For the first time since arguably 2018, Florida State football heads into a season with high expectations that, at the very least, revolve around returning to the ACC Championship game — an accomplishment not seen in Tallahassee since 2014.
The expectations are a result of finishing last season with a 10-3 (5-3 ACC) record and a Cheez-It Bowl victory over the Oklahoma Sooners, with the Seminoles returning a national-best 87% of production this season.
According to DraftKings, Florida State has the 7th best odds to win the 2023 national championship (+1800), behind Georgia (+230), Alabama (+500), Ohio State (+700), Michigan (+900), USC (+1400) and LSU (+1600).
Quarterback Jordan Travis (+1000) has the second-best odds to win the 2023 Heisman Trophy (behind defending winner Caleb Williams of the USC Trojans at +550). Per FSU Sports Info, he enters the season as one of only four active players with at least 5,500 career passing yards and at least 1,700 career rushing yards.
Other major names that chose to return for another year in Tallahassee include running back Trey Benson, defensive tackle Fabien Lovett, defensive end Jared Verse (alongside many others)
Some of the more notable transfer portal additions that Seminoles’ fans include defensive back Fentrell Cypress, tight end Jaheim Bell, defensive lineman Braden Fiske and offensive tackle Jeremiah Byers (also alongside many others), as well as early-enrollee signees like quarterback Brock Glenn and wide receiver Hykeem Williams.
ESPN’s SP+ rankings have Florida State at No. 11 in the country and consider FSU’s ceiling to be 11-1 and floor to be 8-4, with a 19% chance of finishing 11-1 or better. Its FPI rankings have FSU at No. 14, with a 17% chance of winning the ACC, 4.4% chance at making the playoffs, 1% at making the national championship and 0.2% at winning the title.
DraftKings has released some early odds for some major FSU games in 2023 — in Orlando vs. the LSU Tigers, on the road against the Clemson Tigers, at home vs. the Miami Hurricanes, and an away game season finale vs. the Florida Gators.
FSU vs. LSU
September 3, 2023
Orlando, Florida (Camping World Stadium)
Vegas Pick: LSU -2
Last matchup: FSU win, 24-23
The first sign that Florida State had taken a major leap last season was its opening game in New Orleans vs. the LSU Tigers. The Seminoles stormed out to a big lead, then weathered a furious LSU comeback and etched a new instant classic in program history by blocking an extra point to secure the win.
It was one of the rare major matchup wins that actually gained relevance as the season went on, with the Tigers winning the SEC West after upsetting Alabama and looking like a potential College Football Playoff party crasher before stumbling in its regular season finale against Texas A&M.
After showcasing what he can do during LSU’s 10-3 season, quarterback Jayden Daniels is firmly entrenched as the starter and, according to head coach Brian Kelly, is taking the next step as he gets set for his second year in Baton Rouge.
From And The Valley Shook:
“This is much more about veteran presence than acclimating to a new program. I think that’s really the difference here,” Kelly said. “You’ve got a guy that’s helping the freshmen tight ends, ‘sit down on this route, I’ll get you the football.’ You can sense it based off his interactions with Malik in terms of where he wants the football, how he’s addressing the offensive line. There’s a different presence to him.”
“He’s thicker. He’s stronger,” Kelly said. “This is about veteran presence now and not acclimating to a new program.”
The thing that people need to see from Daniels is not the ability to throw the deep ball, but the willingness to throw the deep ball. When he was at Arizona State, his bread and butter was the deep ball. I understand he may have lost his confidence at Arizona State due to the toxicity, offensive coordinator carousel and lack of talent. However, with receivers like Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas, he has no reason to not utilize one of the best receiver corps in the country.
LSU’s defense, which was very bend-don’t-break in 2022, will be hoping an infusion of transfer portal talent (defensive backs JK Johnson, Zy Alexander, Duce Chestnutt and Denver Harris, linebacker Omar Speights) can match up well with its already-present stars (defensive lineman Harold Perkins and Maason Smith, safety Greg Brooks Jr., linebacker Greg Penn III).
LSU returns 71% of its production from 2022, with the bulk of it coming from the Tigers’ offense (81%, No. 10 in the country), a unit that ESPN’s SP+ rankings consider the No. 10 unit in FBS football heading into the 2023 season.
According to ESPN’s early FPI predictions, LSU has a 68.2% chance of winning the game.
FSU vs. Clemson
September 23, 2023
Clemson, South Carolina
Vegas Pick: Clemson -2.5
Last matchup: Clemson win, 34-28
After two years of close games that were seemingly emblematic of Florida State’s climb back to relevancy, the matchup between the two ACC powerhouses looks like it will once more determine the front-runner of the conference.
For the first time since 2014, FSU and Clemson will face off in September, setting the tone for the ACC nice and early (and likely in the conference's eyes, making sure that the chance of the two meeting in the ACC Championship is elevated). The Seminoles will have already been tested in the aforementioned game vs. LSU, with games at home against Southern Miss and Boston College following, while Clemson opens the season on the road vs. Duke before games at home vs. Charleston Southern and Florida Atlantic.
The Tigers return 69% of their production from 2022.
Clemson will be rolling with quarterback Cade Klubnik this season, with DJ Uiagalelei now fighting for a starting spot with the Oregon State Beavers. The switch-up is part of what head coach Dabo Swinney hopes to be an offensive revival under new coordinator Garrett Riley, who was hired away from TCU after Clemson’s struggle fest in 2022 outside of running back Will Shipley (1,182 yards and 15 touchdowns).
Klubnik appeared in occasional relief before playing the majority of the ACC Championship game vs. North Carolina (279 yards and one touchdown passing, 30 yards and one touchdown rushing in the win) and starting in the Orange Bowl vs. Tennessee (320 passing yards and two interceptions, 51 yards and one touchdown rushing in 31-14 loss).
According to ESPN’s early FPI predictions, Clemson has a 71.3% chance of winning the game.
FSU vs. Miami
November 11, 2023
Vegas Pick: FSU -16.5
Last matchup: FSU win, 45-3
What a difference a year makes. In the summer of 2022, Miami was still riding high after the hiring of Mario Cristobal, with dollar signs in the eyes of the fanbase as billionaire (?) John Ruiz promised racks on racks to try and line up talent in Coral Gables.
The result? A 5-7 record that featured an undressing at home by Middle Tennessee in September, multiple games without a touchdown scored, and a quarterback situation so toxic that a once-assumed quarterback of the future has transferred out (Jake Garcia) and another lost potential first-round draft pick status before threatening to transfer in recent weeks (Tyler Van Dyke).
The Hurricanes return 70% of last year’s production, the bulk of which comes from its defense (77%, 18th in the country) which ESPN’s SP+ projections consider the No. 20 unit in the country heading into the season.
Like Clemson, Miami is looking to completely rehaul its offensive approach in 2023, having fired offensive coordinator Josh Gattis and hiring Houston Cougars’ offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. The Hurricanes are also replacing their defensive coordinator, Kevin Steele, who was hired away by Alabama. His replacement is Lance Guidry, who most recently served as Marshall’s defensive coordinator.
According to ESPN’s early FPI predictions, FSU has a 75.1% chance of winning the game.
FSU vs. Florida
November 25, 2023
Vegas Pick: FSU -9.5
Last matchup: FSU win, 45-38
What will Florida’s offense look like in 2023? That’s the major question hanging over the Gators, who are replacing a potential top-five draft pick in quarterback Anthony Richardson. The presumed starter in Gainesville currently is Wisconsin transfer quarterback Graham Mertz, who threw for 2,136 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2022 and has a career completion percentage average of 59.33 as a starter.
From Alligator Army:
Mertz — whom I think is likely to win the QB1 role … if no additions are made — and Miller are not just not as exciting as Richardson; they are also not as exciting as Emory Jones or Kyle Trask or Feleipe Franks all were as prospective Florida helmsmen.
If you count Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire as a more enticing and/or endearing prospect at QB than Mertz and Miller, I think we have to reach all the way back to 2016 and the immortal battery of Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby for a Florida QB situation that inspired more genuine worry than good feeling and wonder. And back then, fans were still optimistic for Del Rio and Appleby because, well, they were not Treon Harris, whose play approximated Richardson’s — in the senses that he would often have days as bad as Richardson’s worst and occasionally have plays as good as Richardson’s worst miscues on his good days.
To my mind, that means that Florida is still in the market for another QB who could play in 2023 — or should still be, anyway. And I don’t think it is that outrageous to believe that the Gators will have their ears to the ground, listening for the thump of a QB falling out of a completion elsewhere, or that there won’t be such players entering or re-entering the transfer portal at the conclusion of spring semesters.
While spring games are never a trustworthy indicator of what a team will look like that season, Florida’s was quantifiably disappointing as it earned the title of the lowest-scoring Orange and Blue game in school history.
The Gators were one of the country’s weirdest teams last season, stumbling to a 6-7 record after a blowout 30-3 loss to Oregon State in the SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl, but earning a season-opening top ten win vs. Utah and playing FSU, Tennessee and LSU relatively close.
Florida returns just 54% of its production from 2022 (No. 107 in the country), further deepening the rebuild that second-year head coach Billy Napier is overseeing.
According to ESPN’s early FPI predictions, UF has a 50.3% chance of winning the game.