Florida State in national hunt again

Florida State will more than likely start the season ranked No. 1 as the defending national champions.

But what are the chances the Seminoles remain in the hunt for a spot in the College Football Playoff?

The Football Outsiders have calculated those odds headed into spring practice and come up with a very early preseason top 10. Florida State, though, is not listed at No. 1. The Noles check in at No. 4 -- still good enough to make the playoff. The Outsiders calculate their odds at going 11-1 or better at 44 percent, behind Alabama, Oregon and Oklahoma. Brian Fremeau writes:

Our projection model took a wait-and-see approach with the Seminoles last year, and it wasn't until midseason when our ratings really found FSU to be a championship candidate. Their first test this year -- at a neutral site against Oklahoma State -- may be a more challenging game than any regular-season foe they faced in 2013.

There is a specific methodology to the way the Football Outsiders came up with their rankings, using program FEI ratings -- a measure of five years of drive efficiency data -- returning starter data and a specific factor that accounts for the replacing a starting quarterback.

While Florida State does return the Heisman Trophy winner in Jameis Winston, several key players must be replaced around him on offense -- including James Wilder Jr., Devonta Freeman, Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw. Can Winston be as successful as he was a year ago with a different supporting cast?

As Fremeau states, the Seminoles have a much more difficult schedule this fall than last, with Notre Dame and Louisville now on the docket in addition to the Cowboys (ranked preseason 10 in the Outsiders' early projections). That explains the calculation that another unbeaten season may not be in the cards. But even if Florida State drops one game, the Noles should still be in good position to play for another national championship.