Following last weekend’s 24-7 loss to Alabama, not many people wrote off Florida State’s ability to make it to the college football playoff. However, it was the results of an MRI on their starting quarterback, and dark horse Heisman candidate Deondre Francois (below), that has people doubting the Seminoles.
Following the loss, doctors determined that Francois would be out the rest of the season with a knee injury. Prior to his injury, Francois was a respectable 19/33 for 210 with a touchdown and two interceptions. Alabama’s defense prevented the Seminoles from getting anything going down the field, so Francois was forced to check down time and time again. He also did not get much help from Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick, who combined for just 47 yards. Keith Gavin also fumbled his only rush attempt of the night.
True freshman James Blackman will take the reigns as the new starting quarterback for Florida State. Blackman, the 24th ranked pocket passer from last year’s class, inherits an offense that looked out of sync last Saturday. He gets the nod over fellow true freshman, and higher ranked quarterback, Bailey Hockman.
The freshman will now be tasked with leading Florida State through a tough ACC schedule. He’ll have one warm-up game against Louisiana-Monroe before the Seminoles welcome #16 Miami to Doak Campbell Stadium. The ‘Noles also have to travel to Durham to face an upstart Duke team, and must travel to Chestnut Hill to face a tough Boston College defense. Sandwiched between those games is a showdown against Louisville, who dominated FSU last season. But the game that everybody had (and maybe still has) scheduled is the trip to Memorial Stadium in Clemson to face off against the defending national champions.
It’s quite the gauntlet for a true freshman to run, so he’ll have to rely on his running backs, who likely won’t be shut down for the rest of the season like they were against the Crimson Tide. Patrick and Akers are two tough, talented backs, and if the offensive line play improves, they’ll be the ones doing most of the work for Blackman.
The offensive line will be key, and it’s a group that was viewed by many as a weakness, and it showed against an elite front-seven of Alabama’s. The improvement may be slow, so changes in the playbook will probably be made to simplify the offense. This means getting the ball out quickly, and playing power football.
While the offense may continue to struggle, the defense should still be one of the best units in the entire country. Led by Tavarus McFadden, Derwin James and Josh Sweat, this defensive has a few future first round picks. This group recorded just two sacks last week, so getting more constant pressure will be a must. The defense also couldn’t force any Alabama turnovers, but McFadden has the reputation of a ball hawk, so the turnovers should come eventually.
To get to the College Football Playoff, Florida State will likely have to win out, which means beating Clemson on the road and winning the ACC Championship game. That task is hard enough, and it seems unlikely. But Jimbo Fisher has won with freshmen before and could do it again. This team still has a good chance of winning the ACC, but they’ll have to beat Clemson to do it.
The wall is tall for James Blackman and this Florida State team, but with a strong running game, great defense, and top of the line coaching, it’s way too early to count the Seminoles out in the hunt for the College Football Playoff.
Cover Photo via Sports Illustrated
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