Florida State Football Preview
Florida State is a 14-1 shot to win college football's national championship. If they can beat Ole Miss in a home-neutral game at Orlando to open the season, the schedule is set up for the Seminoles to be undefeated when Clemson comes to Tallahassee on October 29. That means 14-1 might be the best price you can get if FSU proves to be title-worthy. And that means there's no time to lose for college football bettors in making assessments on how good this Florida State team can be.
The Seminoles haven't gotten a lot of respect in Las Vegas since their national championship run in 2013 and that lack of regard has been mostly earned. They managed the rare feat of sleepwalking through an undefeated regular season in 2014, only covering two pointspreads along the way. That 'Noles team was completely exposed in a College Football Playoff semifinal by Oregon. Last year's team did more sleepwalking, mostly beating teams that it should, but losing to Georgia Tech, Clemson and finally looking barely awake in an embarrassing Peach Bowl loss to Houston.
Perhaps being a bit under the radar is what head coach Jimbo Fisher needs to motivate his team. Clemson is getting all the love in the ACC, with Heisman-caliber quarterback DeShaun Watson and the status of preseason favorite. Florida State has to prove their elite status to bettors and fans alike.
It's going to have to start with defense. The Seminoles ranked ninth in the nation in scoring defense last year and even with the loss of their terrific defensive back Jalen Ramsey, they have plenty of talent still on hand. Defensive ends DeMarcus Walker and Josh Sweat combine to be one of the nation's best at pressuring the pocket from both edges. It's worth nothing that this is the same formula Clemson used last year with Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson.
Florida State also brings another excellent cover corner in Marquez White. In spite of being consistently targeted due to Ramsey being on the other side, White only allowed 16 completions last year.
We also know the Seminoles are going to run the football. Dalvin Cook is a shifty little running back who ran for nearly 1,700 yards last year and averaged better than seven yards a pop. Cook will challenge higher-profile running backs like Stanford's Christian McCaffrey and LSU's Leonard Fournette for All-American honors and a seat at the Heisman ceremony in December. FSU brings back three offensive line starts to pave the way for Cook and the top receivers from 2015 are mostly back in the fold.
So why is Florida State available at 14-1? It's question marks at quarterback. Sean Maguire was a competent QB last year, splitting time with Everett Golson. Maguire also doesn't excite anyone and he missed spring practice. Fisher may opt for one of two freshmen, Deondre Francois or Malik Henry.
It is worth nothing though, that the last time FSU entered a season with this kind of uncertainty at quarterback, the answer was another freshman by the name of Jameis Winston. And that underscores the biggest point that has to be made about Fisher's program.
Florida State has been consistently recruiting at a level right up close to Alabama for several years now. Fisher came off that '13 national title run and turned into three straight top-five recruiting classes. It's fair to say FSU is officially in "just reload" mode.
So you have a program loaded with talent and a coach that has proven he can win at the highest level. There are times in futures betting when it's advisable to wait, to see if a loss might open the door for a riper price. This isn't one of them. Florida State can't afford to lose to Clemson or anyone in the ACC. A loss to Ole Miss would be a red flag as to whether the hunger is still there. We won't say that we'll never see a better price than 14-1 on Florida State, but this is a case where the risk of the price falling (especially if they defeat Ole Miss decisively) is too great. The time to move on Florida State is now.