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Roundtable: What’s your read on FSU after 4-0 start?

Somehow, even with an undefeated start and wins over LSU and Clemson, Florida State seemingly still hasn’t played its best football

Charles Mays/Tomahawk Nation

Somehow, even with a 4-0 (2-0 ACC) start and wins over LSU and Clemson, Florida State seemingly still hasn’t played its best football.

The No. 5 Seminoles, after blowing out LSU on a national stage to amp up hype for the season and dropping 66 points on Southern Miss, struggled in wins vs. Boston College and Clemson, highlighting some concerns while also exiting September undefeated for the second straight year under head coach Mike Norvell.

Florida State has placed itself in the driver’s seat for a spot in the ACC Championship Game, currently a heavy favorite to take home the conference title according to DraftKings (-160, with the next best odds being Miami at +750). It also is considered a relative favorite to make the College Football Playoff (-150), behind only Michigan (-115) and Georgia (-240). The Bulldogs (+230) and Wolverines (+500) also have the best odds to win the title, with Florida State tied with Ohio State and Texas at +800.

What’s the Tomahawk Nation staff think of the Seminoles through four weeks of play? Have any opinions on the team changed, either positively or negatively? Which players have made the biggest impact?

Thoughts from our contributors are below — jump in the comment section with your own takes and any other questions on your mind as we enter into a Florida State-less weekend of football.

What grade would you give FSU at this point in the season?

LSK: A-, Yes they haven’t played a complete football game but 4-0 including the two most-talented teams on your schedule is 4-0 including the two most-talented teams on your schedule (Both away from Tallahassee).

Jon Marchant: Have to go with a B+, for the same reasons LSK mentioned. It’s very difficult to argue with 4-0, though they haven’t played close to their potential.

NoleThruandThru: I didn’t expect FSU to be undefeated at this stage. Getting the Clemson monkey off their backs is enormous moving forward. Even though FSU hasn’t looked as consistently good as we’d like to see by now, I can’t give them anything less than an A-. Still plenty of room to get better!

Jon Loesche: A-. Hard to go lower after going undefeated against the toughest September slate in the country. I think the 2nd half against LSU setup some false expectations while the BC near collapse brought out the doomers

Evenflow58: B+. The record is great and I can’t complain about that but it feels like this team has some major weaknesses that will bite them. I think they are issues they can work around and have a very good season but I expected to see a more crisp team this year.

Perry Kostidakis: 3.6 — we’re going GPA-scale, cause I want to be different than everyone else. You cannot complain about a 4-0 start, especially against this schedule, but the vibes still are that FSU is both leaving points on the field and giving up more than it should be. The schedule is entering into a nice steady section after a bit of chaos to start off, but Florida State is going to have to be ready for a final stretch that starts Oct. 21 against Duke and leads to games against Miami and Florida in the span of three weeks. And that’s before the ACC Championship, which could likely. be a rematch vs. either the Hurricanes or Blue Devils.

Brian Pellerin: I’ll go A-. Like a lot have said above they’ve left a decent amount of meat on the bone, but the biggest question on the test is who did you lose to and FSU’s answer is N/A. It’s better than I expected for FSU. I thought they’d lose one of the two big games. Unfortunately, their schedule ahead now looks tougher, but hard to be unhappy with what they’ve accomplished so far.

What — or who — has been most essential to Florida State’s success through four weeks?

LSK: Braden Fiske and Keon Coleman; Fiske’s constant disruption has made him near unblockable and if the referees didn’t have an aversion to holding penalties a lot more people would recognize how much of a drive killer he is. Meanwhile all Keon does is dominate big games.

NoleThruandThru: Love LSK’s answer- those are your O and D MVPs thus far. I’ll say leadership and resiliency. It’s amazing to see how far this program has come under Norvell. Five years ago, FSU likely would have been 1-3 at this point; the BC and Clemson game scenarios would be losses after the team either folded or quit. Fans have plenty to gripe about after those two wins, sure, but every championship team has close calls and has to battle back. Hopefully we’ll look back on these past couple weeks as the last time FSU nearly helped the opponent win the game by beating itself.

Jon Marchant: The play of FSU's defensive line, and the two receivers of Johnny Wilson and Keon Coleman. FSU's front has been disruptive in both the pass and run game. And Wilson and especially Coleman have had clutch receptions.

Jon Loesche: Will echo the sentiment about FSU growing as a program. FSU absolutely chokes a game like BC away in 2021 and doesn't come out of Death Valley with a win last year. This is a team that firmly believes in itself.

Perry: I’m going with the soft factor of not crumbling in the face of adversity as well. It’s been a double-edged sword because most of that adversity has been self-inflicted, but outside of the collapse against Boston College, Florida State has not let mistakes pile up and even against the Eagles, haven’t been thrown off the course to victory by moments of failure.

Evenflow58: The ability to adapt hasn’t been immediate but it has been very important. Whether it was going to a two-back set against LSU or being more aggressive against Clemson the 2nd half of games have been largely lights out for FSU (please ignore BC).

Brian: Keon Coleman. Without him, I don’t think you beat LSU. You had some bad drops in that game, but every time you needed a big play he was there. He was nonexistent against BC, but he was back with two scores again at Clemson including the game winner. Simply put, if he’s not on this roster, you’re not unbeaten.

Who’s been the offensive MVP so far?

LSK: I’ll give you my top 3 in order: Keon Coleman, Jordan Travis, and Johnny Wilson

Jon Marchant: Have to go with Keon Coleman. He is probably the 2nd best WR in the country.

NoleThruandThru: Keon Coleman of course, but I want to give a significant nod to Darius Washington, the unsung hero who has performed admirably filling in for injured players along the OL.

Perry: Coleman, easily, but if Jordan Travis has gotten his feet back underneath him during the bye and FSU has figured out its hiccups on getting the offensive engine revving, then he’s gonna light things up over the rest of the season as he angles for an invitation to New York.

Jon Loesche: Keon Coleman is the best FSU WR since Peter Warrick.

Evenflow58: Coleman and it’s not really close.

Brian: Coleman for my reasons above. I’ll toss Jordan Travis’ hat in there as well because he’s playing hurt and not flinching at all. A few misses here and there that you’d like cleaned up though give this to Keon.

What about the defensive MVP?

LSK: I’ll give you my top 3 in order: Braden Fiske, Joshua Farmer, and Jared Verse.

Jon Marchant: Braden Fiske. Verse has played extremely well, but Fiske’s presence in the interior of FSUs DL has elevated this unit in a dimension that didn’t exist last season.

NoleThruandThru: Easily Braden Fiske for me, but Jarrian Jones also deserves a shout out for how far he’s come in his time at FSU.

Jon Loesche: Will also go with Fiske. My expectation was quality rotational guy and instead he's become as important a piece to the DL as Verse.

Perry: Fiske has been crucial in holding down a defensive line that has been given a handful over the first four weeks, but I’m going to echo NT&T here and give Jarrian Jones some props as he’s been a major presence in a secondary that still is figuring things out. Pat Payton has also been awesome.

Evenflow58: The defensive line is so stacked that it’s hard to pick but somebody in there between Fiske, Farmer and Verse.

Brian: Fiske has been the big surprise so it feels like he’s the obvious choice. He’s seemingly always around the ball, always causing problems for opposing OLs. I expected him to add to the depth of this group, but he’s been just as good as the top end talent on that DL.

Where does the offense need to make the biggest adjustments?

LSK: FSU has to start attacking the middle of the field in the passing game and I don’t think it’s a play-calling issue; Travis has to trust it. I think this will open up things for the running game.

Jon Marchant: Have to agree with LSK again here. Travis must be better about keeping the offense on schedule and taking what the defense gives, and right now this offense just ignores the middle of the field even though receivers are running wide open there. I understand wanting to go to Keon or Johnny anytime you get a 1v1, but we have a large enough sample size now to know it’s too high variance to be reliable. Between contested catches and Travis’ inconsistent ball placement, it isn’t working. And that means FSU is leaving points on the field.

NoleThruandThru: In addition to Travis getting out of his head and getting on the same page with the staff, I’m hoping FSU is self-scouting the offensive play-calling. It’s becoming predictable, particularly in the past two games.

Jon Loesche: Not sure how to answer because I think a lot of the issues are due to scheming around FSU's offensive line not being as good as last year and Travis being hurt worse than the staff is letting on.

Perry: Count me in for attacking the middle of the field as a must over the rest of the season — there are too many athletes on FSU’s roster who are capable of taking a simple slant to the house. The Wilson-Coleman duo is tempting to just toss it up with frequency, but FSU’s home run hitting can’t come without a few warm up at-bats.

Evenflow58: Either figure out how to run the ball and/or figure out a substitute for running the ball. Part of the problem is that the offensive line just isn’t good at running the ball and part of the problem is defenses deciding to stop that. Travis mentioned that he thought Clemson was being disrespectful to FSU by manning up Wilson and Coleman. He might not be wrong but that’s the best way to play defense against FSU because Travis has shown that he’s going to continue to attempt that throw despite not being able to throw it accurately consistently.

Brian: In my best Capt. Jack Sparrow parody impression, why’s the run gone? If there was anything we felt we could trust from the Norvell/Atkins offense is was a strong run game, but they can’t seem to clear the holes for it. They’ve really lacked an explosive element in the run game. It’s very three yards and a cloud of dust. They’ve gotta find a way to open that up to take some pressure off the passing game.

What has been the weakest point of FSU’s defense?

NoleThruandThru: I’ll let others dive in on Fuller, but I’m torn between the disappointing play in the secondary and the head-scratching substitution strategy along the defensive line. I can understand the strategy of keep guys fresh/load management or whatever, but there should NEVER be a single play in which Verse, Payton, and Fiske are all on the sideline together.

LSK: The weak part of FSU’s defense has been the slow start and sometimes the lack of coordination between the coverage called and the front called. You can up the pressure and blitz more but if your DBs are too far off that’s just easy pickings.

Jon Marchant: LSK and I are on the same page. It’s my opinion that Fuller has done less with more this season. FSU is giving up way too many explosive plays in the pass game, and it’s due directly to his coordination of the scheme, playcalling, and the communication between the secondary and the rest of the defense — all which falls on him. Oh, and playing way too many backups that simply aren’t ready. It’s all going to cost FSU a game if it doesn’t get fixed ASAP.

Perry: The bend-don’t-break philosophy has been bending waaaaaay too much — there hasn’t really been a time outside of the second half vs. LSU that we’ve seen the first-team defense fully take over a game and assert itself. That’s been a combination of broken tackles, poorly timed penalties, explosive plays racking up, the inability for the front seven to get home and the secondary consistently allowing quarterbacks to rack up dink-and-dunk passes. Boston College and Clemson have basically put together the blueprint on beating FSU, but neither could finish it off.

Jon Loesche: The time it takes to make adjustments has been perplexing. FSU effectively shut down LSU and Clemson's offenses in the 2nd half with adjustments that were needed after the first series.

Evenflow58: I’ve been pretty unimpressed with the entire secondary so far this year. Cypress isn’t as much of a lock down corner as I expected them to be and the safeties continue to get attacked. Maybe the scheme isn’t gelling with what they are capable of but it has been a big issue thus far this year.

Brian: I’ll go with the third down defense specifically. Right now against their power five opponents, they’re allowing conversions at a 40% rate, which is good for 53rd in the country. That’s right between Old Dominion and Houston in their power five games. A lot of that came against BC obviously, but Clemson wasn’t exactly struggling either going 6 for 14. They’ve got to find a way to get off the field on third downs more often.

Which player has exceeded expectations so far?

LSK: Way too many formational penalties for my liking but I wasn’t expecting Kyle Morlock to get so many snaps; on the defensive side I expected Braden Fiske to be great but I did not expect Joshua Farmer to play at the level he’s played at.

Jon Marchant: Lots of options here with in-house player development and a couple transfers that have been pleasant surprises but for me personally I’ll go with Jarrian Jones. Just because I was hard on him last season and he looks improved this season, both in his play and his mental discipline.

NoleThruandThru: Jarrian Jones and Ryan Fitzgerald.

Jon Loesche: Ryan Fitzgerald has really grown this year and rewarded Norvell's faith in him.

Perry: Put me on the Fitz redemption hype train — he hasn’t been asked to do too much yet, but he’s been money when he’s needed to be.

Evenflow58: Oh, Jarrian is a good one. I think I’ll go with Farmer. I expected him to be a solid piece but he’s a big anchor for that defensive line and the fact that he’s getting the number of snaps he’s been getting with some of the guys playing up there is quite impressive.

Brian: Hard to argue with Fitz perfect start to the season, but I’ll echo Evenflow with Farmer. The development on some of the guys on this unit has been really impressive so far.

Who do you need to see more from?

NoleThruandThru: On defense, Patrick Payton. It was wonderful seeing him come alive last week, but he has to be more consistent moving forward with Verse holding it down on the other side. On offense, FSU really needs a slot receiver to step up (and for Travis to utilize it).

LSK: Fentrell Cypress; he’s been solid but it’s time to go from solid to possession changer. As good as he’s been I need to see a little more from Travis w/ his decision-making, trust the process.

Jon Marchant: Lots of potential picks here too, but I’ll go with Jordan Travis. I know he’s not healthy but we were told Travis had taken another leap this off season. If he has, I haven’t seen it. With the OL being disappointing and the run game consequently being nearly nonexistent, it’s not fair but it does fall on Travis to shoulder the load. And with FSUs poor secondary play, FSU needs Travis to be better if this team is going to go where it wants to go.

Perry: I’m with LSK on Cypress — he was pitched as a shutdown corner, but hasn’t exactly taken over yet. According to PFF, Cypress is the Seminoles’ lowest-graded defensive back who has played over 50 snaps. He’s been targeted 22 times, the most on the team, and has allowed the most passing yards at 157 (Azareye’h Thomas is second with 143, Renardo Green third with 103).

Jon Loesche: Johnny Wilson. I'm sure some NFL team is going to take him early in the draft based on his measurables and highlight catches but the drops have gotten worse this year. Defensive coaches shouldn't be fine with leaving a guy with 1st round talent one-on-one because they're counting on a drop.

Evenflow58: Travis. If you’re going to be a Heisman contender you need to act like it. That doesn’t mean hitting shots down field on every play. That does mean consistently moving the ball down the field. I’d also like to see more from Atkins. They have to get that line figured out so they can at least passably run the ball. I think they will.

Brian: Hate picking a kid by name here. I’ll leave at my hopes for the secondary and an aggressive play style haven’t been materialized. I expect some more impact plays out of this group, some aggression on the ball and they just seem to be more often out of place and chasing than aggressive.

What was your initial record prediction — has it changed?

LSK: Preseason 11-1, now? +1

Jon Marchant: If I remember correctly I had 11-1 preseason. After Southern Miss I revised it to 12-0, if they could beat Clemson. Now, after BC and Clemson, I am going to stick with 11-1.

NoleThruandThru: I think I said either 10-2 or 11-1 preseason. I’m still rolling with 11-1 and an ACC Championship game appearance.

Jon Loesche: Right now, 12-0 with a loss to the Big 10 champ in the Rose Bowl seems about right.

Evenflow58: I don’t think so. I feel like I went 11-1 and that still feels about right. I might be leaning more towards 10-2 though.

Brian Pellerin: I was 11-1 and I’ll stick with it. There’s a loss on this schedule with the way they’re currently playing. Maybe they come out of the bye refreshed and regrouped with some schematic changes, but they’re just not playing at a perfect season level. College football is just hard that way.

Perry: I also had an 11-1 prediction, but I think I’m leaning more towards 12-0 at this point. I am going to be the most nervous person on earth from the weeks of November 11 to November 25, because again, Miami and Florida in the span of three weeks with a potential undefeated season and spot in the playoffs is the cruelest joke imaginable.

How do you see the rest of the season playing out for Florida State?

LSK: I expected FSU to get healthy over the bye and the soft part of the schedule and position themselves for a playoff run. Their two hardest games are in Tallahassee and the schedule remains favorable the rest of the way.

NoleThruandThru: If things continue in the way they have thus far, FSU will drop one or two games. I have faith that between getting healthy, improving communication, and self-scouting, we’ll see improvement moving forward. The teams that most concern me are Duke and Miami because if given time, both quarterbacks can carve up the FSU secondary. I still expect FSU to play for the ACC Championship and like I said in my score prediction last week, it won’t be against Clemson.

Jon Marchant: I will again abstain from prognosticating about FSU and the playoff, but I expect FSU to play for and win the ACC title and play in a top-tier bowl game.

Jon Loesche: Biggest question is who does FSU end up drawing in the ACC championship game. Beating Miami or Clemson twice would be a tall order. Drake Maye is more than capable of having a highlight reel game against FSU's secondary. Louisville is a complete unknown.

Evenflow58: I’m concerned about Miami and Duke. Miami really hasn’t played anybody with a pulse that has been able and willing to pressure Van Dyke so I’m still not completely sure what to expect from them. I don’t think they are the unmitigated disaster they were last year but I feel it’s likely that Cristobal will cost them a game this year. Duke was good/got lucky against Clemson and has a big game coming up against Notre Dame. I think they are better than I thought they might be after the schedule they had last year but I’m not sure. Still to early for both of those teams.

Perry: Biggest “trap” game is Duke, but that term is being used loosely given that the Blue Devils are looking good for another year under Mike Elko and Riley Leonard is exactly the type of quarterback that is capable of giving Florida State fits. Ahead of the season, I went all out with a 11-1 record prediction, Heisman for Jordan Travis, ACC title and win in the playoff before falling in national championship.

I’ll amend that to be a final record of 12-1, Heisman invite for Travis, ACC title and loss in the first round of the playoff.

Brian: Right now, I’m thinking Miami is the one that gets them. TVD is the only QB on their schedule capable of winning a shootout against this offense. That’s still plenty good enough to get to the ACCCG. I could see Louisville there as they’ve played great ball and avoid some of the bigger teams. I think FSU is CFP bound and honestly no one has impressed me to the point that I don’t think the Noles can beat them. It feels like one of those weird years in college football so just keep trying to improve and win.

Top 15 odds to win national championship, per DraftKings

  1. Georgia Bulldogs (+220)
  2. Michigan Wolverines (+500)
  3. Texas Longhorns (+800)
  4. Florida State Seminoles (+800)
  5. Ohio State Buckeyes (+800)
  6. Penn State Nittany Lions (+1400)
  7. USC Trojans (+1600)
  8. Washington Huskies (+1800)
  9. Oregon Ducks (+2000)
  10. Oklahoma Sooners (+3000)
  11. LSU Tigers (+4000)
  12. Alabama Crimson Tide (+4000)
  13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+4500)
  14. Utah Utes (+6000)
  15. Miami Hurricanes (+7000)

Full AP Top 25 Poll: Week 4

  1. Georgia Bulldogs (55)
  2. Michigan Wolverines (1)
  3. Texas Longhorns (2)
  4. Ohio State Buckeyes (1)
  5. Florida State Seminoles (3)
  6. Penn State Nittany Lions
  7. Washington Huskies (1)
  8. USC Trojans
  9. Oregon Ducks
  10. Utah Utes
  11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  12. Alabama Crimson Tide
  13. LSU Tigers
  14. Oklahoma Sooners
  15. North Carolina Tar Heels
  16. Washington State Cougars
  17. Duke Blue Devils
  18. Miami Hurricanes
  19. Oregon State Beavers
  20. Ole Miss Rebels
  21. Tennessee Volunteers
  22. Florida Gators
  23. Missouri Tigers
  24. Kansas Jayhawks
  25. Fresno State Bulldogs

Full USA Today Coaches Poll: Week 4

  1. Georgia Bulldogs (61)
  2. Michigan Wolverines
  3. Ohio State Buckeyes (2)
  4. Florida State Seminoles
  5. Texas Longhorns
  6. USC Trojans
  7. Penn State Nittany Lions
  8. Washington Huskies (1)
  9. Oregon Ducks
  10. Utah Utes
  11. Alabama Crimson Tide
  12. LSU Tigers
  13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
  14. Oklahoma Sooners
  15. North Carolina Tar Heels
  16. Duke Blue Devils
  17. Washington State Cougars
  18. Miami Hurricanes
  19. Tennessee Volunteers
  20. Ole Miss Rebels
  21. Oregon State Beavers
  22. Missouri Tigers
  23. Florida Gators
  24. Kansas Jayhawks
  25. Kansas State Wildcats

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.