Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois excelled last season as a sophomore. Now, with another solid cast around him, Francois and the Seminoles are looking to return to the playoffs for the second time and the national title game for the fourth.
But Francois and the Seminoles’ first test may be their most difficult of the season. Unlike most schools across the nation, the Seminoles will have a good indication of what they have following the Week 1 blockbuster matchup against No. 1 Alabama in Atlanta on September 2.
Even before taking his first snap last year, Francois had begun drawing comparisons to Jameis Winston, but it became evident during last season that the two are actually pretty different quarterbacks. Francois struggled at various points last year, and many at Florida State are counting on him to blossom this season. Without http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/3116593/dalvin-cookDalvin Cook at running back and the absence of four top targets for Francois last year, the Seminoles will need others to step up and become go-to players for the quarterback.
Then there’s Florida State’s defense, which is expected to be one of the best in the country this season and could very well outshine the offense. The defensive line is deep, and the secondary is one of the best in defensive coordinator Charles Kelly’s tenure at FSU, he said.
“This is probably the best unit since I’ve been here,” Kelly said to NCAA.com. “We certainly have more experienced guys. Any time you are returning a lot of people who have played in plenty of situations it helps you.”
The Seminoles return nine starters on defense, two who were All-Americans a season ago. The defensive depth is a big difference from last season, when they were largely inexperienced and without linebacker Derwin James after a season-ending knee injury in the second game.
Look for cornerback Tavarus McFadden, who was tied for the national lead in interceptions, paired with a returning and determined James to make an impact against opposing offenses as the season moves along.
“We have a great interior and guys that can rush the quarterback. We have one of the best secondaries in the country, I feel,” James said to NCAA.com. “I feel like we have a great defense overall. We’re deeper. We’re stronger. We’re faster.”
With the pieces seemingly in place on both sides of the ball, there’s no reason Florida State shouldn’t be in the playoffs fighting for another title game berth.
At the conclusion of the 2016-17 season, Alabama opened as the overwhelming favorite to win the title at +300, while Florida State was next in line at +750, followed by Ohio State (+800) and USC (+900), according to OddsShark.
Those odds have changed since then, but Florida State remains at +750 to win the school’s fourth national title and first since 2013.
Here are the odds heading into the 2017 season, according to OddsShark:
Ohio State +650
Florida State +750
Penn State +1600