2012 report cards: Florida State

Let's hand out some grades to Florida State for the 2012 season.

OFFENSE: The defense took all the headlines this year for the Seminoles, but the offense was vastly improved over a year ago. Just look at total offense, where Florida State ranked No. 19 in the nation, averaging 471.5 yards per game. Know what it ranked last year? No. 77. The Noles averaged nearly 100 yards more of offense over a year ago. EJ Manuel set carer highs with 3,392 yards passing and 23 touchdowns, and completed a career-high 68 percent of his passes. He ranked in the Top 20 in passing efficiency. The receivers were better. And the running game was fine behind James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman after Chris Thompson was lost for the season. But there were a few key breakdowns that cropped up in crucial games, and that ended up costing the Noles. The Noles went scoreless against NC State in the second half and ended up losing inexplicably, as coach Jimbo Fisher took serious heat for his playcalling. Manuel did not play his best against Florida. And the Noles went AWOL in the second half against Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game and had to withstand a second half rally to win. I give credit to Florida State for the improvements, but it's hard to overlook the offensive breakdowns at critical moments. GRADE: B.

DEFENSE: This is all that has to be said: No. 2 in the nation in total defense, No. 3 in the nation in rushing defense and No. 6 in the nation in scoring defense. Four players made the All-ACC coaches' first team -- unanimous All-America defensive end Bjoern Werner; Tank Carradine; cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Lamarcus Joyner. Werner won ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors after leading the ACC with 13 sacks and finishing second with 18 tackles for loss. Carradine, replacing preseason All-American Brandon Jenkins, added 11 sacks. True freshman cornerback Ronald Darby won ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. I could go on and on, but I think I would be restating the obvious. The Noles were hands down the best defense in the ACC, and one of the best in the nation. No debate. GRADE: A+.

OVERALL: The season began with national championship hopes, and those were dashed with a loss to NC State. While there are some who will say the Noles underachieved, the bottom line is they won the ACC for the first time since 2005, tied the school record for wins in a season with 12, and finished the season as a top-10 team for the first time since 2003, when it finished No. 10 in the coaches poll. That qualifies as a successful season just about everywhere in America. GRADE: A.

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