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1. A fresh start for all
Let's be honest: if Florida State's improbable 13-0 start had happened to a different team, it would have been a thrill.
If an NC State or Pitt had won 13 straight games, almost all by small margins or last-second heroics, it would have been a sweetheart underdog story. We'd have talked about clutchitude and belief and togetherness. We'd have been rooting for this team to reach the College Football Playoff despite the fact that it was clearly not top-four-caliber. (We'd have also assumed it would get smoked by Oregon.)
The underdog run is the most adored of March Madness traditions, and in the first year of the Playoff, we had one. Only, we hated it.
Instead of an out-of-nowhere surprise, this underdog was the defending national champion. The Seminoles were full of blue-chippers and familiar faces, none more familiar (for better and worse) than that of Jameis Winston, the former Heisman Trophy winner and future No. 1 pick. No one enjoys a favorite playing the role of underdog.
Like an aging NBA center, the Seminoles were a step slower and more hobbled, able to turn it on at the last possible second and not a moment before. And it took a while to notice. The big names played big roles -- Winston, Eddie Goldman, Mario Edwards, Rashad Greene, Tre' Jackson, Cameron Erving, Nick O'Leary, Jalen Ramsey -- but injuries and youth created unexpected holes. That the Noles were able to pull games out at the last minute was incredible; that they had to was a sign of things to come.
The Noles mastered the art of running out the clock for a majority decision instead of going for a knockout. Until the Florida game, they never really played poorly. They just never really played well.
They needed a late onside kick to fend off Oklahoma State. They needed a miraculous fumble recovery to force overtime and beat Clemson. They fell behind NC State by 17 points in the first quarter and Louisville by 21 points in the second. They needed a (correct) offensive pass interference call to negate a last-second Notre Dame touchdown. They took their first lead against Miami with three minutes left and needed a last-minute red zone interception. They needed a missed field goal to avoid overtime against Boston College. They created half as many scoring opportunities as Florida in a confusing win.
Florida State became the perfect team for the battle between stats and "just winning." The numbers caught on to FSU from Day 1 and never treated the Seminoles like an elite team. The Seminoles never played like one. But until they lost a game, that didn't matter.
Against Oregon, the FSU offense began to make the mistakes opponents always made, blowing scoring opportunities in the first half and losing the football like it was greased in the second. The defense, a glaring issue all season, was hopeless. In suffering his first collegiate loss, Winston briefly lost control of his body, and that was that. The Winston era ended with 27 wins and a devastating loss.
Ignoring the week-to-week drama -- and I am, of course, referring to the games on Saturdays and the Internet warfare that went on from Sunday to Friday (2014: the year #FSUTwitter came into its own) -- Florida State's recent history actually tells us a pretty easy story.
With 2014's No. 15 F/+ ranking, the Seminoles have finished between 12th and 19th for four of Jimbo Fisher's five seasons. (The exception: the No. 1 finish in 2013.) The offense failed to coalesce and help an elite defense in 2011-12, the stars aligned in 2013, and then the defense fell apart in 2014. The end products were about the same, with the results differing because of close-game outcomes (a 2-3 record in one-possession games in 2011 led to a 9-4 finish; a 7-0 record in 2014 got the 'Noles to 13-1).
That tells us that, no matter the turnover, the Seminoles have a high floor. That's what solid coaching and great recruiting will do. But with a new quarterback, an almost completely new offensive line, and some thin spots on defense, it's unlikely the stars will align in 2015. Another top-20 performance might be good enough to win a fourth-straight ACC title in a league that might not feature a top-15 team, but that's almost certainly all FSU is playing for.
2014 Schedule & Results
|Record: 13-1 | Adj. Record: 13-1 | Final F/+ Rk: 15|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|30-Aug||vs. Oklahoma State||75||37-31||W||58%||4.6||53%|
|27-Sep||at NC State||55||56-41||W||81%||20.2||79%|
|6-Dec||vs. Georgia Tech||8||37-35||W||82%||21.1||72%|
|Points Per Game||33.7||34||25.6||51|
2. Remarkable consistency
The strangest thing about FSU's 2014 is that, no matter how dramatic it was in real time, it made sense on paper. The Seminoles put up nearly the same level of performance every week. In terms of percentiles, they fell between 77 percent and 87 percent in nine of their first 11 games, falling below that mark against OSU and surpassing it against Wake Forest.
The defensive front seven suffered injury after injury, and the performance barely wavered. Winston was suspended against Clemson, and FSU still put up a 79th percentile performance. You're never going to see less variance than that, especially considering how much the personnel changed from week to week.
That two of FSU's three worst performances came at the end of the season could be randomness, and it could have been reality eventually settling in.
- Average Percentile Performance (first 11 games): 80% (~top 25)
- Average Percentile Performance (last 3 games): 58% (~top 55)
From the second week, FSU was what it was: a good team that knew how to make plays in the fourth quarter. What felt like a mirage was the opposite; the Noles were exactly what they were, nothing more and nothing less.
The wheels did come off. Despite outgaining Florida by 24 yards, the Seminoles created just four scoring opportunities (first downs inside the opponent's 40) to the Gators' eight, which made their 24-19 win their least likely result of the season. They took down an excellent Georgia Tech, but the dud against Oregon finished them off. But hey, even an 80th-percentile performance wouldn't have beaten Oregon.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||47.9%||16||Succ. Rt. +||126.9||5|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||31.0||88||Def. FP+||98.0||92|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.8||35||Redzone S&P+||126.1||8|
|Q1 Rk||43||1st Down Rk||7|
|Q2 Rk||1||2nd Down Rk||26|
|Q3 Rk||10||3rd Down Rk||3|
Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|6'0, 201||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8937||256||427||3445||29||14||60.0%||27||5.9%||7.2|
|Sean Maguire||6'3, 224||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8704||25||49||339||1||2||51.0%||6||10.9%||5.2|
|John Franklin III||6'0, 183||So.||3 stars (5.6)||NR|
|J.J. Cosentino||6'4, 237||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9066|
|Deondre Francois||6'2, 191||Fr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9671|
3. Poor Sean Maguire
Sean Maguire is almost certainly a decent quarterback. He's got good size and a playmaker's instincts, and he's been mentored for three years under an experienced quarterbacks coach (Randy Sanders) and a head coach with previous success as a QBs coach. If he were to serve as FSU's signal caller, he would probably be capable of engineering a top-20 finish.
But our eyes don't forget. In Maguire's single moment in the spotlight, he bombed. Against Clemson in a huge early contest, he completed 21 of 39 passes, threw two costly picks, and grew harried. And that colors our perceptions.
Never mind that Clemson had one of the nation's most elite defenses, with a front four that harried everybody. And never mind that his first career start came in prime time in strange circumstances. He struggled, and now most of us assume that Notre Dame graduate transfer Everett Golson will be FSU's starting quarterback.
Of course, Golson's own successes play into that. He helped Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season in 2012 and was easily the most composed Irish player in a disastrous BCS Championship loss to Alabama. He was magnificent for most of the first half of 2014. Golson shouldered a heavy load; he completed 70 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns to two picks in September, he eased the Irish past Stanford in a home win, and he all but led Notre Dame past FSU in Tallahassee in mid-October.
At his best, Golson is a game manager with upside, a careful quarterback with the elusiveness to make great things happen. At his worst, the mistakes pile up quickly.
Golson was one of only three players to fumble 12 times in 2014. He threw four picks against ASU, and his fumbles were increasingly loopy. After going 7-for-18 with a 62.8 passer rating against USC, he was benched in favor of Malik Zaire.
With protection, Golson can lead you to great things. But now might be a good time to point out FSU's line must replace five players who had combined for 174 career starts. Returning starts up front: 9.
Maguire fits more of a gunslinger model than Golson, and it's not out of the question that an aggressive mentality might be needed with a porous line.
|Dalvin Cook||RB||6'0, 203||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9937||170||1008||8||5.9||6.7||39.4%||4||4|
|QB||6'0, 201||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8937||87||456||8||5.2||5.3||47.1%||12||8|
|Mario Pender||RB||5'10, 204||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9824||41||206||4||5.0||5.9||36.6%||1||1|
|Freddie Stevenson||FB||6'1, 244||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8861|
|Johnathan Vickers||RB||6'1, 215||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8697|
|Jacques Patrick||RB||6'1, 232||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9821|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Jesus Wilson||WR-Y||5'9, 181||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8681||65||42||527||64.6%||13.3%||61.5%||8.1||20||8.2||84.5|
|Travis Rudolph||WR-Z||6'2, 187||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9781||63||38||555||60.3%||12.9%||61.9%||8.8||90||8.6||89.0|
|Dalvin Cook||RB||6'0, 203||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9937||25||22||203||88.0%||5.1%||72.0%||8.1||-49||8.7||32.5|
|Ermon Lane||WR-Z||6'3, 205||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9889||19||13||267||68.4%||3.9%||47.4%||14.1||112||14.1||42.8|
|Kermit Whitfield||WR-Z||5'7, 183||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9011||16||11||145||68.8%||3.3%||62.5%||9.1||14||9.1||23.2|
|Mario Pender||RB||5'10, 204||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9824||13||10||56||76.9%||2.7%||69.2%||4.3||-61||4.0||9.0|
|Freddie Stevenson||FB||6'1, 244||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8861||9||7||72||77.8%||1.8%||77.8%||8.0||-10||11.2||11.5|
|Ryan Izzo||TE||6'6, 243||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8715||2||1||7||50.0%||0.4%||0.0%||3.5||-6||N/A||1.1|
|Jeremy Kerr||TE||6'5, 261||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8170|
|Ja'Vonn Harrison||WR-X||6'2, 199||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9187|
|Mavin Saunders||TE||6'6, 258||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9017|
|George Campbell||WR-Y||6'3, 197||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9902|
|Da'Vante Phillips||WR||6'1, 203||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9526|
|Auden Tate||WR||6'5, 205||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9025|
|Jalen Wilkerson||TE||6'4, 230||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8727|
4. The ceiling is too high to define
If the line holds up and the quarterback play is decent, FSU's offense will score a lot. It will be impossible not to with the explosive upside of the skill positions.
Dalvin Cook fumbled too much last year but breathed life into a struggling running game. His explosiveness is immense, and while he was a freshman, he still put up better efficiency numbers than either Karlos Williams or Mario Pender. FSU immediately boasts one of the ACC's best running backs, but the backups are intriguing, too. Pender still has plenty of upside, Freddie Stevenson is a unique weapon as a fullback with ball-carrying potential, and incoming five-star Jacques Patrick might surpass Pender sooner than later.
There might be even more upside at receiver. Five-star freshmen Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane were inconsistent (they were freshmen, after all), but they still combined to catch 51 of 82 passes for 822 yards, more than 10 yards per target. Jesus Wilson was a decent efficiency option, star return man Kermit Whitfield still has a chance to turn into a solid No. 3 or No. 4 target, and four-star sophomore Ja'Vonn Harrison waits his turn. And of course, another five-star freshman, George Campbell, will likely force his way into the mix. The potential is astounding.
The biggest issue will be efficiency. Big plays will win FSU plenty of games, but efficiency bailed out the Seminoles last year. They ranked first in Passing Success Rate+, thanks to not only Winston, but Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O'Leary, who combined for a 67 percent catch rate. With a new quarterback, a still-young receiving corps, a new line, and unknown weapons at tight end, FSU's success rates will inevitably falter, rendering the Noles explosive but inconsistent.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Tre' Jackson||RG||42||Unanimous All-American, 2014 1st All-ACC|
|Cameron Erving||C||42||All-American, 2014 1st All-ACC|
|Roderick Johnson||LT||6'7, 312||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9415||5|
|Ryan Hoefeld||LG||6'3, 293||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8585||4|
|Kareem Are||LG||6'6, 330||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8715||0|
|Chad Mavety||RT||6'5, 327||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9190||0|
|Wilson Bell||RG||6'4, 318||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8415||0|
|Corey Martinez||RG||6'5, 293||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9061|
|Alec Eberle||C||6'5, 294||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8727|
|Derrick Kelly||LT||6'5, 310||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8623|
|Brock Ruble||RT||6'8, 313||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8675|
|Abdul Bello||OL||6'6, 300||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9553|
|Ethan Frith||OL||6'7, 299||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8554|
5. Uh oh
FSU's line was good, not great. Considering the presence of two All-Americans and the level of experience, that was disappointing. Still, you could do worse than 45th in Adj. Line Yards and ninth in Adj. Sack Rate; FSU almost certainly will do worse this fall.
The Seminoles return nine career starts up front, second-lowest in the country.
The potential is obvious -- left tackle Roderick Johnson was a stud recruit and started for nearly half of last season as a true freshman, and the staff is reportedly high on two former JUCO transfers, Chad Mavety and Kareem Are.
Still, compared to other units, FSU hasn't recruited like gangbusters up front -- only ("only") five of the 11 players listed above were four-star-plus recruits -- and Are and Mavety might be the only upperclassmen on the two-deep. This is a scary proposition, considering how both Golson (eventually) and Maguire (immediately) responded to pressure.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||41.7%||71||Succ. Rt. +||99.3||68|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||28.9||94||Off. FP+||99.0||78|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.2||51||Redzone S&P+||103.4||50|
|Q1 Rk||50||1st Down Rk||68|
|Q2 Rk||61||2nd Down Rk||59|
|Q3 Rk||51||3rd Down Rk||29|
6. Where did the disruption go?
Winston's interception rate was too high for a Heisman winner and top pick, Williams was far less efficient running the ball than I anticipated, and the offensive line was disappointing compared to expectations.
Still, it was difficult to blame the offense for too much. The Noles only fell from fourth to 16th in Off. S&P+. The main problems were on the other side: FSU fell from seventh to 40th in Def. S&P+.
The reasons aren't hard to explain. Ace defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt left for Georgia, the top three tackles (including stud Timmy Jernigan) left, almost everybody in the front seven missed time with injury, and without players like corner Lamarcus Joyner and linebacker Telvin Smith, there was a leadership void.
Still, considering the level of talent, the depth of the stumble was surprising. A defense that featured four players drafted in the first three rounds (including three members of the front seven) was inefficient against the run and had one of the worst pass rushes in the country.
The problem was havoc -- FSU just didn't have enough. The Seminoles' Havoc Rate fell from 19.2 percent to 15.7, which was at least part of the reasons for their fall from third in Success Rate+ to 68th. Tackle Eddie Goldman and end/OLB Mario Edwards Jr. combined for 19 tackles for loss and seven sacks, but nobody else in the front seven produced at a consistent level. And now Goldman and Edwards are gone.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Mario Edwards, Jr.||JACK||13||34.5||4.5%||11.0||3.0||0||5||2||0|
|Chris Casher||JACK||6'4, 249||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9866||13||21.5||2.8%||3.5||1.0||0||2||0||0|
|Lorenzo Featherston||DE||6'7, 229||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.9121||11||14.0||1.8%||5.0||1.0||0||0||1||0|
|Derrick Nnadi||NG||6'2, 304||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9514||9||13.0||1.7%||1.5||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Derrick Mitchell, Jr.||NG||6'4, 307||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8956||12||13.0||1.7%||1.0||0.0||0||2||0||0|
|Jacob Pugh||JACK||6'4, 247||So.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9657||13||9.5||1.2%||2.0||0.0||2||1||0||0|
|Nile Lawrence-Stample||DT||6'1, 323||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8878||4||7.0||0.9%||0.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Giorgio Newberry||DT||6'6, 289||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9025|
|DeMarcus Walker||DE||6'3, 277||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9822|
|Justin Shanks||DE||6'2, 325||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9341|
|Keith Bryant||DT||6'2, 304||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9205|
|Rick Leonard||DE||6'7, 273||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8878|
|Demarcus Christmas||DT||6'3, 302||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9363|
|Arthur Williams||DT||6'5, 321||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8445|
|Josh Sweat||DE||6'5, 226||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9948|
|Darvin Taylor||DT||6'3, 305||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9168|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Reggie Northrup||MIKE||6'1, 226||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8931||14||91.5||12.0%||4.0||1.0||1||1||1||1|
|Terrance Smith||WILL||6'4, 231||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8830||12||66.5||8.7%||4.5||1.0||2||1||1||0|
|DeMarcus Walker||SAM||6'3, 277||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9822||14||32.5||4.3%||6.0||1.0||0||0||1||0|
|Matthew Thomas||MIKE||6'3, 224||So.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9956||8||23.5||3.1%||2.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ro'Derrick Hoskins||LB||6'2, 234||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8760||13||5.5||0.7%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Delvin Purifoy||LB||6'2, 254||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9212|
|Lorenzo Phillips||LB||6'3, 230||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8929|
|Sh'Mar Kilby-Lane||LB||6'2, 220||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8993|
7. Injuries hurt
Above, I listed 19 linemen and linebackers who were on the 2014 roster; 16 were deemed four- or five-star recruits by either Rivals or the 247Sports Composite. That FSU managed to rank 85th in Rushing Success Rate+ despite this was jarring.
Equally stunning: the depth of FSU's line rotation. Despite only one tackle playing in all 14 games, only four tackles really played. Nile Lawrence-Stample got hurt four games in, and freshman Derrick Nnadi fell out of favor, but all that really meant was more playing time for hobbled star Eddie Goldman. It's no wonder that the fourth quarter was FSU's worst defensively (80th in Fourth Quarter S&P+).
That leaves coordinator Charles Kelly in an interesting position -- he's looking for both difference-makers and warm bodies up front. Lawrence-Stample is a nice boulder when healthy, and Nnadi showed potential, but there's playing time available for anybody trustworthy. And with so many former star recruits, odds are decent that someone will emerge. But one would have been expected to emerge last year, too.
Linebackers Reggie Northrup and Terrance Smith were steady, and despite turnover, the linebackers did a nice job of preventing big run plays. But without Edwards and Goldman, there's no proven pass rushing presence. Defensive back Jalen Ramsey is the only returnee who had more than one sack last year.
Between the pass rush and disturbing depth at linebacker (five-star sophomore Matthew Thomas had shoulder surgery this summer, and Northrup is still returning from an ACL injury he suffered in the Rose Bowl), FSU will be relying on newcomers to disrupt. [Update: Thomas was ruled ineligible in August.] Without someone -- blue-chip end Josh Sweat (also dealing with a recent injury), JUCO transfer Lorenzo Phillips, etc. -- stepping up, it's hard to see the front seven improving much.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Nate Andrews||FS||5'11, 204||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8560||14||79.5||10.4%||0.5||0||3||5||1||0|
|Jalen Ramsey||CB||6'1, 201||Jr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9921||14||63.0||8.3%||9.5||3||2||12||3||0|
|Tyler Hunter||SS||5'11, 204||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8687||14||56.5||7.4%||2.5||1||1||7||0||1|
|Lamarcus Brutus||SS||6'0, 208||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8566||14||11.0||1.4%||0||0||2||1||0||0|
|Trey Marshall||SS||6'0, 203||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9265||11||9.0||1.2%||1.5||0||0||0||0||0|
|Keelin Smith||DB||6'3, 188||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8830||12||5.5||0.7%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Marquez White||CB||6'0, 179||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8926||12||2.5||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Tyrell Lyons||DB||6'0, 219||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8712||11||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ryan Green||CB||5'10, 198||Jr.||4 stars (6.0)||0.9740|
|Malique Jackson||CB||6'1, 171||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8643|
|Derwin James||S||6'2, 212||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9981|
|Tarvarus McFadden||DB||6'3, 200||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9908|
|Calvin Brewton||DB||6'0, 178||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8957|
|Marcus Lewis||DB||6'2, 194||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9354|
|A.J. Westbrook||DB||6'0, 180||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8787|
8. Where would the 'Noles have been without Jalen Ramsey?
Even with Ronald Darby (second-round draft pick) and P.J. Williams (third), the lack of a pass rush and iffy chemistry combined to form a mediocre pass defense. FSU fell from fourth in Passing S&P+ to 50th.
But it could have been worse; the 'Noles could have been without Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey is a natural nickel back and might have been FSU's best cornerback, safety, and linebacker. He was first on the team in passes defensed and second in TFLs and sacks. He's incredible. He'll take over as a pure corner, and opponents will struggle to get their No. 1 receivers open.
Now to solve the other problems. Since we can't assume the pass rush will be any better, it will be up to some combination of experienced, decent options (safeties Nate Andrews, Tyler Hunter, and Lamarcus Brutus, cornerback Marquez White) and high-upside newcomers (RB-turned-CB Ryan Green, sophomore safety Trey Marshall, and probably incoming five-stars Derwin James and Tarvarus McFadden) to make plays against quarterbacks who have time to throw. James is the bluest of blue-chippers, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him starting from Day 1.
|Cason Beatty||6'3, 215||Sr.||48||41.0||2||22||15||77.1%|
|Roberto Aguayo||6'1, 204||Jr.||96||62.8||49||2||51.0%|
|Roberto Aguayo||6'1, 204||Jr.||55-55||18-18||100.0%||9-12||75.0%|
|Kermit Whitfield||KR||5'7, 183||Jr.||32||20.8||0|
|Jesus Wilson||KR||5'9, 181||Jr.||10||22.8||0|
|Jesus Wilson||PR||5'9, 181||Jr.||2||9.5||0|
|Special Teams F/+||50|
|Field Goal Efficiency||3|
|Punt Return Efficiency||93|
|Kick Return Efficiency||123|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||77|
9. Where did the return game go?
In Ryan Switzer and Kermit Whitfield, the ACC boasted two return men who stole the show as freshman. UNC's Switzer returned five punts for touchdowns in 2013, and Whitfield changed the title game with a fourth-quarter kick return.
Both stunk in 2014. Or at least, neither had many great moments in small-sample opportunities. FSU's punt returns were inconsistent, and the kick returns were some of the least efficient in college football.
One assumes a bounce back because we've seen what Whitfield can do, but without better returns, the effects of the incredible Roberto Aguayo and the improving Cason Beatty will be neutralized.
2015 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk|
|18-Sep||at Boston College||49|
|3-Oct||at Wake Forest||89|
|24-Oct||at Georgia Tech||19|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||39.5% (7)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||3 / 3|
|2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-6 / -1.4|
|2014 TO Luck/Game||-1.6|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||11 (4, 7)|
|2014 Second-order wins (difference)||9.5 (3.5)|
10. Better get 'em now, ACC
The rest of the ACC is blowing it. After three straight conference titles, Florida State is in full rebuild mode. The Seminoles will be breaking in a new quarterback and offensive line, and the defensive front seven is searching for new stars. There is too much upside for them to fall far, but a top-15 team could easily end FSU's streak.
One of those teams might not exist. The stats like Clemson, but the Tigers' offensive line just went from shaky to shakier, and all of their hopes are on a quarterback who got hurt three times in 2014. Louisville could be excellent if a bunch of newcomers click, but that's far from a given. Other ACC Atlantic threats are either retooling (Boston College) or not yet ready for a huge run (NC State). On the other side, anybody from Georgia Tech to Virginia Tech to Miami could end up strong, but they all have units to completely rebuild.
In other words, while FSU isn't a slam dunk, the Noles might still be the conference favorites. And considering how many key pieces will return in 2016, another FSU title would represent one hell of a missed opportunity for the rest of the league.
This is a legacy year for Jimbo Fisher. Even if FSU wasn't as good as it should have been last year, the Noles have won 58 games in five years, and with consistent top-5 recruiting, they will keep winning. Any major 2015 success would be a bonus, and that bonus might come to fruition.