FROM: EDWARD KENNEDY
9:00 AM, 1/28/2019
Panic has stricken the heart of Seminole Nation.
After decades of dominance on the FBS level, Florida State slipped into a state of chaos as the Seminoles exited 2018 a sub .500 team. With the excitement of the off-season long forgotten, fans called for Willie Taggart’s head in desperation. A perfect scapegoat to answer for the clear decline in development under the Fisher regime. The fanbase at large has not felt a losing season in their lifetimes. To a select few, 2018 harkens back to a distant memory of Bobby Bowden’s first season in Tallahassee. Who could blame the masses in their unified anguish?
However, like a phoenix rising from its ashes, Florida State is here to stay. The program, a national power and universally recognized brand, carries weight and swagger still. Willie Taggart has to answer for many questions that arose from the past season, but Seminoles should fear not: Florida State will be back (and possibly better than before).
A word of caution: Florida State fans should not expect a 15-0 season in 2019. They should not expect the Seminoles to contend for the ACC. They really shouldn’t even expect Florida State to win their own division or even reach double-digit wins this season. What the fanbase needs to observe is clear signs of development and improvement along the offensive line, in the run game, and in the quarterback read. The defense should improve with signs of offensive development and production (points on the scoreboard in favor of FSU). Ideally, with Alonzo Hampton fired from special teams coordination, the special teams play will see signs of improvement with the guidance of others on the staff.
Florida State has taken strides in adopting new coaches on their staff. With the departure of Walt Bell, Kendal Briles comes to fill the void. Philosophically, the Briles offense maps well with the Gulf Coast system. To be abundantly clear: Kendal Briles will drive the offense in 2019. This will free Coach Willie Taggart to direct his attention towards other, more pressing matters in the team’s development. It is also abundantly clear that Randy Clements will be hired as an offensive line coach. What this means for Greg Frey remains to be seen. David Kelly has been supplanted by former Miami wide receivers coach Ron Dugans (Kelly will likely be retained for an off-field position). Florida State fans shouldn’t be surprised if another hire is made for a defensive role on the staff as well.
The coaching changes above should ensure improved development of the roster, while sustaining a strong recruiting strategy (it is miraculous that Florida State remains a top 20 class, with clear indications it will be at least a top 15 class after February 6th, 2019). With improvements on both sides of the ball, recruitment should come organically between the staff and weight of the Seminole logo.
To demonstrate improvement requires an ideal schedule fitted to the growth and development of the team. Coincidentally *puts on tin foil hat* the ESPN ACC Network is set to premiere nationwide this Fall. Florida State is, arguably, the strongest brand in the ACC. Certainly, Florida State fans bring the most viewers to gameday broadcasts. The ACC needs teams like Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Clemson to produce winning records this season to demonstrate interest in the newly appointed channel. Generating interest in the ACC will generate revenue for ESPN, the ACC, and associated members.
As a result, Florida State was gifted with a near-perfect path to a winning season in 2019 (they even scheduled all Saturday games for the Seminoles!). In the sections below, I’ll outline each scheduled game, location, date and anticipated result for Florida State (this will serve as my way-too-early prediction for FSU in 2019). When building this schedule, I mapped out and predicted the entirety of the ACC football schedule (and UF) to construct as close to an unbiased final result as possible for each team.
Week 1: Boise State University
Saturday, August 31st, 2019 in Jacksonville, FL (Neutral)
Unlike last season against Virginia Tech, Coach Willie Taggart has experience with beating Group of Five programs! All joking aside, offseason preparations under the guidance of Willie Taggart and Kendal Briles should be steered towards opening the season in grandiose fashion. Another blowout loss to open the season is unacceptable, and Seminole fans should hold this team and staff to that standard. The game is located in neutral field Jacksonville, but will be treated as a de-facto home game. With another year of development under Willie Taggart, and with the improvements both Willie Taggart brings in his second seasons as head coach (as well as offensive improvements when guided by Kendal Briles) I would expect Florida State to win against Boise State. Anything other than a win here should raise red-flags for FSU fans, who will subsequently be justified in their calls to fire Taggart. Look for immediate improvement along the offensive line with the influx of JUCO transfers, healthy linemen, and raw talent recruited from the 2019 class. WINNER: Florida State University
Week 2: University of Louisiana-Monroe
Saturday, September 7th, 2019 in Tallahassee, FL (Home)
After a vindicating win over the Broncos, the Seminoles will make their triumphant return to Tallahassee, where they’ll face a foe they’ve beaten in recent years. The Warhawks are no Boise State, and I would again anticipate another win (and much easier at that with a vibrant home crowd to welcome them). This is a game I would anticipate to broadcast on the newly annointed ACC Network. WINNER: Florida State University
Week 3: University of Virginia
Saturday, September 14th, 2019 in Charlottesville, VA (Away)
This is not the Cavaliers team of seasons past. Bronco Mendenhall has Virginia trending in the right direction. In fact: I fully expect UVA to be in contention for the ACC Coastal Division. The Seminoles will hit their toughest test yet on the road against Virginia. I expect Florida State to fall against Virginia in Charlottesville, not yet ready to face a divisional contender in a hostile environment. Seminoles should not allow this loss to cloud their vision on the remaining schedule, as it is tailored for them to produce wins this season. It simply won’t happen this day. WINNER: University of Virginia
Week 4: University of Louisville
Saturday, September 21st, 2019 in Tallahassee, FL (Home)
Under a new head coach in Scott Satterfield, I believe Louisville is in a bit of a rebuilding year. They will be improved this season, but so much so that they would win in a rowdy Doak Campbell environment. If Florida State wants to solidify its place as an annual contender for the Atlantic division, it needs to beat teams like Louisville routinely. Florida State won against a bad Cardinal squad through a horrific coaching decision by then Head Coach Bobby Petrino. It’ll need to be more convincing in their win this season to reassure the fanbase after a loss on the road. I believe Florida State will come out, guns blazing, and make a statement win. WINNER: Florida State University
Week 5: North Carolina State University
Saturday, September 28th, 2019 in Tallahassee, FL (Home)
The Seminoles will face former teammate Bailey Hockman as they take on a NC State squad high on its newly acquired status of Atlantic contender. The Wolfpack are a historically dangerous foe for FSU, usually taking wins in Raleigh and, in recent years, snatching victories in Tallahassee. The Seminoles will need to demonstrate, in front of an inspired home crowd, that they’ve truly developed from their woes a season ago. Ryan Finley is no longer at the helm leading the Wolfpack. They’ll still prove to be a challenging opponent, but at least won’t wield as dynamic an offense as past seasons. Florida State must, and will, return to prominence and beat NC State on Parent’s weekend. WINNER: Florida State University
Week 6: BYE
Saturday, October 5th, 2019 in Tallahassee, FL
WINNER: Florida State University
Week 7: Clemson University
Saturday, October 12th, 2019 in Clemson, SC (Away)
LOL. WINNER: Clemson University
Week 8: Wake Forest University
Saturday, October 19th, 2019 in Winston-Salem, NC (Away)
After a humbling reminder that the Seminoles are still second to Clemson in the division, Florida State will need to turn their hopes towards at least sustaining their development instead of allowing their divisional aspirations consume them in their recent loss. They can do so against the Demon Deacons on a road trip that will, again, test the Seminole’s willpower. This season should contrast from the last, where defeat would sink this team. Instead, it should serve to motivate them against an opponent clearly their inferior. While Wake Forest is on the right path towards development as a football program, they are nowhere near where Florida State is, shall be, and need to be reminded of this. Taggart and crew will accomplish this, at least. Winner: Florida State University
Week 9: Syracuse University
Saturday, October 26th, 2019 in Tallahassee, FL (Home)
The Seminoles, inspired again, will return home to face the Syracuse Orange. Dino Babers is a coach often overlooked for his prowess in developing football programs. He made a statement in 2018 by shocking the Atlantic in nearly toppling Clemson and placing 2nd in the division. However, Eric Dungey, Syracuse’s dynamic quarterback who lead the team the past few seasons, no longer leads the Orangemen. In Tallahassee, FL the Seminoles can demonstrate they’ve evolved from the past season by avenging their loss to the Orange. I anticipate the Noles will do just that in what should prove to be a high-scoring affair. WINNER: Florida State University
Week 10: The University of Miami
Saturday, November 2nd, 2019 in Tallahassee, FL (Home)
The game Miami fans look forward to all season long. And we get them in Tallahassee. Florida State has had Miami on-the-hook in each of the past two seasons (and vice versa previous to). Truly, it is debatable that Florida State was robbed a win in Coral Gables. However, I believe a crushing loss to Miami has proven to empower the Seminoles in the long-term. Manny Diaz will be experienced at coaching his own team at this point, but still raw to true road tests. This is THE rivalry game for the Hurricanes on an annual basis. They will come prepared. Yet the Seminoles will be more-so. They have more to prove, to demonstrate, to the College Football world. Coach Taggart is not only coaching for his place in this rivalry against newly appointed Manny Diaz, but is coaching for his dream job. This is a game he cannot fail, not in Tallahassee, not with a new Head Coach in Miami. Coach Willie Taggart will snap the chain and halt the losing streak. The Seminoles will survive the Hurricane post-landfall. WINNER: Florida State University
Week 11: Boston College
Saturday, November 9th, 2019 in Chestnut Hill, MA (Away)
This is a very dangerous game for Florida State. I’m actually tempted to mark this game as a loss after an exciting win streak for the Noles. Flying to Chestnut Hill, a win by miracle in Tallahassee, a Red Bandana game. However, this Noles team is not the same as the past couple seasons. It will be much improved. Outside of A.J. Dillon, Boston College does not have the roster to compete against an improved Florida State. With offensive improvements and the same-install defense, I believe Florida State pulls ahead of Boston College in the second half. WINNER: Florida State University
Week 12: Alabama State University
Saturday, November 16th, 2019 in Tallahassee, FL (Home)
The last home game of the season, and with a BYE week following, Florida State will cruise to a victory and use this week and next to prep for their bitter rivals: the Florida Gators. WINNER: Florida State University
Week 13: BYE
Saturday, November 23rd, 2019 in Tallahassee, FL
WINNER: Florida State University
Week 14: The University of Florida
Saturday, November 30th, 2019 in Gainesville, FL (Away)
This game will be a closer affair than it was a season ago. Florida State will improve, and I do think the Gators will take a step back in 2019 from their Dan Mullen debut. However, the Gators also come off a bye week and finish the season in their home field. They say that only Gators leave the Swamp alive. While Seminoles have demonstrated this as a false narrative many years now, they do face a rolling squad in their perennial rival. Dan Mullen is a veteran coach, and the Swamp will be roaring. If this were in Tallahassee, after essentially 21 days of prep and rest, I’d like FSU’s chances to pull the upset. With the Gators in Gainesville, after their own bye week, I’m not so confident. Florida State will be in excellent standing by season’s end, looking towards a potential NY6 bowl berth and standing firm in 2nd for the Atlantic division. But they’ll do so going 1-1 in the Big 3. WINNER: The University of Florida
Seminoles 2019 Way-Too-Early Schedule Prediction: 9-3 (6-2 in Conference play, 1-1 in Big 3 play)
GO NOLES, LET’S ROLL UP!
You can follow Edward on Twitter @EdKennedyV.
(Photo Via: Mark Wallheiser/AP)