CFN: Florida State Preview

How far is Florida State from once again being a major powerhouse? Can it get back to the elite again? There are several good things to get excited about, like RB Antone Smith, but there are still problems for the former juggernaut. Check out the CFN Florida State Preview.

- 2008 CFN Florida State Preview | 2008 Florida State Offense 
- 2008 Florida State Defense | 2008 Florida State Depth Chart 
- 2007 CFN Florida State Preview | 2006 CFN Florida State Preview 

Head coach: Bobby Bowden
33rd year: 300-87-4
43rd year overall: 373-119-4
Returning Lettermen: 38
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best FSU Players
1. DE Everette Brown, Jr.
2. Rover Myron Rolle, Jr.
3. Derek Nicholson, Sr.
4. WR Preston Parker, Jr.
5. WR Greg Carr, Sr.
6. LT Rodney Hudson, Soph.
7. RB Antone Smith, Sr.
8. CB Tony Carter, Sr.
9. CB Patrick Robinson, Jr.
10. LB Dekoda Watson, Jr.

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: COMING
2008 Record: 0-0

Aug. 30  OPEN DATE
Sept. 6 Western Carolina
Sept. 13 UT Chattanooga
Sept. 20 Wake Forest
Sept. 27 Colorado (Jacksonville)
Oct. 4 at Miami
Oct. 11  OPEN DATE
Oct. 16 at NC State
Oct. 25  Virginia Tech
Nov. 1 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 8 Clemson
Nov. 15 Boston College
Nov. 22 at Maryland
Nov. 29 Florida

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 8-4
2007 Record: 7-6

Sept. 3 at Clemson L 24-17
Sept. 8
UAB W 34-24
Sept. 15 at Colorado W 16-6
Sept. 29 Alabama W 21-14
Oct. 6
NC State W 27-10
Oct. 11 at Wake Forest  L 24-21
Oct. 20
Miami L 37-29
Oct. 27 Duke W 25-6
Nov. 3 at Boston Coll W 27-17
Nov. 10 at Virginia Tech L 40-21
Nov. 17
Maryland W 24-16
Nov. 24 at Florida L 45-12
Music City Bowl
Dec. 31 Kentucky L 35-28

After back-to-back 7-6 seasons and a lingering academic scandal, have the Seminoles reached rock bottom, or are they still descending further? It’s a question the beleaguered program will try to dismiss as it attempts to pick up the pieces and make a gradual return back to glory. 

Overall, the program has to figure out what it wants to be and where it wants to go. The succession plan is in effect as Jimbo Fisher is all set to take over as the head coach, and handles most of the big duties now, as Bobby Bowden phases himself into retirement. But FSU hasn’t been a superpower since it lost to Oklahoma for the national title in the 2001 Orange Bowl, and while it’s impossible to bring back the good old days, there’s no reason this can’t be a dominant ACC star again.

Two years ago, the Noles seemed to be close to turning things around losing five games by a touchdown or less, but now the close losses have become part of the reason why the program has declined.

Ever since the Orange Bowl loss to the Sooners, FSU is 10-20 in games decided by seven points or fewer. The Noles-are-half-empty fans would say the team can’t close and can’t come through, the Noles-are-half-full fans would point out that even though the program has slid, 20 of the 32 losses were winnable. Of course, for longtime fans dreaming of the days when a two-loss season was a failure, there’s no way to put a smiley face on the decline.

This year’s team will be fine, but it’ll take something special, and a major change in mojo and momentum, to be a major player in the ACC title chase.

While the defense will again be the strength, the offense must make a giant step forward in Fisher’s second season as the coordinator. Most of last year’s unit is back, but it managed to score just 23 points a game, struggling badly to open up holes for the running game and showing no consistency whatsoever. And that’s a problem.

If Fisher, supposedly an offensive wizard, can’t get the attack going, will there be some controversy that he’s about to be the head man? For many ‘Nole fans, especially the ones that came on board this decade, the torch can’t be passed soon enough. Fisher’s prominence is growing all the time, but this is still Bowden’s program until he says otherwise.          

The team will be without a slew of suspended players for the first three games, but opening with Western Carolina and Chattanooga softens the blow. Although the schedule pretty much guarantees a bowl game, to win a rugged Atlantic Division, Bowden might need to coax career years from underrated RB Antone Smith and sporadic QB Drew Weatherford, who’s finally not looking over his shoulder at Xavier Lee. It’s not going to be easy, but this is still Florida State, even the name alone doesn’t carry much weight anymore. 

What to look for offense: The development of a very young offensive line. If there’s going to be progress in Fisher’s second year as the coordinator, there needs to be a lot more support from a line that returns just two starters and is painfully short on experience. The right side will be manned by freshmen and there weren’t enough bodies to even fill out a two-deep in the spring.  LT Rodney Hudson is a budding star, but he’s just one blocker in a unit that requires five and is noticeably short on talent and depth.   

What to look for on defense: Better play from the secondary. The ‘Noles were uncharacteristically leaky in pass defense last year allowing two dozen touchdown passes and almost 250 yards a game. Don’t expect it to become a trend.  Led by the cornerback trio of Tony Carter, Patrick Robinson, and Michael Ray Garvin, veteran talent returns at key positions, and the schedule is short on quarterbacks capable of exposing the cracks in this group’s armor.  

The team will be much better if ... the offense begins to turn the corner. The ‘Noles failed to shift out of neutral a year ago, finishing 80th nationally in total offense and scoring more than 30 points just once in a September defeat of lowly UAB. While the defense will be fine, the offense needs to make a move if the program has designs on winning the division.

The Schedule: The Noles can be forgiven for starting out the year against Western Carolina and UT Chattanooga with the two other non-conference games against Colorado and Florida. The ACC road slate isn't a season killer going to Miami, NC State, Georgia Tech and Maryland, and getting Boston College and Clemson in Tallahassee will give Bobby Bowden's team a fighting chance at winning the Atlantic. On the down side, the Coastal games could be against the three best teams in the division facing Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami.

Best Offensive Player: Junior WR Preston Parker. Although Greg Carr and Antone Smith may be better known on a national level, it’s Parker who has evolved into the Seminoles’ best playmaker. Not only did he lead the team in receptions, but when the offense needed someone to fill the void in the running game, he promptly rushed for 133 on 20 carries against Maryland. One of the ACC’s most versatile gamebreakers, he’ll need t come back roaring after sitting out the Western Carolina and Chattanooga games serving a suspension.               

Best Defensive Player
: Junior DE Everette Brown. Before last season, Brown was being hailed as one of the program’s breakout players of 2007. Mission accomplished. Using a blend of power and speed, he took his first steps toward a spot on the All-ACC team, racking up 11.5 tackles for loss and a team-high 6.5 sacks. The best is yet to come for a determined Seminole with an eye on double-digit sacks and All-America recognition.      

Key players to a successful season
: The entire offensive line. This group will share the blame for whatever shortcomings the offense has this season. While Rodney Hudson is about to become a fixture at left tackle, he’s surrounded by unproven and untested linemen who are about to endure a baptism under fire. Depth is almost non-existent and freshmen will be counted on heavily to log minutes in the rotation. If Hudson or C Ryan McMahon is lost for any length of time, it’ll be a catastrophe.

The season will be a success if ...  the ‘Noles win the Atlantic Division. Yes, the program is clearly down, but this is still Florida State and the schedule breaks in its favor, with nine games in the Sunshine State and not one brutal road game that’ll require an upset.  The division’s three toughest teams, Wake Forest, Clemson, and Boston College, must all travel to Doak Campbell Stadium this fall.

Key game
: Nov. 8 vs. Clemson. Forget all the “Bowden Bowl” banter, which has been over played for years. This game matters because it could decide who wins the division and gets to play for an ACC crown a month later. Florida State’s two biggest concerns on defense, the interior of the line and pass defense, is going to get tested by the balance and big-play potential of the Tiger offense. 

2007 Fun Stats: 
- Penalties: Florida State 108 for 870 yards – Opponents 101 for 857 yards
- TD passes: Opponents 24 – Florida State 15
- Yards per carry: Florida State 3.7 – Opponents 3.3 Top Stories