Staples: Fearless Predictions for FSU in 2015

Jason Staples gives his fearless predictions for the 2015 FSU football season.

Golson Becomes the Man

Everett Golson will ultimately win the starting quarterback position over Sean Maguire and will throw for over 2,400 yards and 20 touchdowns and run for over 400 on the season, while turning the ball over 15 times.

Jimbo Fisher’s Offense Sports a Different Look

The FSU offense won’t look like anything Seminole fans have been accustomed to seeing the past few years. The 2014 offense averaged 36.8 passes and 32.2 rushes per game. This year’s offense will be almost the reverse, averaging over 38 rushes and under 28 passes per game.

Return of the Bubble

Many of those “passes” will be bubble screens as well, as FSU uses much more zone-read packaged with the bubble screen as the box constraint than they did in the Winston era. That is, whereas last year Winston came to the line of scrimmage and checked to a downfield pass if a team overloaded the box, Golson will have less pre-snap freedom, and most run plays will have a backside bubble screen packaged with it to keep defenses honest a different way. Those bubbles are really extended handoffs, so the number of actual passing attempts will be even fewer than the stats suggest.

Big Rushing Numbers

The run-heavy emphasis of 2015 should be good news for tailbacks Dalvin Cook, Mario Pender, Jacques Patrick, and Jonathan Vickers, who will combine for over 2,500 yards on the season. Provided he stays healthy, Cook will go over 1,000 yards for the second year in a row. The FSU tailbacks will average over 6 yards per carry on the season.

Welcome Back, Return Game

FSU’s return teams were anything but special in 2014, as the kickoff return unit did a terrible job and Kermit Whitfield was out of shape and a step slower, while Rashad Greene was mostly a fair catch artist as a punt returner. That will change in 2015 as the Seminole return units will be much improved, with at least four return touchdowns combined against FBS competition. As a result, FSU’s field position average will improve significantly; I expect the Noles to go from 100th in the FEI Field Position Ratings back into the top 20 range (2013 FSU was 2nd).

Double the Sacks of 2014

Like Wayne, I expect this year’s defense to be markedly improved rushing the passer. Last season’s defense managed a paltry 17 sacks and struggled all season to pressure the quarterback. That will not be the case in 2015, thanks to a combination of personnel (particularly Josh Sweat, Jacob Pugh, and Lorenzo Featherston) and the transition to more of a Will Muschamp-style attacking approach up front as opposed to the more Saban-style approach from last season. It’s about impossible to project sack numbers (since that depends on number of pass plays faced, situations, etc.), but this is a fearless column, so I’m going to say FSU winds up with 34+ sacks in 2015.

More Forced Turnovers

On a related note, this year's defense will be more opportunistic, partly because of increased pressure on the quarterback and partly because of improved safety play (and more Nate Andrews in the Money role, where he'll play the "robber" a bunch). Last year's defense forced 14 interceptions, compared to 26 in 2013. This year's group will be closer to the latter number than the former. I'll fearlessly project 21 interceptions for the 2015 group.

Personnel Notes

Cole Minshew will be in the starting lineup by the end of the season. Roberto Aguayo will win the Groza for a second time before turning pro after the season. Travis Rudolph leads the team in receiving. Jalen Ramsey will win the Thorpe award before turning pro and is the first defensive back picked in the NFL draft.

FSU Wins the ACC Again

The Noles beat Clemson and win the ACC Atlantic on their way to a 10-2 regular-season, including one headscratching loss that will have FSU die-hards up in arms, and will defeat Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game for the program's fourth straight ACC title.

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