Last year, I approached the season as cautiously optimistic. I saw the potential for FSU to turn things around, but they had to actually go do it. Getting 10 wins last season may not be the standard FSU holds itself to, but given the recent downfall, it was quite a stepping stone toward getting back to where FSU wants to be.
Beating LSU in their backyard was huge, as was beating both in-state rivals. After the last four years, watching FSU run Miami out of their rented stadium was cleansing for the soul. FSU also got back to bowling and won that too. They ended the season with six straight wins, including 4 blowouts, and finished the season as one of the hottest teams in the country.
Doak was rocking again, and Saturdays had a new life. FSU even went 5-1 on the road. Then came a huge offseason, with many big names electing to return and finish what they started as well as other big names from the portal landing in Tallahassee. All of this is why we see them ranked 8th in the preseason polls. However, FSU still has some things to prove. Can they be more consistent, beat the better teams on the schedule, and, most importantly, win the ACC?
For 2023, I think defining your expectations is important to know what a successful season would look like. There seem to be three expectations among the crowd for FSU in 2023.
1) National Championship or bust.
2) ACC title or bust.
3) FSU has some pieces but is overhyped and won’t win anything…good luck with that!
So, can FSU win a national championship? I hate to disappoint you, but historically, the odds say no. Before we cancel the season, hear me out. Since 2013, there has been a formula called the Blue-Chip ratio (BCR), which is the percentage of four and five-star players on a team’s roster. Over that span, no team has won a national championship with under a 50% BCR.
However, a stat is a stat until it isn’t, and there have been some close calls to busting the Blue-Chip standard. FSU won in 2013 with a 53% BCR, and Clemson won in 2016 at 52%. Could 2023 FSU be the team to do it? If they did, they would be rewriting almost 10 years of history. That gives a good perspective when thinking national championship or bust.
It’s incredibly hard to win a national title, and it takes more than just talent. Scheduling, injuries, and luck also have significant influence. A big part of the title run in 2013 was that FSU stayed relatively healthy the entire season. The perfect example is that if a kicker who had previously hit 85% of his field goals didn’t shank a game-winning kick, UGA (who won the national championship game by 58 points) wouldn’t have even played for the title last year.
A BCR over 50% certainly doesn’t guarantee a national championship, either. Miami and Florida were over 50% last year, and we saw how that worked out. But not all rosters are created equal. Teams like UGA, Alabama, and Ohio State can bring more 5-stars off the bench than FSU has on the roster, and there’s a good chance that’s who you’ll face in the playoffs.
One of the main reasons teams with a high BCR are so successful is their talented depth, primarily in the trenches. A big part of BCR is where those Blue Chips are located. After all, UGA had a former walk-on quarterback lead them to two national titles. At the same time, they’ve had ten OL/DL taken in the NFL draft over the past two years, including 5 first-round picks. Their BCR in the trenches last season was 90%, and the one 3-star was a veteran player backed up by a 4-star. When their 4-star OT got injured in the national championship game, they brought in a 5-star to replace him.
Looking at the 2016 Clemson team that won a title with a 52% BCR (lowest to do it since 2011). Hunter Renfrow was an unranked prospect out of high school and caught the game-sealing touchdown for Clemson in the national championship. However, the trenches consisted of a 70% BCR for the Tigers with three 5 stars. If we zoom in on just the defensive line, it had a 100% BCR with two 5-stars. Meanwhile, the back 7 was 57% with two 3-stars and a 2-star.
That’s why a team like FSU needs injury luck to go in their favor. I think FSU has the horses to compete on the national stage, but they need all their top guys to stay healthy for the long haul. They already lost a 4-star transfer in Darrel Jackson, whose waiver was denied by the NCAA. FSU has some talented depth, but not to the level of the Alabama and Georgia’s of the world. This brings me to my next point.
Which do you put more stock in, raw talent or proven production? What makes FSU dangerous this year is their experience and returning production. How do we factor in transfers? Because the current Blue-Chip model does not. With transfers included, Miami would have dropped to just under 50%, so why not give teams like FSU a bump for bringing in Blue-Chip transfers? Even further, do we use high school rankings or transfer rankings? One is based on potential as a 17-year-old kid. The other is based on what a player has already done at the college level. Why would all the major recruiting sites bother re-ranking them if we weren’t supposed to use those instead? Here’s an example of why this is an important question.
If you look at the four starters on FSU’s defensive line (Verse, Fisk, Lovett, and Payton). By using high school rankings, the unit has a 50% BCR. (Obviously, not every player gets an updated transfer ranking) Whereas utilizing the transfer rankings for Verse and Fiske, FSU now has a 100% BCR on the defensive line. The perfect example of why this makes more sense is Jared Verse. He had ZERO stars out of high school, but he was projected as a 1st round NFL draft pick after last season. He came to FSU as a 4-star transfer. Should he still be ranked a 0 star now? Of course not.
The starting defense for FSU (using transfer rankings) has a BCR of 63.6%. The next 11 guys listed on the two deep vs. LSU falls to 27.3%, highlighting why it’s crucial for the “ones” to stay healthy. Looking at the starting offense vs. LSU, if we use 13 guys total (2 RBs and 2 TEs), the offense comes in at 54.5%. The second string on the LSU depth chart falls to 18.2%.
We agree that many of these guys have played above their star rankings. Just look at Jordan Travis, a 3-star QB who is on the Heisman Watch list. Kyle Morlock was a zero-star recruit who was a 2x D2 All-American who came to FSU rated as a 4-star transfer, and the list goes on. However, if we are just going by what the Blue-Chip standard tells us, yes, the FSU starting 22 can technically win a national championship if we tweak things a little to use transfer rankings when applicable. The starting 22(+2 on offense) has a combined BCR of 59.1% compared to the depth, which comes in at 22.75% once again highlighting why FSU needs its top guys available.
However, this is still a tricky situation because it can go both ways and sometimes appears to be wrong. Johnny Wilson was a 4-star out of high school but only a 3-star transfer because he didn’t produce much at AZ State. I’m leaning more towards the 4-star ranking being correct, and he wasn’t in the right circumstance to unlock that potential. Because even a 4 or 5-star can equate to nothing unless they are developed and put in a position to succeed.
This helps paint a picture of what they are up against, trying to compete against some of the current heavyweights in college football like Alabama which has an 88% BCR, Ohio State at 81%, UGA at 77%, and even Clemson is sitting at 70%, and that is their entire roster not just the starting 22.
My whole point is that pure talent is important. History tells us that. However, there’s more to the picture than just star ratings. I’ve always been someone who trusts proven production. Looking at what FSU brings to the table in 2023 makes you wonder if a combination of talented pieces and a ton of returning production could allow them to break the mold. This staff does a good job of putting players in a position to succeed. That’s how they won ten games last year while still rebuilding the talent level on the roster. Three of FSU’s wins last season were against teams with a higher BCR.
As for the experience, Florida State’s 206 career starts on the offensive line are the most in the country. They return 82.8% (15th) of their yardage from last year and added over 1,700 yards from the portal. On defense, they return 67% (43rd) of their tackles from last year, and “Big play” (sacks, INTs, and TFLs) returning production is at 78.4% (10th). FSU also added multiple experienced players on defense that have also been highly productive throughout their careers.
If you want to know where that experience can get you, look at Wake Forest. They finished 11-3 and played for an ACC title in 2021. Wake hadn’t had a top-50 recruiting class in the previous 10 years. It wasn’t a high BCR that got them there. It was really good veteran quarterback, a couple of dynamic receivers, and lots of experience across the board. (Sound familiar?) Wake did lo0se to Clemson that season which could be an argument in favor of BCR over experience, but what if you combine the two? FSU has the experience but also has more talent across the board than Wake Forest, especially on defense.
That is why I fall into the ACC title or bust camp. While there are four total teams on the schedule with a BCR that is over 50%, to win the ACC championship, FSU only has to beat two of them. And while Clemson is still loaded with a 70% BCR (5th highest in CFB), they have been beatable, and FSU beat the other one by 42 points last year. FSU hasn’t won an ACC title since 2014 and hasn’t beaten Clemson in Death Valley since 2013. They’ll have the opportunity to do both this year. Winning an ACC championship would be huge for this program and send a clear message that the dark days are over.
Hypothetically, suppose Florida State were to go 12-1/11-2, win the ACC Championship, and get an NY6 bowl bid. I’d consider that to be a successful season. The transfer portal has sped up how fast you can accomplish success, but we’re still talking about a team that went 5-7 in 2021 and has not had a top-10 recruiting class since 2017. Expecting them to go undefeated and win a national championship is quite a lofty goal. I’m not saying it can’t happen because this team is loaded and I feel they can beat every team on their schedule.
But that is why the better question is, can FSU make the playoffs? To which I say yes. TCU made the playoffs under 50% and even beat Michigan, which had a 59% BCR. Cincinnati made the playoffs in 2017 under 50% as well. LSU was in a position to make the playoffs last season despite being a two-loss team until they got upset by A&M. If FSU accomplishes goal number one of winning the ACC, as no less than a one-loss team. Being in the playoff hunt will handle itself. The issue for the Noles is they won’t have much room for error. The schedule may only have one ranked game after the month of September, if any.
If a team like FSU can stay healthy and make the playoffs, they have a puncher’s chance. Of course, we know what happened to TCU when they played Georgia, but we see upsets more often than 58-point blowouts between two top 5 teams. I don’t think 2022 FSU beats UGA, but I doubt they lose in such a fashion as the Horned Frogs did. So, yes, I do think FSU can make the playoffs if they play up to their potential and catches a few breaks along the way.
There are secondary goals I’d like to see this team accomplish this year that would be nice regardless of a playoff berth. They could open the season with another big win over LSU. Going undefeated at home is certainly on the table, as is making it two in a row over the in-state rivals. FSU also has an opportunity to start building experience for next year with about 4-6 teams they should run away from. That’s not a luxury they’ve had in recent years, and it also helps the starters stay healthy throughout the season. And for the love of goodness, go kick Wake’s teeth in and end this ridiculous three-game losing streak. FSU has a top 5 recruiting class at the time of writing this. They need a good enough season to hold that class together because it could change the direction of the program’s future.
They should be favored in all but two games (LSU & Clemson), and the more I dug into the schedule, the better I felt about FSU in each game. There are a lot of teams that have to replace important players from a year ago, unlike FSU. Five of the teams on the schedule were in year one of new staff, so they could see improvement, but there’s a reason they all brought in new staff to begin with.
Last season, I went through the schedule and tried to convince myself why FSU COULD win each game. This year, I have to talk myself into why they could lose each game, which speaks to how much better they are. The culture, coaching, and talent improvements have set them up for success. Does that mean I’m predicting them to go undefeated? Not necessarily, because stuff happens. Teams have off weeks, and players get injured or don’t produce as we expected. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think FSU can win every game on the schedule if things go right.
Florida State’s three losses last season were by a combined 18 points. All three losses were to ranked teams with significantly more experience than FSU, and that shoe is on the other foot this year. FSU ended the season on a six-game winning streak, with four of those games being blowout wins. There’s a lot of momentum for FSU heading into 2023, and with all the hype, they will get everyone’s best shot.
They have the potential to be one of the best offenses in college football with so many weapons to work with, and they have better depth on offense in 2023 too. The defense has the pieces and potential to be in the top 25 again. Getting the field goal kicking fixed will also be important. The0 schedule has a tough September but is otherwise very manageable.
There’s a lot at stake and a lot that can be accomplished this season. I think FSU has a ceiling as high as winning a national championship and a floor of about 9-4, including the bowl. We’ll learn a lot in week one after they play LSU. So, where do I stand after all the hours spent doing the research?
Assuming zero injuries, I have FSU most likely finishing 11-1 with a rematch against Clemson in the ACC Championship. Where does the loss come from? The obvious choice would be LSU (66% BCR) or Clemson (70% BCR). I think FSU gets past the Tigers in week one, so I guess that leaves Clemson as the loss, but then I think FSU avenges the loss outside of the friendly confines of Death Valley in the ACC Championship game. However, a rematch is not guaranteed so the game at Clemson is very important and if FSU had a team to snap the streak in Death Valley, this would be the one to do it.
Things can happen, and FSU could drop a game they shouldn’t. Still, we’re moving past the days of embarrassing losses and back into big-win territory. Who knows, maybe FSU will win them all. With the possibilities on the table this season for FSU, one thing is for sure: football is fun in Tallahassee again! I can’t wait to see it in action and provide coverage for all of Nole Nation.
Thanks for reading, and Go Noles!
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