Team: Florida State Seminoles
2011 W-L: 9-4 (5-3)
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher (19-8; two seasons)
Returning Starters: 17 (9 Offense, 8 Defense)
After what had appeared like ages to ‘Noles fans, 2011 was supposed to be the “return to glory” for a team that at one point finished in the top five for 14 straight seasons. But a 2-3 start derailed it all in a hurry, and once again, we entered wait-and-see mode, a common occurrence over the past decade in Tallahassee. By most standards, the Seminoles were successful in how they rebounded to win seven of their final eight games, en route to a 9-4 overall record last year. However, Florida State doesn’t operate by “most standards.”
Florida State’s overall offensive production (30.9 points per game) may look impressive, but then you see that they only put up 22.7 per game in seven contests against bowl-bound teams. Peering even further into the schedule, you’ll also find that FSU beat just five FBS teams with winning records — the first such win not appearing until October 29 against NC State. But of course, that was last year’s team.
This year’s team faces an even more manageable schedule, and thus, promises to put up even more impressive point totals. The group is also more talented, however, though they’ll be counting on senior QB E.J. Manuel in order to harness all that talent. While he struggled for efficiency at times last year, he still managed to progress into a competent, confident passer; one that threw for 2,666 yards and 18 scores with a 65-percent completion rate. With another year under his belt, and an experienced offensive line in front of him, you’d only figure he’d improve in 2012. But he’ll also need to see more from his receivers. Despite the nice stat sheet for Manuel, he still doesn’t have a true number-one target and instead deals with an inconsistent group of experienced receivers. Sophomore Rashad Greene will likely enter the season as the top receiver, though nothing’s carved in stone. His fellow wide receivers Rodney Smith and Cristian Green are equally likely to push for minutes and catches, making it anything but a clear-cut decision.