SQ College Football Top-25 Preview: No. 4 Florida State Seminoles
by 22 August 2017, 5:03 PM
Can FSU retake the ACC reigns from defending champ Clemson?
August marks the start of college football, and it’s been a long time coming. Here at SQ we’re previewing all the top teams in the country based on our own top-25. Yesterday we took an in-depth look at No. 5 Penn State, today I preview the Florida State Seminoles.
Team Name: Florida State Seminoles
2016 Record and Rank: 10-3 (8)
Coach: Jimbo Fisher (78-17, 8th year)
Key Arrivals: RB Cam Akers, DL Marvin Wilson, DL Joshua Kaindoh, CB Stanford Samuels, WR DJ Matthews, S Cyrus Fagan, LB Leonard Warner
Key Departures: RB Dalvin Cook, OL Roderick Johnson, WR Travis Rudolph, DL DeMarcus Walker, DB Marquez White
Previewing Florida State’s Offense
Overall the Seminoles offense was one of the better units in college football a year ago. They finished 27th in total yards with 6,063 and 31st in points per game with 35.1, but of course, that doesn’t tell the entire story. Efficiency is one thing all teams focus on and the Noles were efficient when it mattered most. Inside the red zone, FSU lead the country by scoring on 55 of their 57 red zone trips. Despite having a true freshman quarterback, the Noles were able to get the job done.
Deondre Francois had an up and down season, but that’s expected from any true freshman that gets thrown into the starting role. He did finish the season throwing for 3,350 yards (25th in the country), along with 20 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. In 2017 though, Francois looks to improve on his biggest weakness, accuracy. He completed just 58.8 percent of his passes which was 75th in the country and had three games where he completed less than half his passes. On third down as a team, FSU converted at 43.8 percent rate, but on third and medium to long (longer than four yards) Francois had problems throwing just 45% on those plays.
The biggest loss of the Seminole offense was running back Dalvin Cook. In his junior year, Cook was a do-it-all type of back for FSU, leading the team in rushing with 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was also second on the team in receiving with 488 yards and caught four touchdowns.
The man tasked with replacing that production is junior Jacques Patrick. In limited reps when Cook was injured, Patrick averaged 5.7 yards per carry and was able to score four touchdowns. Despite the low rushing numbers, Patrick provides tons of upside. According to Pro Football Focus, out of all the returning runners in the ACC, Patrick leads them all with an elusive rating of 117.9, 49.5 points higher than the runner in second. Patrick is the new talk of the town for FSU and should complement a budding star in Francois as well.
Previewing Florida State’s Defense
Florida State’s defense wasn’t great last season but mostly got the job done. The Noles ranked 29th in opponent yards per game (357), and despite giving up 63 points to Louisville, ranked 43rd in opponent points per game (24.4). 2017 promises to bring a huge change with some calling the unit coach Jimbo Fisher’s best.
According to PFF, the top three rated players returning were all on defense. Defensive lineman Derrick Nnadi (85.7), safety Derwin James (84), and cornerback Tarvarius McFadden (82.5) are just some of the players that make the defense one of the most feared in the country.
Nnadi leads a very talented and fierce defensive line group that returns three starters from last season. He finished with 10.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, but was a force in the running game with a 12.8 run stop percentage, good enough for third in the country. Alongside Nnadi is juniors Josh Sweat and Demarcus Christmas. Sweat finished with 11.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Christmas wasn’t very productive last season but is seen as a solid fit at defensive tackle.
Bleacher Report ranked the Nole’s secondary as the third most dominant unit in all of college football, and it’s not hard to see why. FSU has 11 players that were either rated a five or four-star recruit, but the best of this very talented group is McFadden and James. McFadden has prototypical NFL cornerback size at 6‘2” 200 pounds and backs it up with big playmaking ability. He tied for the countries most interceptions at eight and added six pass deflections.
Despite playing in only two games in 2016, James is considered the best player in all of college football. What makes him so special is his overall ability to make an impact no matter what’s asked of him. In the run game, he finished in the top-10 in the ACC with 22 stops in 2015. He’s only missed seven tackles while playing 793 career snaps ranking him second among draft-eligible safeties. Of course, he’s no slouch in coverage, playing 21.7 snaps per reception and only just .49 yards per snap. James, along with McFadden will be the most feared duo in college football.
Three Key Games
1. Sept. 2 vs Alabama (in New Orleans)- The college football season gets off to a bang with perhaps the biggest game of the year. Alabama comes into the season preseason ranked number one in the AP Poll, while FSU comes in at number three. Both these teams have elite-level defenses and are poised to show off on the big stage. The story later in the year is what the CFP Committee thinks of the loser of this game. There is a very real chance both these teams finish the year undefeated after this game.
2. Oct. 21 vs Louisville- After Alabama, the game against Louisville will be one circled on all FSU fans and player’s calendars. The Cardinals absolutely embarrassed the Noles with a 43-point beatdown. This FSU team will be much better prepared and experienced. I can’t see Lamar Jackson playing as well as he did last season, especially with such a stout Seminole defense focusing on stopping him. Throw in Francois having more meaningful games under his belt and the Seminoles have all the makings of getting their revenge.
3. Nov. 11 at Clemson- The game that will once again decide the ACC Atlantic division will be between Clemson and FSU. These two teams have played each other every year since 1992 and the Noles have won 17 of the last 25 matchups, but Clemson has won two in a row. The Tigers have some question marks while they try and replace their quarterback, running back, and top receivers. By the time the two teams meet, everything should be ironed out and fans should expect another hard-fought game that comes down to the late stages.
Top to bottom this may be the best team Jimbo Fisher has had since they won the National Championship in 2013. The loss of Cook will be the biggest concern for the offense, but by all accounts, Patrick is more than ready and capable to take over. The defense that cost FSU so many leads and games will be the strength of this team while the offense works on their chemistry. Their schedule has a number of tough games as stated above, but with the talent alone they should be able to come away with victories in many of these matchups. FSU-Alabama will be a game to remember and a defensive battle but I see the Tide coming away with a win. That being said, FSU should navigate the rest of the schedule and finish the year 11-1 and make an appearance in the CFP.
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