Schedule analysis: Florida State


Nonconference opponents (with 2012 records):

  • Nevada (7-6)

  • Bethune-Cookman (9-3)

  • Idaho (1-11)

  • at Florida (11-2)

ACC home games:

  • Maryland

  • NC State

  • Miami

  • Syracuse

ACC road games:

  • at Pittsburgh

  • at Boston College

  • at Clemson

  • at Wake Forest

Gut-check time: Oct. 19 at Clemson. No game on the schedule will be bigger to Florida State and the Atlantic Division race. You're going to hear this stat repeated for months, and the Noles should be using it as motivation: Florida State has not won at Clemson since 2001. Add to that the fact that in each of the past four seasons, the winner of this game has had home-field advantage and has gone on to win the Atlantic Division. Florida State wasn't a great road team last fall, but it's going to have to be at its best in Death Valley.

Trap game: Sept. 2 at Pittsburgh. There's nothing like opening the season with a meaningful conference game on Labor Day. The good news for FSU is that it doesn't have to travel to the 'Burgh in November, when it's freezing. The bad news? Pitt's defense should be pretty darn good. Both teams will debut a first-year starting quarterback, but no player in the ACC will enter this fall facing higher expectations than FSU's Jameis Winston. Whether or not he will have the poise to overcome Pitt's defense remains to be seen.

Snoozer: Sept. 21 vs. Bethune-Cookman. Hey, at least it's only one FCS team this year.

Defining stretch: Oct. 19-Nov. 2 (at Clemson, NC State, Miami). The Atlantic Division title will be on the line, and so will bragging rights against the Canes. FSU will get the Canes at home, but Miami will have the veteran quarterback and overall returns more experience. Anything, though, can happen in this game. Both programs have recruited well within the state, and there is also the underlying plot of former Florida State offensive coordinator James Coley -- who now holds the same title at Miami but actually calls the plays -- returning to his alma mater and former employer.

Final analysis: Those within the program aren't expecting anything less than a 10-win season, and the schedule is certainly conducive to it -- if the six new assistants on staff and Winston all make a smooth transition. On paper, Florida State is good enough to enter the game at Clemson 5-0 (especially considering the soft schedule following the opener), and the Noles will have a bye week to prepare for their showdown in Death Valley. It's the second half of the schedule that will determine FSU's fate in the postseason. Overall, if the Noles can avoid an upset at Pittsburgh and Miami, they should be on track for another 10-win season.

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