By Bryan Zarpentine @BZarp on July 22, 2014
As the eventual national champions, the Florida State Seminoles cruised through their schedule in 2013, rarely being challenged until reaching the BCS Title Game against Auburn. But if FSU expects to repeat as national champs, the road to get there may not be quite as easy. Here’s a rundown of the Seminoles' schedule in 2014 and the challenges that lie ahead for Jimbo Fisher’s team.
The season will start in Arlington where the Seminoles hope it will end with the national championship game. FSU will undoubtedly be the favorite on opening night, but the Cowboys are coming off a 10-win season and have the offensive firepower that will test a defense that lost several key players from last year They have a chance to keep up with Jameis Winston and company, which should keep this game interesting.
After a primetime matchup the first week, the Seminoles will be able to breathe a bit in Week 2. FSU should be scoring early and often in this one, as the backups should get a majority of the playing time in this game.
The Tigers have the best chance in the ACC Atlantic Division of taking down the Seminoles, but that could be tough to do this early in the season, especially in Tallahassee. Clemson has to replace Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and Martavious Bryant on offense, and that will make it tough to keep pace with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
NC State was winless in the conference last season, so they're far away from being on FSU's level. Quarterback and Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett should help, but even on the road this is a game that the Seminoles will be expected to win easily.
With a new head coach, Wake Forest could be in for a long season, and when they head to Tallahassee they could be in for a long afternoon. The Demon Deacons couldn't hang with the Seminoles last season, and it should be the same again this year.
FSU handled the Orange last year, but this could be a bit of a trap game for the Seminoles on the road as Syracuse is the kind of team that can take advantage of that. It's been 10 years since Florida State's last trip to the Carrier Dome, and in recent years, quarterbacks like Geno Smith and Teddy Bridgewater have suffered defeats there. So if Jameis Winston and company aren't sharp, this could be a tricky road game for them.
This is when FSU's schedule starts to get interesting, with the Fighting Irish visiting Tallahassee. There's a realistic chance that both teams will be undefeated coming in and that both quarterbacks will be in the middle of the Heisman conversation. This should be a primetime game, and even though it's not in conference, this could be one of FSU's most important games of the season if Brian Kelly has the Irish reclaiming their 2012 form.
It's not just Clemson anymore; Louisville is now giving FSU tough competition within the ACC Atlantic Division. The Noles will have a bye week after Notre Dame, but they'll still have to head to Louisville on a Thursday night, which could create a raucous environment for them to play in. Bobby Petrino will put a team on the field that's ready to compete with Florida State.
For Florida State's seniors, this should be a revenge game after they lost to Virginia in 2011. For the rest of the team, it should be a chance to breathe easy before the stretch run. The Cavs were winless in the league last year and will have a hard time competing with the Seminoles, giving FSU an easy home win before the schedule starts to pick up again.
FSU powered past Miami last year, but Al Golden is one year deeper into the rebuilding process and the Noles will have to travel down to Miami to play a Hurricanes team that looks quite formidable. These two teams do not like each other, and if FSU is still in contention for a playoff spot at this point in the season, you can bet the Hurricanes will come out swinging with the hope of knocking them out of the playoff race.
The Eagles were more competitive with FSU last year than most teams the Seminoles played, but Florida State should have a little easier time this year, assuming they're not looking ahead towards their season finale with Florida. Boston College is likely to take a step back this season, so there's every chance that they take their lumps when they head down to Tallahassee.
This could be Florida State's toughest game of the season, especially if their instate rivals are in position to knock them out of a playoff spot. If the Gators stay healthy, they could have a defense that can compete with Jameis Winston and the FSU offense the way few teams are able to, and that could make for a compelling rivalry game that could have major implications nationally.
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