This is part three of a 12 piece series examining all 12 ACC school’s 2012 schedule and making predictions based on returning players and incoming talent.
Today we will look at the schedule of the preseason favorites to win the Atlantic Division and the ACC Championship, Florida State. The Seminoles are coming into 2012 with a potential top 5 defense (fourth in points against last season) and one of the best quarterbacks the ACC has to offer, E.J. Manuel. Head coach Jimbo Fisher is entering his third season at the helm of the program, and many believe that this is the year that FSU finally puts it all together. It certainly helps that Fisher is an excellent recruiter who has brought in three straight top 10 classes.
The Seminoles schedule isn’t easy but it was supposed to be more difficult then it turned out to be. FSU was originally scheduled to play a game against the West Virginia Mountaineers, but West Virginia backed out. The Mountaineers were replaced on the schedule by FCS school Savannah State in week 2.
In week 1 Florida State plays Murray State in Doak Campbell Stadium. This is simply a tune-up game and the Seminoles should end up with a blowout victory (predicted FSU record 1-0). As stated earlier, the Seminoles are now playing Savannah State in week 2. What was once a real test (WV) is now a second straight tune-up game and Florida State will fare the same way in this one (FSU record 2-0).
FSU starts conference play in week 3 against Wake Forest. Last year’s game between Florida State and Wake Forest may have been the Seminoles biggest disappointment (the final score was 35-30 Wake Forest). Last year’s game was at Wake Forest but it’s at FSU this year. The Seminoles will win this game because they have home field advantage and all of the motivation to forget last season’s disappointment (FSU record 3-0).
The Seminoles will try to avenge another loss from 2011 in week 4 when they take on the Clemson Tigers. Last year’s game between these two ended in a close Clemson win, despite the fact that it was played in Death Valley and that FSU starting QB E.J. Manuel was out because of injury. Clemson may be better than they were last season (particularly on offense), but FSU is better too. The location of this game (Doak Campbell Stadium) will determine the outcome in Florida State’s favor (FSU record 4-0).
Florida State leaves conference play in week 5 with a game in Tampa against Big East opponent South Florida. South Florida isn’t a bad team, and are probably one of the favorites to win the Big East. But the Bulls aren’t good enough to hang around with FSU for 60 minutes (FSU record 5-0). The Seminoles then have a game at North Carolina State. In 2011 Florida State beat the Wolf Pack by a score of 34-0. It will be a closer game this season because the game is in Raleigh but the Seminoles will escape unscathed (FSU record 6-0).
The next game for FSU is at home against a Boston College team coming off a 4-8 season. BC will not be that great in 2012 either. They lost their top offensive threat (Montel Harris to transfer) and defender Luke Kuechly (to the NFL). This game will be closer than most people think, but Florida State will win the game (FSU record 7-0).
FSU then plays rival Miami. The Seminoles were able eke out a close victory last season (23-19 was the score), but that was a home game for FSU. This game is in Coral Gables which gives Miami the advantage. Like FSU, Miami continues to bring in great recruiting classes, and this might be the year that Miami takes a step in the right direction under second year head coach Al Golden. FSU will trip up for the first time against Miami in 2012 (FSU record 7-1).
The Seminoles will then play a laugher at home against the Duke Blue Devils. This game won’t even be close (FSU record 8-1). FSU’s next game will probably be the toughest they have all season, on the road against Virginia Tech. The Hokies will win this game for three reasons a more seasoned head coach (Frank Beamer), a better quarterback (Logan Thomas) and it is a Thursday night game in Lane Stadium (FSU record 8-2).
Florida State then travels up into Maryland to take on the Terrapins. Maryland had a dreadful season last year, and it seems unlikely that they will turn it around this season. The Seminoles will leave with an easy win (FSU record 9-2). FSU’s final game comes against the rival Florida Gators. Jimbo Fisher and his Seminoles were able to beat the Gators in Gainesville last season (21-7). Florida has hired a new offensive coordinator in Brent Pease who spent the past six seasons with Boise State. Florida could have a much better offense in 2012, but Florida State’s defense will keep them in check (FSU record 10-2).
Florida State will finish the regular season with a 10-2 record and a 6-2 record in ACC play. That should be good enough to win the Atlantic Division. 2012 could be the start of Florida State’s rise to national prominence once again.