ACC College Football Preview – Florida State Seminoles

Florida State Seminoles

The Florida State Seminoles hope to rebound from a disappointing 7-6 Season and a underachieving 3-5 in the ACC. They were 4-7-2 against the spread. Head Coach Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M, but many believe new Head Coach Willie Taggart is a good fit for this program. Taggart was formerly with Oregon and University of South Florida. Taggart will implement a spread offense and he likes to run the ball.
Florida State was not very good offensively last season. They averaged 27.8 points per game, but that figure is significantly inflated when considering a 77 point performance against Delaware State and 42 against Louisiana Monroe. The average within the ACC was only 19.5, which is not going to win a lot of games. Therefore, Taggart has his work cut out for him.

Going into Spring practice, there was a battle for starting quarterback between Deondre Francois, James, Blackman, and redshirt Freshman Bailey Hockman. Blackman threw for 2,230 Yards last season with 19 Touchdowns and 11 Interceptions. Francois is recognized as the more talented quarterback, but he had knee surgery last September and some off the field issues. Hockman is likely a down the road type, but has shown a strong arm and poise in the Spring.

The Seminoles best returning weapon is Running Back Cam Akers. Akers ran for 1,094 yards and 7 touchdowns as a Freshman in 2017. With Taggart’s system and a year of experience, the sky is the limit for Akers. He will also run behind an offensive line returning four starters, albeit one that struggled a bit in 2017.
The Wide Receiver core lacks experience as a whole. Nyqwan Murray returns having finished the 2017 season with 604 yards on 40 receptions. However, the remaining receivers will have little to no experience. The uncertainty in this group could cause opposing defenses to focus more on Akers, which will require some adjustments.

On the defensive side of the ball, were above average last season, allowing only 21.1 points per game. However,
they return only 4 starters from that squad. The good news is FSU often reloads with talented young and quick players. However, as talented as they will be, they are also very young and it takes time to adapt. New Defensive Coordinator Harlan Barnett played in the NFL and was formerly a coordinator and defensive coach at Michigan State. It may take a few games for the defense to gel, but we expect over the course of the season, the unit will again be above average. Based on last year’s numbers, we anticipate some of the totals will be too low early on and allow for some good over spots.

The season wins total for the Seminoles is 7.5 and the Odds to Win the ACC is +400. We think the ACC odds are way too low considering the quality of Clemson and Miami, combined with the youth of this team, so we do not recommend getting involved. The season win total appears reasonable to us. If they gel as a young team under the new system, the Seminoles could be an 8 or 9 win team in 2018. If they struggle to adjust, we can see the total landing at around 6. With significant uncertainty, we prefer to avoid any action on this futures offering.

The season kicks off with a conference home game against Virginia Tech of the Coastal Division of the ACC. Virginia Tech finished 9-4 in 2017, but was only 6-7 against the spread. The teams have not squared off in the last few years. Virginia Tech was ranked for most of last season and finished 3-2 in road games. They won their opener last year and started the season 7-1. They return 7 starters on offense, including their Quarterback and two receivers. As a Freshman, Quarterback Josh Jackson threw for almost 3,000 yards and twenty touchdowns. He now has a year of experience under his belt and also benefits from the return of is second and third receivers from last season – Sean Savoy and Eric Kumah. He also adds talented transfer Damon Hazelton who has some size and ability and had 505 yards as a true freshman in 2016. The Hokies are also expected to rotate three capable backs, so the offense will be balanced. The defense was outstanding last year, allowing only 14.8 points per game, but they lose several players to the NFL and return only five starters. The bottom line is Virginia Tech is a quality program that remains competitive year in and year out. It will be difficult opening week matchup for the Noles despite being at home. The opening line is Florida State -5.5. It has risen at some books to .65 or 7. We are looking at Virginia Tech as an underdog play in this spot and will continue to monitor progress until the opening week.

The Seminoles take on Samford in Week 2 and we do not expect there will be a line on the game.

In Week 3, Florida State will visit Syracuse. Last season the teams played a close game at Tallahassee with the Noles surviving by a field goal while laying 6 and not covering. The Seminoles defeated the Orange by three touchdowns in Syracuse two years ago and we expect the speed of the Noles to benefit from the artificial surface. With two weeks of Taggart’s spread offense and a suspect Syracuse defense, we anticipate the Week 3 game to go over what we project the number to be and we’ll look at potentially taking FSU if the spread is reasonable, especially if FSU loses in Week 1 and the spread ends up lower than it should be.

In Week 4, The Seminoles host Northern Illinois from the Mid-American Conference. There are several favorable trends for Florida State in this spot, including a 5-0 record against MAC teams. Northern Illinois played well in 2017. They played Boston College from the ACC well, despite a home loss by 3 points. However, Florida State’s speed and athleticism will likely be too much for Northern Illinois. However, be wary of an inflated number especially if the Noles win big on the road against Syracuse in Week 3.

Florida State closes the first month of the season with a conference road game against Louisville. Louisville has won the last two meetings, including a 43 point blowout at Louisville two years ago. That was a different Louisville team led by Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. Nevertheless, Louisville should remain competitive and is a good matchup against the Noles. We expect this game to have a low line and we will reserve judgment until we get closer to Week 5.