College Football Preview: Florida State Projected for National Championship Run

Alabama’s Crimson Tide defeated Clemson in year two of the College Football Playoff Championships and both programs are deep in talent again for the coming college football season. Coaches Nick Saban and Dabo Sweeney should no doubt be back in the Final 4 playoff series. One big challenge for the Clemson Tigers will be their late season visit to Tallahassee to face the loaded FSU Seminoles.

Urban Meyer’s 2015 National Champion Ohio State Buckeyes slipped last season against Michigan State and sent over a dozen top players to the NFL from last year’s squad. The Buckeyes still have QB TJ Barrett and the nation’s top recruiting class to project another Big Ten Championship. It will be a battle to get into the Final Four with an improved Jim Harbaugh team from Michigan and an always tough Michigan State Spartan team on defense.

The Seminoles reached double-digit wins for the fifth time in six years and once again swept rivals Florida and Miami. Now, FSU appears to have the experience to go with that talent. Florida State returns nine starters on offense and six on defense. They even bring back several key reserves who have started games in the past.

The schedule won’t necessarily be easy, but the always-crucial ACC Atlantic Division battle against Clemson will be played in Tallahassee. The winner of that game has advanced to the College Football Playoff in both of its first two years of existence.

 

My Top 10

Here’s my summer Top 10 Power Rankings with only one Florida team represented as the FSU Seminoles are listed at #2 in the country by Las Vegas experts. I have Jimbo Fisher’s squad as my pre-season #1. Following FSU, Ohio State is second, followed by Clemson and Alabama. I do have the Florida Gators ranked about #20 and the Miami Hurricanes at #25. The rest of my Top 10 national rankings look like this:

  1. Florida State
  2. Ohio State
  3. Clemson
  4. Alabama
  5. Notre Dame
  6. Tennessee
  7. Michigan
  8. Ole Miss
  9. Michigan State
  10. LSU

 

Let’s take a look at observations and outlooks for the other Florida college football schools in the Division One top 128:

 

#20 Florida Gators

First-year coach Jim McElwain brought the Florida Gators back as one of last year’s biggest surprises claiming the SEC East title. Transfer Luke Del Rio is slated to replace Treon Harris under center after a struggling offense last season when Will Grier was suspended. The Gators will have a tough battle with Georgia and Tennessee in 2016. McElwain started out 6-0 and its first top-10 ranking in three seasons, but a three-game skid down the stretch giving up 97 points with an anemic offense left many questions for the upcoming season. The Swamp sold out four times and there is a new vibe to the program.

 

#25 Miami Hurricanes

Can a fresh gust of former Cane air replenish the swag at the U for 2016 with former Jim Kelly backup QB, Coach Mark Richt, back in town? Richt has had a great run the past three decades of coaching at FSU and Georgia and was welcomed mightily after five mediocre years with Al Golden. Richt comes into a great quarterback situation with star NFL prospect Brad Kaaya returning for his junior year. It might not be enough to knock off the ACC’s best in FSU and Clemson just yet? Richt also brought in Manny Diaz, a Miami native, formerly coaching defense at Mississippi State and Texas replacing the much criticized Mark D’Onofrio.

 

#37 South Florida Bulls

Coach Willie Taggert and the Bulls made a huge leap last season, making their first bowl appearance since 2010 even though they lost to Western Kentucky. They return 14 starters including exciting options at the skill positions with running back Marlon Mack and quarterback Quinton Flowers returning. Expectations are high for a conference title run and they have a pre-season national ranking of #37. This is one of the nation’s most dangerous teams if they can handle the prosperity.

 

#100 Central Florida’s Knights

A winless season and the firing of Coach George O’ Leary midway through the season after just three seasons removed from winning the Fiesta Bowl has the Knights needing some life to get back to respectability in the American Athletic Conference. Oregon offensive whiz Scott Frost takes over the reins and has some young playmakers with QB Justin Holman, who was part of the injuries that also lead to the Knights poor season. Maybe three to four wins but an outside shot for bowl eligibility if the right breaks go the CF way?

 

#103 FAU Owls

Coach Charlie Partridge is in his third year and will be installing the NoHuddleNoMercy up tempo offense with new offensive coordinator Travis Trickett. A more experienced roster will bring hopes of at least doubling their win total in 2016. Powered by two solid running backs in Buddy Howell and senior Jay Warren, the Owls return two backs who have combined to start 15 games and rush for 1,871 yards over two seasons. If the young QBs can handle Trickett’s offense, the Owls could head into conference play with momentum.

 

#105 FIU Panthers

The Panthers took another small step forward last season, finishing with five wins, the most since 2011. Even more is expected this season as Ron Turner’s team is hoping a veteran offense and a manageable schedule will result in the Panthers’ first bowl invitation in five seasons. The goal for this season will be consistency, and the schedule sets up to give them momentum and confidence heading down the stretch.

 

Next month, I’ll preview the 2016 NFL season and take a look at the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars in detail.

 

Carl Foster is the host/founder of “The Good Sports Magazine Show” now in it’s10th season, returning to the airwaves this fall.

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