As we countdown to kickoff in August, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will open its 2018 ACC schedule when it plays the Florida State Seminoles on Sept. 15.
NEW COACH: Florida State slogged through a 7-6 season in 2017, resulting in Jimbo Fisher leaving for Texas A&M and the hiring of Willie Taggart. Much like the transition from former Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer to Dino Babers, the style on the field will change dramatically. Taggart made his name with an up-tempo, spread attack that he employed at previous coaching stops at Western Kentucky, USF and a one-year stint at Oregon, a dramatic shift from Fisher’s pro-style offense. Taggart’s success with the Bulls speaks for itself, with USF improving two wins a year over a four year period, culminating in a 10-2 campaign in 2016 and a final ranking of 19 in the AP and Coach’s Polls. The defense will also shift philosophies, with Michigan State’s Harlon Barnett bringing his aggressive, attacking style to Tallahassee. But while all that sounds exciting on paper, Taggart will still need to produce wins to keep the fans and administration happy.
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WHO TO WATCH FOR: As with any spread attack, the success of the offense will depend upon the ability to establish the run game, and Florida State returns Cam Akers, who rushed for 1,024 yards in 2017, setting a Seminole record for a freshman. The main question will be who will line up under center. Deondre Francois would figure to be the presumptive favorite, throwing for 3350 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2016 before missing all but one game in 2017 with a knee injury. But Francois has also encountered some trouble off the playing field, and sophomore James Blackman threw for 1997 yards and 15 touchdowns in his place. One of the biggest coups on the defensive side of the ball was having Demarcus Christmas return to FSU for his senior season. He produced 36 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2017, and has appeared in 40 consecutive games.
PREDICTION: All seems to be right with the Seminoles again. With excitement around their new coach and a stout recruiting class under Taggart, FSU is a consensus top 15 team and a contender once again for the ACC title. SYRACUSE 17, FSU 35.
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