still manages to only drop one more game for the rest of the season, plays for an ACC Championship and finishes as a top-seven team.
If the special teams weren’t atrocious, I’d stick with my original pick of
11-1 10-1 simply because the defense is that good; but when 1⁄3 of your team is in the bottom ten of a 130 team league, it can completely bottleneck the rest of your performance. My new prediction is 9-2.
James Blackman is a true freshman, but his ceiling is higher than Francois’, but so is his volatility, so I’m guessing that volatility combined with FSU’s bad special teams will lead to some really bad in-game situations. That will cause FSU to lose to a team that it should probably beat based on sheer talent and the improvement of the FSU offensive line (probably Clemson); but that’s a prediction for another day.
FSU will ride Rocket and Groot to another Orange Bowl appearance and a 9-2 record that will leave some FSU fans wondering just what would’ve happened if FSU had better injury luck and actually cared about special teams.
I’m cautiously optimistic about the remainder of the season for the ’Noles. I don’t expect this team to drop more than 2 games, but I also don’t expect it to win the Atlantic Division, the ACC, or go to the College Football Playoff. I think FSU will finish 9-2 or 8-3, depending on the volatility of Blackman’s play and the general health of the remainder of the roster moving forward. I think it’s fair to assume that Blackman will make both amazing plays and boneheaded plays that you would expect from any true freshman QB, but if the run game can take off behind Cam Akers, and the defense that showed up in Atlanta plays at that level for the remainder of the season, I don’t think Blackman will be asked to win games; he’ll just be asked not to lose them.
I do worry about the effect of 10 straight games with no bye week, and I still think Clemson and Louisville will be the toughest games on the schedule. That being said, I still expect FSU to beat Miami and Florida. The talent level of FSU alone should be enough to win every other game on the schedule.
I’m in the camp that loved how FSU played against Alabama (aside from on special teams) and was encouraged about the Seminoles’ chances to win the conference and possibly reach the playoff. Until Francois went down. Now, my expectations have fallen from what would now be 9-2, with a shot at the playoff, to 8-3. I think Francois is a good college quarterback, and although Jimbo will pare things down, Blackman has now been on campus in Tallahassee for 9 weeks. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect him to match Deondre’s play, and this team does not have a Dalvin Cook to bail its quarterback out on off-nights. I think you’ll see one or more meltdown games from a true freshman QB because it just happens, and as a result, I think the volatility in FSU’s schedule increased dramatically.
The Florida State defense is as good as any unit in the country. However, I’m mindful of the fact that the Alabama game saw their best effort and likely the best health they’ll have all year. Will they show up with that effort most weeks (all won’t happen), especially if they’re constantly carrying a struggling offense and special teams? I think the chance they do against NC State has now improved since they won’t be coming off of Miami, about which I was definitely concerned.
The bottom line is that we just don’t know without seeing Blackman take a college snap. But that’s not fun, and predicting stuff so y’all can laugh at us later is. I will take 8-3 and will also be very happy to have underestimated Baby Groot.
Frankly, my season prediction hasn’t changed since Francois went down (minus 1 win due to not playing ULM). I was never a big fan of him as a quarterback, as I felt he left way too much on the field. In my original prediction, I believed that the defense would have to carry the load, while the running game would have to step up and be very good for the ’Noles to have a shot of making the playoffs, and after one game I feel the same way. The upside is that, for at least one game, the defense was down right dominant, and the offensive line looked really good in pass protection.
Unfortunately FSU did lose its starting quarterback, and while a team will rarely, if ever, get better after losing its starting quarterback, I think the ’Noles actually could. I think the way the game is called will change. The offensive playbook will have to be slimmed down to suit a quarterback that has only been on campus for a few months. I don’t expect the offense to score more points than it would have with Francois under center, but I do expect the offense to eat up the clock and keep the defense fresh.
The ’Noles already lost to Alabama, and I think they’ll fare similarly at Clemson. There’s probably also a weird loss in the mix because that’s what happens when you have an inexperienced quarterback. 8-3.
Time to tell it to you straight— FSU is going to finish the season at 7-4, with loses to Alabama, Clemson, Louisville, and either Miami or Wake Forest. James Blackman is still going to take some time to get acclimated to college football even with the three week layoff. It’s also going to take some time for his relationship with the offensive line to get on the same page, which won’t make it any easier.
The defense played great against Alabama, but still showed its vulnerable against a big, breakout play, which I think Clemson and Louisville will be able to exploit. For the loss vs. either Miami to Wake Forest, I just feel those are the two teams that Florida State is more likely to play below expectations against. It wouldn’t blow my mind if FSU did lose both of those games and finished the year at 6-5.
And then there’s the special teams’ problems that contribute to my prediction— but I’ll save you from that.
My original pick for this FSU season was 10-2, with a loss to Alabama but a shot at the playoff. I’m less certain about the year now because, well, there’s just a lot less certainty about this team as a whole. The defense looks better than I figured it would. The special teams is vastly worse and has been trending in the wrong direction for quite some time. The offensive line was a pleasant surprise against the Tide, Cam Akers looks ready to blossom, and Keith Gavin appears every bit the playmaker that Seminole fans thought he could be.
And while uncertainty provides for greater swings, it also allows for, well, college football to happen— see also: Tennessee in a shallow cover-two just seconds away from overtime. If you look back on our original precautions included in my introduction, you’ll see that I pretty much called the Francois injury. I also called for Clemson’s fortunes to change, which has certainly not happened as of yet; and I don’t think it’ll happen against Florida State, either. Add in a funky loss, to boot (kicking reference intended), and the ’Noles finish 8-3.