My colleague Bill Connelly at SB Nation does the best college football previews in the world. You really should read all of them. To entice you to do so, I have pulled his five facts about each Florida State opponent from his previews.
Teams are listed in order of appearance on the schedule, which has been rated No. 1 or No. 2 in difficulty by numerous outlets.
Virginia Tech is retooling its defense somewhat unexpectedly, but the offense should be better.
- A year after unexpectedly losing a starting QB, VT has had to deal with injuries and attrition on defense all offseason.
- At this point, the Hokies have exactly one experienced contributor in either the linebacking corps or secondary. Freshmen and sophomores will litter the two-deep.
- Even all-world coordinator Bud Foster might struggle with that level of inexperience.
- The offense has decent efficiency components and isn’t relying on a freshman QB (Josh Jackson, now a soph) any more. The star power and big-play potential are minimal, though.
- The schedule is favorable. Tech will face three bad teams in September, which could give the D a chance to gel. Getting to at least eight wins is possible, which would be a feat.
- So far at Syracuse, Babers is 8-8 in September and October ... and 0-8 in November. The late-season collapses have become a thing.
- The collapses have been due in part to physical QB Eric Dungey being unable to stay on the field. He’s at least got an exciting backup in four-star Tommy DeVito this time.
- The QBs will be dealing with a new-ish receiving corps and a run game that still hasn’t established itself.
- The defense has been good on standard downs and total dreck on passing downs. The line should be a strength, but the back seven has plenty of question marks.
- Any shot at a bowl bid requires a 3-1 start. After that, the wins are a lot harder to come by.
- After getting crushed by QB injuries in 2016, NIU started by losing another one early in 2017 but rebounded from 5-7 to 8-5 anyway.
- The primary reason for the rebound: a havoc-heavy defense that returns most of its stars.
- The Huskies have one of the best defensive fronts in the country, captained by national TFLs leader Sutton Smith.
- The offense stabilized somewhat with QB Marcus Childers. Childers is now a sophomore and should be able to lean on an improving run game.
- The non-conference slate is brutal and will probably tamp down NIU’s win total. But the Huskies get Toledo and Ohio at home, and wins would trigger a MAC West title run.
Bill is higher on Louisville than I expected.
- There is no truly replacing QB Lamar Jackson, the best player in Louisville history.
- However, Petrino appears to have pieces on offense, from QB Jawon Pass to a trio of awesome receivers.
- The offense might be really good again, but the defense might be really bad again. Petrino’s on his third defensive coordinator in three years, and Brian VanGorder has to break in a new secondary.
- For that matter, the defense needs to find some new play-makers in the front seven, too. Last year’s defense collapsed, compared to its 2016 form, but this year might not see a rebound.
- The Cardinals are still going to have a chance. Seven games are projected within eight points, and UL is favored in nine games overall.
Read the full thing here. Miami is likely to be favored in all 12 games, but we you know, being a small favorite in multiple games implies losses.
- For a fleeting moment, Miami was The U again last year, dominating Notre Dame and moving to 10-0 and second in the country. Then came three straight losses.
- An increasingly depleted skill corps led to a late collapse for QB Malik Rosier. It’ll be interesting to see how he responds or if a younger QB has a chance to surpass him.
- If QB is stable, the offense is otherwise loaded. A healthy Ahmmon Richards is one of the nation’s best WRs, and RB Travis Homer, WR Jeff Thomas, etc., are ultra-explosive.
- The defense was a turnover machine, in part because of the havoc the line was creating. The line has suffered considerable turnover, though, and will need help from a seasoned, exciting back seven.
- With a schedule that features just three projected top-40 opponents, the Canes are a projected favorite in every game. Do they have the QB situation to run the table?
Read the full preview here.
- Clawson has become a renowned program builder. He needed just three years to flip Wake Forest from 3-9 to 8-5, and his program has depth it usually can’t boast.
- Can anyone replace QB John Wolford? The former Deac turned in a spectacular senior season, and likely replacement Kendall Hinton is suspended to start 2018.
- Whoever’s at QB will have support. Slot receiver Greg Dortch is the most efficient wideout in the ACC, and RB Matt Colburn II was a major catalyst late in 2017.
- The defense loses some serious havoc producers in the front seven, but development in the secondary could offset losses in run defense. CBs Essang Bassey and Amari Henderson are studs.
- In a brutally deep ACC, Wake should be capable of holding its own, with mere competence at QB. S&P+ gives the Deacs excellent odds of matching last year’s win total.
- Remember when Clemson was a perpetual underachiever? Yeah, me neither.
- The Tigers made the CFP semifinals and won the ACC in a rebuilding year and, with most of last year’s production returning, should make another serious title run in 2018.
- QB Kelly Bryant (if he keeps his job) will have both experience (WR Hunter Renfrow) and high-upside sophomores (RB Travis Etienne, WR Tee Higgins) at his disposal. A seasoned OL, too.
- The defense ... good lord, it’s going to be awesome. It’s downright unfair to everyone else that DT Christian Wilkins and DE Austin Bryant decided to come back.
- The schedule features trips to FSU and Texas A&M, but the Tigers are still projected double-digit favorites in every game and have as good a chance as anyone of running the table.
at NC State
NC State has the best QB/WR combo in the league and is going to score points on everyone. Read the full preview here.
- Good news: Doeren has sustained success and produced a lot of draft picks, and as he begins his new contract, recruiting is picking up steam.
- Bad news: State had a huge opportunity in 2017 but couldn’t top nine wins and now must replace seven draft picks. It’s hard not to see a window closing.
- Good news: the offense could be dynamite. QB Ryan Finley and WRs Kelvin Harmon, Jakobi Meyers, and Stephen Louis make up one of the ACC’s most proven attacks.
- Bad news: the defense was a major disappointment last year, and that was with four NFL-caliber linemen. And the linebackers and secondary are now thin and unproven.
- Good news: the schedule is manageable. Aside from the trip to Clemson, S&P+ gives State at least a 40 percent win probability in every game. There’s a path to another solid season (and a path to something far worse).
at Notre Dame
This is going to be a nasty defense. S&P+ thinks ND is the 7th best team in the nation.
- The Irish rebounded from four wins to 10, but after a dominant October, they suffered a November backslide.
- They were also super-young. They rank 20th in overall returning production and first in returning defensive production.
- The offense should be exciting with QB Brandon Wimbush, RB Dexter Williams, WR Myles Boykin, etc., but the Irish are thin at RB and WR.
- The defense could be outstanding. Almost everyone’s back, and a couple of additions in the secondary could make the pass defense a bit more disruptive.
- Three of the four best teams on the schedule must visit South Bend; if there’s ever a year to avoid a late-season slump, this would be a very good one.
- For 2.5 straight years, BC had maybe the worst offense in the power conferences. But midway through 2017, with two freshmen in the backfield, the Eagles emerged from their funk.
- Funny how scoring points makes life easier, huh? BC won five of six to end the regular season and now returns almost every weapon from that breakout.
- The defense is perilously thin, but the starting 11 should be exciting, with difference-makers at DE (Zach Allen), LB (Connor Strachan), and DB (Lukas Denis and maybe Hamp Cheevers).
- Picking up where they left off would be huge. The Eagles are either favorites or merely slight underdogs in each of their first seven games. Then the schedule gets brutal quickly.
- Addazio’s won seven games in four of his first five seasons, and it’s hard to imagine more than seven or eight this year. But the future’s bright for this offense. Who saw that coming?
Bill thinks the Gators could have an interesting year.
- On paper, Mullen is an extremely sound hire. We’ll see how long it takes him to dig Florida out of its canyon.
- He’s got the pieces for a strong run game, as RBs Malik Davis, Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine will run behind a vastly experienced line.
- You still need to be able to pass, and through sacks and inexperience, that’s been a massive problem. There’s upside in the WR corps, but it’s had upside for a decade now.
- UF played seemingly countless underclassmen on defense and gave up a ton of big plays. But aggressive DC Todd Grantham’s got experienced play-makers. (They’ll still give up big plays.)
- S&P+ projects the Gators 32nd and favors them in eight games. That would be a nice start, though that might be asking too much in a potential Year Zero situation.