You may read this line in 2015 regarding Florida State football: “The Seminoles lost their fifth game in a season for the first time since 2009.”
There is too much amiss with off-field problems and lack of leadership among returning players an inexperienced team. The program is set for a tumble. Five losses may sound dramatic, but the unbeaten 2013 national champion Florida State wouldn’t be the first program to suffer a precipitous fall.
Yes, coach Jimbo Fisher’s team has won 27 of their last 28 games, but the bullets they dodged down the stretch of 2014 (13-1) were a harbinger for a 59-20 loss to Oregon in the College Football Playoff.
Football stability starts with the quarterback, and Fisher accepting fifth-year Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson indicates he lacks confidence in his depth chart. Golson wasn’t exactly a model of steady play last year with eight fumbles. And isn’t there something curious about Notre Dame starting losing the golden boy role in South Bend.
The fact that Alabama coach Nick Saban was interested in Golson as a transfer to fill his QB hole has been noted by some pundits as reason to believe Alabama is too highly ranked at No. 3 in the AP poll.
As for the 10th-ranked Seminoles, they return only 11 starters, 11 players were lost to the NFL draft and five of those 11 draft picks were underclassmen. That means a double hit to veteran leadership in 2015 – the lost seniors and players positioned to assume the role of returning seniors.
In retired coach Bobby Bowden’s disappointing 2009 season that was his final year in Tallahassee, Florida State had to win four of five games to clinch bowl eligibility. Then the Seminoles lost their regular season finale to Florida, 37-10.
A Gator Bowl win over West Virginia prevented a losing overall record.
Florida State’s only 2009 first-team All-ACC honoree was offensive guard Rodney Hudson. There were two second-team defense choices, linebacker Dekoda Watson and cornerback Patrick Robinson. Note the absence of skill players in a year the Seminoles were led at quarterback by Christian Ponder, an NFL first-round draft pick bust who is now best remembered for marrying ESPN sideline reporter Samantha Ponder in 2012.
Skill positions are again a concern in 2015, although sophomore running back Dalvin Cook returned to the lineup with his suspension lifted on Monday; a jury found him not guilty of hitting a woman outside a bar. Still, Golson is inconsistent and the wide receivers and tight ends are sophomores and freshmen. Don’t look for the Seminoles to be strongly represented on the All-ACC team at the skill positions.
Here are five games Florida State may lose this season:
At Boston College, Sept. 18
Florida State’s 22-game ACC winning streak ends in its ACC opener. The young Seminoles team are caught on the road against an ascending program under third-year coach Steve Addazio. All-ACC running back Jon Hilliman leads the running attack. Florida State drops to 2-1 and 0-1 ACC Atlantic.
Home, Miami, Oct. 10
Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya leads the Hurricanes in their rebound season as coach Al Golden benefits from a fifth year. Florida State, 3-2, 1-2.
At Georgia Tech, Oct. 24
The Seminoles lose in Atlanta to a team widely picked to win the ACC Coastal. All-ACC quarterback Justin Thomas rushed for 1,000 yards last year in a triple-option offense. Florida State, 4-3, 2-3.
At Clemson, Nov. 7
Preseason picks for the ACC Atlantic are split between Clemson and Florida State. The Tigers atone for their loss last year when the Seminoles were without suspended quarterback Jameis Winston. Florida State, 5-4, 3-4.
Home, N.C. State, Nov. 14
N.C. State beat Florida State 17-16 in 2012 and the Seminoles started their 22-game ACC winning streak the following week. The Wolfpack nearly upset Florida State in 2014, too. With more offense this year, NC State is motivated by letting 24-7 and 38-28 leads evaporate before falling 56-41. Florida State, 5-5, 3-5.
The fifth loss will come with two games remaining, but the Seminoles won’t have to worry about bowl eligibility. Florida State took a page from the SEC by scheduling a late-season Football Championship Subdivision opponent on Nov. 21 at home against Chattanooga. The regular-season finale on Nov. 28 at Florida could result in a .500 season, though.