Florida State? Who is Florida State? It is one of the most storied programs in football, but without Jameis Winston, it seems to be an amorphous group of highly rated recruits with no identity. Winston—love him or hate him—was one of the all-time great players in college football with a big personality that attracted the spotlight. He was the face of Florida State since his opening game against Pitt in which he completed 25 of 27 passes for four touchdowns. He brought the school back to the pinnacle of the sport and kept us all entertained along the way. The 2013 Seminoles were a historic unit and last year’s team is now being underrated due to the final game against Oregon in which the final score was a bit misleading given Florida State’s string of turnovers. In reality, neither offense could be stopped (besides turnovers) and Oregon played magnificently. Now, with many key contributors gone, some are pointing at the highly-rated replacements as a basis for why Florida State will keep on winning. Some are pointing to last year’s underwhelming season that still featured former blue-chippers as the reason for Florida State’s decadence from the top.
Link. Yup that’s pretty scary. And if you are an opposing fan that knows anything about college football, you’d know why. Bobby Petrino is probably one of the top six or seven coaches in college football. He nearly guided Louisville—before Louisville was really Louisville—to an undefeated season while in the Big East. If only it wasn’t for Jeremy freakin’ Ito. Then, Petrino heads to the Atlanta Falcons and it didn’t really go that well (but the NFL didn’t really go well for Nick Saban, either). After pissing off the entire city of Atlanta, Petrino heads to Arkansas. At Arkansas, the Razorbacks become a power with a flourishing passing attack. And finally, after that infamous neck-brace press conference, Petrino lands back where he started right after Charlie Strong leaves. The Cardinals lost a great coach and replaced him with a great coach.
Sure, Clemson returns star QB Deshaun Watson, but it loses more than it returns. Vic Beasley? Gone. Grady Jarrett? Gone. Stephone Anthony? Gone. Yes, there is talent in the stable, but overall, this roster will take a step back in 2015. Those three players I mentioned were three of the most dominant players in college football last year. And the talent isn’t only lost on the defensive side of the ball. Not to mention, offensive coordinator Chad Morris is gone to head up SMU (it seems like the Mustangs are determined to have a high-powered aerial attack doesn’t it?). Morris’ first big job was Clemson, so we don’t really know too much about him other than the tremendous success he had in Orange and White. Morris might have walked into an abundance of talent including Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, but he also turned Clemson into an offensive juggernaut. Remember when Gene Chizik was Auburn’s coach, but everyone really knew the only reason they were good was OC Gus Malzahn? I’m not saying Swinney is as incompetent as Chizik, or Morris is as impactful as Malzahn, but nobody has disproved this comparison yet, right?
The Wolfpack have two big things poppin’ right now: Dave Doeren and Jacoby Brissett. Doeren showed a lot of promise in year two. That is just about the best thing next to winning a national championship; there is nothing worse than realizing you have a lame duck at coach, or waiting/hoping/praying your guy finally turns it around. And it’s especially fun to be a fan when your new coach starts his upward trajectory because then, especially in the offseason, you can’t help but dream that he keeps ascending infinitely. You couldn’t have more hope than Andy Dufresne on the night of his prison escape.
And second, similar to the NFL, if you’ve got a QB, you’ve got a chance. The former four-star recruit and Florida transfer, Jacoby Brissett brings a unique skillset that, if refined this offseason, has the potential to carry the Wolfpack to a 10-win season.
I really wasn’t sold on the Steve Addazio hire in 2013, but he has certainly proved me wrong. The former offensive line coach looked like Will Muschamp at Florida before Will Muschamp took over after him. And at Temple, he didn’t do a bad job, but he was not Al Golden. Okay, so I should have been thinking that Addazio was only an interim head coach at Florida and Golden performed a modern day miracle at Temple—Addazio doesn’t deserve to be written off. Now that would have been a spot on preview…I would have made the site proud. The Eagles have had a strong offensive line and a tough team. They have played okay-to-mediocre offense (ranked 83rd/91st in 2014/2013), but have taken care of the ball (ranked 8th/21st in lost turnovers), finished in the top 20 in rushing yards both years, and played exceptional defense last year, finishing 11th in the nation in total defense. This is prototypical ground-and-pound football. Smash mouth. In your face. Whatever you want to call it, Boston College lives it. And the best part about that is how the Eagles have an identity under their head coach, and it’s an identity that is tried and proven. This isn’t defensive guru Gene Chizik “leading” Auburn to a national title behind a high-powered spread offense.
Scott Shafer, it is zero dark thirty and if you have a rabbit you better pull it out of your hat this season. The ACC Atlantic is about as open as it realistically will be for some time. Florida State is in mass transit. Clemson is relying heavily on Deshaun Watson and is one injury away from becoming very vulnerable. Louisville has a top 10 head coach and will not be down-trending any time soon. Dave Clawson is in the midst of one of his patented slow rebuilds at Wake Forest (and rock bottom was last year). And NC State and Boston College haven’t achieved much yet, but they don’t seem likely to regress. Scott Shafer is the one guy who has led his program on a downward trend, albeit the Orange has not been awful. For a team that prides itself on defense, and for a coach whose seat is getting warmer, 2015 is a scary year.
It can only get better. It can only get better. Wake Forest fans need to keep saying this before they go to sleep every night. And if Dave Clawson’s track record is any success, it will. The former head coach at Fordham, Richmond, and Bowling Green, Clawson has been able to turn around programs at every stop. He is the young coach on social media and with his ability to relate to players, but he is also experienced—and not just experienced in coaching years or age, but rather in head coaching experience and program-building experience. The ACC has improved over the past couple years, due in large part to having a true national title contender in Florida State. But there is still plenty of room for growth in the ACC Atlantic; Syracuse, NC State, Boston College, and Wake Forest make up the bottom four teams. All with newer coaches, one program will be able to take advantage of the logjam in the cellar and build momentum.