1. at Florida, Week 14, November 30th
Before the 2012 contest the 'Nole's had seemingly turned the corner against the Gator's with wins in the previous two games. That changed on November 24th as UF walked into Doak Campbell Stadium and left with a "W". It was not FSUs best game of the year, but they did heroically fight back only to lose control in the 4th quarter. This year's game is H-U-G-E. A win will put FSU back on top in the state and likely have FSU right in the hunt for a National Championship. A loss would give UF the MOJO heading into another signing day.
Both teams lost a ton to the NFL draft, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. However that should matter very little as both teams have talent on the roster and by game 12 everyone will know their role.
On paper, FSU should have the stronger offense and the defense's should be similar. UF might hold an edge on defense because they will be in a similar scheme whereas FSU will be learning a new one. The hope for FSU is that the 'new' defense mixes it up a little more and puts Jeff Driskel in position to make mistakes (which he will do under pressure).
Right now we would have UF as three point favorites in this game which makes this a 50-50 game for the Seminole's.
2. at Clemson, Week 8, October 19th
The home team has won the last six meetings between these two teams and this might be the best Clemson team from that time period. Tahj Boyd and Sammy Watkins could form the best QB-WR duo in the country and there is no question that Clemson's offense will be one of the best on this side of the Mississippi.
FSU holds a major edge on the defensive side of the ball as well as the depth of overall talent on the 85 man roster. In addition, FSU got a break with this game being later on the schedule than the previous two years. That should provide some time for Winston to get his feet wet and the for the defensive to gel a bit.
One key player that Clemson is missing is running back Andre Ellington who provided some balance to the offense. The Tiger's do have some young talent at that position, but it is largely unproven. The key to this game is FOCUS for FSU. Playing in a track meet at Death Valley could be a disaster, the 'Nole's have to control the tempo of the game and wear out a Clemson defense that is not very deep.
This game is very likely to be for the ACC Atlantic Division title. We would actually have FSU favored by 1-2 points here at this time.
3. vs. Miami, Week 10, November 2nd
FSU has won the last three vs. the 'Canes (all 3 of Jimbo's years), but Miami has battled hard the past two years and made the games closer than they should have been.
This was the game's top rivalry for a 25 year period and both programs seem to be---slowly---moving their way back to the top of the college football food chain. There seems to be a healthy amount of respect between the coaching staff's and that is very reminiscent of the glory days. FSU is at least one year ahead of Miami in the "re-building" process, probably two.
Miami is almost a mirror image of Clemson as they should have a terrific offense, but the defense is flat out lousy with little hope for significant improvement. Al Golden has done an admirable job given the circumstances and there is definitely some people in Coral Gables that felt that Miami would have had a legit shot against FSU in the ACC title game a year ago (self imposed penalty took Miami out of the game and put Georgia Tech in). We do not agree with that assessment, but it is very difficult to beat a team twice in one year.
Bottom line here is that FSU is the more talented, more proven, deeper team and this game is in the cozy confines of Doak Campbell Stadium. We would look for FSU to make it four in a row. We would have FSU favored by 8-10 points here.
4. TRAP GAME: vs. NCSU, Week 9, October 26
NCSU ruined FSU's season a year ago when the 'Nole's gifted the game to the 'Pack with a dreadful performance offensively in the second half. FSU did not try to WIN the game, they tried not to LOSE. That is not how champions play.
Normally we would expect FSU to really put a beating on NCSU this year due to the loss a year ago, but the 'Pack got lucky--real lucky. This game is sandwiched between the road test at Clemson and a home tilt with Miami.
There is simply no way to get 18-22 year olds 'up' for "NC State" when Clemson/Miami are in that part of the schedule. This presents MAJOR problems as there is no question the EXACT OPPOSITE will occur on the other sideline. NCSU will be ready to play.
Fortunately the talent edge is a big one which provides more than a little margin for error. While it is a 'trap game', we also feel like it is an opportunity for this program to show that they are ready to play every week. <----- This has sometimes been missing over the previous decade as FSU has followed up some of their best games with some of their worst.
Bottom line, this will be a harder game than it appears to be on paper where FSU will be a 13-18 point favorite.