Atlantic Coast Conference officials need a new champion to carry the conference banner. Florida State has been devaluing the ACC currency for too long.
Off the field, players running amok have created SEC-like baggage.
Jameis Winton, last year’s national leader for negative headlines, is gone to the NFL and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the Seminoles were unable to make it their 2015 fall camp opening without two embarrassing July incidents involving football players and women.
Freshman quarterback De’Andre Johnson hit a woman in a bar and was dismissed from the team. Sophomore running back Dalvin Cook, an All-American candidate, is indefinitely suspended for hitting a girl in a bar – within days of Johnson’s headlines.
Also troubling is on the field, where Florida State’s dominance has created a perception the conference’s overall strength is fifth among the Power Five.
And that brings me to my first of five bold ACC predictions on Florida State’s title chances. The fifth bold prediction is a bit tongue in cheek, but remember that David Letterman once featured then-Ball State coach Brady Hoke to read his Top 10 list.
1) No Repeat for FSU
Florida State will not repeat as ACC Atlantic champion to earn a chance to claim a fourth straight ACC crown in the conference championship game.
Teams, even when re-stocked with talent, rarely win titles beyond two or three in a row when there is worthy competition. Something goes wrong. The team turns flat, and Florida State’s baggage is weighing heavily on its tires.
Florida State’s players have spent fall camp splitting time between practice and listening to a series of speakers teach them how to be men.
Clemson and Louisville are positioned to knock off the Noles.
We saw Florida State begin to unravel last year with narrow escapes in a 13-1 season that ended with a dismal 59-20 loss to Oregon in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
To open the season, Oklahoma State could have beaten the Seminoles but lost 37-31. Clemson should have won before falling with 23-17 in overtime despite Winston missing the game on suspension. N.C. State opened leads of 24-7 and 38-28 before losing 56-41. Notre Dame is still complaining about a pick call that cost the Irish, 31-27.
But with three games left in the season and the urgency of Florida State protecting its College Football Playoff seeding that had dropped from No. 1 to No. 3, the Seminoles weren’t done raising red flags. They escaped Miami (30-26), Boston College (20-17) and Florida (24-19). That’s a combined 12 points against a trio that didn’t include one winning more than seven games by the end of the year.
And now Florida State is a less talented team, including having lost five underclassmen that turned pro.
2) Not Good for Everett
Florida State quarterback Everett Golson will finish his career as a three-year starter that never made an all-conference team.
To be fair, this is his first chance and that’s dig at Notre Dame stubbornly remaining an independent. But Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher can’t be comfortable with his returning talent if he took Golson on as a senior transfer.
Golson’s career includes leading Notre Dame to the BCS championship game in 2012 with an unbeaten 12-0 record before losing to Alabama, but he was academically dismissed from school in 2013. He returned in 2014 inconsistent and plagued by fumbles in an 8-5 season.
His 2015 season will be closer to 2014 than 2013. But if he played like he did in 2012, he still won’t beat out a cast of ACC quarterbacks for all-conference honors that includes Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas, North Carolina’s Marquise Williams and N.C. State’s Jacoby Brissett.
3) Duke wins Coastal
Duke will win the ACC Coastal for the second time in three years.
The Blue Devils are still dealing with the impression 2013 was a fluke, but they have more speed and experience than was accounted for in preseason forecasts.
The 3-3-5 defensive scheme is young up front, but it is faster than past years and is supported by a strong secondary. All-American safety Jeremy Cash is a fifth-year senior that turned down the NFL Draft to return to the Blue Devils.
But as talented as Cash is, the DB whose star continues to rise is junior safety DeVon Edwards. He has defensive instincts that defensive coordinator Jim Knowles says he has rarely seen. At the same time, he’s so athletic offensive Scottie Montgomery wishes he had him on his side of the ball.
Junior quarterback Thomas Sirk is a first-year starter, but he gained valuable experience entering game last year in third-and-short and goal-line situations. That hid his ability to throw the ball, but he has an arm that can connect with wideouts Johnell Barnes and Max McCaffrey and a deep stable of tight ends.
4) Smooth for Golden at The U
Miami coach Al Golden cools the hot seat he is as his team remains in contention for the Coastal title.
Give Miami’s administration credit for not giving up on Golden’s building blocks after a 6-7 fourth season that regressed from 9-4 and for and a tie for second in the division. Look for a bounce-back season.
It’s not unusual for a coach rebuilding a program, especially when dealing with NCAA penalties, to experience peaks and valleys rather than a steady climb to a conference title. The list of schools that gave up on a coach in his third or fourth year to satisfy the fan base is a long one. But coaches that make it to the fifth year have produced job-saving results.
After all, if the guy can win at Temple, he can win at Miami.
5) Stephen Colbert vs. Wake Forest
Stephen Colbert takes his new CBS show that debuts Sept. 8 on the road to the Wake Forest campus in an effort to mend fences with Demon Deacons coach Dave Clawson.
Last spring Colbert threw in a dig at the football team’s 3-9 record during the commencement speech he was invited to deliver. The joke irked Clawson, and he vowed not to watch “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” for a year.
“This is a school that respects tradition,” Colbert said in his address. “Traditions like rolling the quad with toilet paper after big wins. And this is actually an eco-friendly tradition because looking at this season’s win-loss record, you guys saved a lot of paper.”
Clausen went on the David Glenn Show on WRAL’s The Fan in Raleigh to announce his one-year boycott, but he was big enough to recognize the program’s national perception.
“Did I like that he said it? No, but he spoke the truth. We need to win more football games here, and I’m very confident that we’ll do it.”
Wake Forest could improve upon last year’s 3-9 record, although an unfavorable schedule puts six wins and bowl eligibility out of reach. Florida State is a home game, with Clemson and Notre Dame on the road. Three other ACC matchups more favorable to Wake Forest are road trips to Syracuse, Boston College and North Carolina.