The Seminoles' defense returns virtually intact. Darnell Dockett, Jeff Womble and Travis Johnson comprise a formidable defensive tackle rotation. Linebackers Kendyll Pope and Michael Boulware are tackling machines. Cornerbacks Stanford Samuels and Bryant McFadden shared the team lead with three interceptions apiece, and Samuels ran one back 82 yards to paydirt against Georgia Tech.
The 2003 Noles will host Miami and visit Notre Dame. In the conference, Maryland and NC State are home games; the Virginia contest is in Charlottesville.
Success: Bobby Bowden's winning percentage is .800 at Florida State, .775 overall.
Holiday cheer: Over the last 18 years, the Seminoles are 14–4 in bowl games.
Dominance: Since joining the ACC 11 years ago, Florida State is 83–5 in league games.
2002 results: 9–5 (7–1 ACC)
Bowl Game: Lost to Georgia 26-13 in Sugar Bowl
Returning starters: 4 offense, 11 defense, placekicker
A. 30 at North Carolina
S. 6 Maryland
S. 13 Georgia Tech
S. 20 Colorado
S. 27 at Duke
O. 11 Miami
O. 18 at Virginia
O. 25 Wake Forest
N. 1 at Notre Dame
N. 8 at Clemson
N. 15 NC State
N. 29 at Florida
Schedule Analysis: One of the toughest in the country. There are six BIGGIES on the FSU slate this year – Miami, Notre Dame and Florida non-league and Maryland, Virginia and NC State in the ACC. Three of those six are on the road. The Noles have open dates before Miami and Florida, which should help. Closing the season with three of four on the road (two being ND and Florida) is not ideal. Oh, and by the way, don't forget about a non-league visit from Colorado in September.
Final Word: The good news is the defense returns in tact. The bad news is it surrendered 29.4 points a game last season. How much better will it be? With the schedule the Noles will face, it will have to be significantly better. A bigger question may be whether or not Chris Rix can embrace the leadership role on offense. The talent, as always, will be there for the Noles. The chemistry needs to follow suit.
To pre-order the 2003 Athlon Sports Atlantic Coast edition, click on the magazine icon below. The Atlantic Coast and National editions are set to hit newsstands June 6.