FSU opens vs. Oklahoma State. (Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports)
Loyal subjects, so many questions have filled my mind since we last spoke several months ago.
Could I get through an article without making any crab leg jokes? (Of course. Congratulations, Seminole Nation. You earned it. Flags fly forever.)
Would I even remember how to write this article? (Apparently, or you wouldn’t be reading this. Unless Kevin ghost-wrote it, which he didn’t.)
Who would be the first person to call me an idiot in the 2014-15 season? (That already happened. I picked Georgia Tech to “only” beat Wofford 34-10 or so on Twitter, which is why I don’t do prognostications in this space.)
Fear not, football fans, you’ve found the right place — or, you stumbled here by complete accident, in which case, welcome! It’s time for year three of the feature read by some and demanded by none here at FBSchedules, Clear Your Schedule! Dust off your #goacc hashtag and join us for another year of football analysis.
In case you — or more I than you — have forgotten, here’s how we do things. The game(s) of the week end(s) up at the Top of the Ratings, while we take you through the rest of the week’s games and their top storylines in the Keyword Search feature. Also, in those weekends where the SEC and ACC play each other, the analysis for those games will be found in the conference preview of the home team. Finally, in weeks with tons of games — like this one — you may see two-part articles. The “tl;dr” concept applies just as much when writing as it does when reading.
Without further ado, let’s get to it, shall we? Only one thing stands between us and the 2014 season — a trivia question!
ACC Trivia, Week 1, Part 1 (answer at the end of the column): Which ACC team was the only FBS squad not to allow a single-game 100-yard rusher during the 2013 season?
Top of the Ratings
#1 Florida State (14-0 in 2013) vs. Oklahoma State (10-3 in 2013)
Advocare Cowboys Classic, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
8pm ET, ABC
Last year’s season finales: Florida State 34, Auburn 31 (BCS National Championship Game); Missouri 41, Oklahoma State 31 (Cotton Bowl Classic)
Program guide: Without having seen either of these teams take the field in 2014, it’s fairly tough to diagnose what we don’t know. Let’s focus on what we do know.
Florida State has the hardware. We all know this. If you don’t know this and you’re reading this column, I hope you enjoyed your year in Belize, Costa Rica or some other place I would like to be right now. Teams don’t automatically repeat just because they won the previous year, naturally, but until proven otherwise, FSU is the champion.
The Seminoles are down a few weapons, but… FSU finished 28th overall in rushing last year, and will start the year without 1,000-yard rusher Devonta Freeman (now with the Falcons) and fellow prolific rusher James Wilder (Bengals) on their two-deep. Karlos Williams is back to helm the running game, though, and he averaged greater than eight yards per carry on 91 attempts, finding the end zone 11 times. Freshman Dalvin Cook and redshirt sophomore Mario Pender will back up Williams. Kelvin Benjamin has moved on to become Cam Newton’s newest deep threat, but FSU’s leading receiver, Rashad Greene, has returned. Greene hauled in 76 balls for 1128 yards and nine scores in 2013. Tight end Nick O’Leary is also back, adding 33 catches for nearly 600 yards and seven scores from last year. Christian Green will take over Benjamin’s role and — so the Seminoles hope — his production.
Oklahoma State will change passers. Senior Clint Chelf has moved on from the Cowboys, with junior J.W. Walsh (113-for-190, 1333 yards, 9 TD, 5 INT in ’13) getting the full-time keys to second-year offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich’s offense. The Cowboys finished third in the Big 12 (37th nationally) in total offense in 2013, averaging greater than 448 yards per game. Walsh will get quite the challenge in this contest, as Florida State gave up greater than 448 yards once in 2013, allowing 449 to Auburn in the national championship game. Walsh is also the team’s second-leading returning rusher, having carried 58 times for 294 yards and three scores.
If last year’s numbers mean anything… Florida State finished in the top 10 nationally in an eye-popping thirteen statistical categories in 2013. Oklahoma State managed the same finish in just four categories (pass efficiency defense, turnover margin, third down defense and red zone defense). Oklahoma State plays in a conference that prides itself on weekly shootouts, but Mike Gundy’s club would be wise to avoid one in Dallas. Oklahoma State can point to its 19th-best ranking in scoring defense last season, but they will be facing the top scoring defense from 2013. Getting Winston and crew off the field while lodging sustained drives will likely hold the key to the Cowboys’ hopes. OSU ranked 116th in time of possession (26:44) last season, which will not give them a 1-0 record late Saturday night, if that number continues to hold.
Florida State has been installed as a 17.5-point favorite — for entertainment purposes only, of course — by several services, and this looks to be a daunting task for Oklahoma State. This is a tremendous chance for the Cowboys to notch a signature win before facing FCS opponent Missouri State and on-the-rise mid-major UTSA before moving into conference play. The Seminoles, meanwhile, face the option attack of The Citadel next week before a bye week and a visit from Clemson begin the ACC slate.
Wake Forest (4-8 in 2013) at ULM (6-6 in 2013)
7:30pm ET (Thursday), ESPNU
Welcome to Wake: New Demon Deacon coach Dave Clawson arrives in Winston-Salem after five seasons at the controls at Bowling Green. Clawson managed just a 32-31 overall record at the school, but compiled an 18-8 record (13-3 in MAC play) in the last two seasons, along with berths in the Military (2012) and Little Caesars (2013) Bowls. Clawson is 10-25 in his first years at previous stops Fordham, Richmond and Bowling Green, but 80-55 in the remainder of his career.
You look familiar: ULM defeated Wake Forest in the schools’ only previous meeting on September 14, 2013. The Warhawks stopped the potential tying two-point conversion attempt by Wake in Winston-Salem to escape with the victory. ULM outperformed Wake in every major statistical category, holding the Deacs to an equal number of first downs and rushing yards (15). That victory represented the only win over an ACC program in Warhawks history.
New names, new places: ULM’s quarterback (Kolton Browning) and top running back (Jyruss Edwards) have exhausted their eligibility. NC State transfer Pete Thomas will run things for Todd Berry’s squad. Thomas completed 27-of-43 passes for the Wolfpack against the Deacons in 2013, throwing for 257 yards and a score while being picked twice in a 28-13 loss. Wake quarterback Tanner Price and star wideout Michael Campanaro have also move on from their programs. Freshman John Wolford will lead the huddle for the Deacs.
Villanova (6-5 (FCS) in 2013) at Syracuse (7-6 in 2013)
7:30pm (Friday), ESPN3
This isn’t basketball: Villanova owns greater than 30 victories against Syracuse…on the hardwood. The top-15 (preseason) ranked Wildcats own just one football victory over the Orange, winning 14-13 at Philadelphia’s Franklin Field in 1953. The schools last faced off in football 39 years ago, and have never played in the Carrier Dome. Now-defunct Archbold Stadium hosted the squads’ previous two meetings.
The only opponent of its kind: Syracuse is the only FBS opponent Villanova will face in 2014. The Wildcats are part of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), one of the tougher leagues in the FCS circuit.
Runnin’ Robertson: Villanova quarterback John Robertson rushed for greater than 1,400 yards in 2013, and was voted the preseason Player of the Year in the CAA. Robertson found the end zone 20 times on the ground last season, which was good for fifth-best in the classification.
#7 UCLA (10-3 in 2013) at Virginia (2-10 in 2013)
Noon ET, ESPN
Plenty of good seats still available: The Daily Press’ David Teel reports that Scott Stadium is expected to be approximately three-quarters full for Saturday’s season-opening contest.
Unfamiliar territory: UCLA has 17 wins in 30 outings against teams that currently compose the Atlantic Coast Conference, with nine of those victories coming against Pittsburgh. The Bruins and Cavaliers have never played each other on the gridiron. The ‘Hoos have lost all four tries against Pac-12 competition, with the most recent a 59-10 throttling by Oregon in Charlottesville last season.
Welcome back: Redshirt sophomore Greyson Lambert will again draw the quarterback snaps for Mike London’s team in 2014. Lambert completed 33-of-75 passes for 340 yards and a touchdown (two interceptions) in split time with David Watford last season. Watford will join Matt Johns in backing up Lambert in 2014.
Delaware (7-5 (FCS) in 2013) at Pitt (7-6 in 2013)
Noon ET, ESPN3
Savage’s guardian: With former Panther Tom Savage off to the Houston Texans, Chad Voytik is the new Pitt quarterback. Voytik completed just 6-of-11 passes for 116 yards last season, with all but eight of those yards in the Panthers’ defeat of Bowling Green in the Little Caesars Bowl.
That’ll help: Sophomore receiver Tyler Boyd will return to give Voytik a formidable weapon. Boyd finished in the top 20 nationally in receiving yards (1,174) last season, scoring seven times. No freshman in ACC history pulled in as many passes (85) as Boyd recorded last season.
Going for two: Delaware has just one victory against a current FBS opponent. The Blue Hens defeated Navy 59-52 in 2007. Current Baltimore Raven Joe Flacco completed 30-of-41 passes for 434 yards and four scores for Delaware in that contest.
Wofford (5-6 (FCS) in 2013) at Georgia Tech (7-6 in 2013)
12:30pm ET, FOX Sports South
(Author’s note: Ah, yes…the game that got me called an idiot!)
Similar styles: Georgia Tech’s option-offense innovator Paul Johnson gets to greet another option team in the Terriers. Mike Ayers’ club rushed for nearly 3,000 yards last season, throwing for just 939. Wofford attempted 137 passes last season, completing 66. The Jackets finished last (by a considerable margin) in the ACC in passing, completing 92-of-203 passes for 1695 yards last season. Both clubs were intercepted more than they completed touchdown passes (Wofford 10-5, Georgia Tech 12-13). Each team finished in the top ten in their respective classification in average rushing yards.
Long time, no see: It’s been 103 years since the Terriers played the Yellow Jackets. The Ramblin’ Wreck shut out Wofford 33-0 on October 18, 1901. Wofford has also only tasted victory against one FBS program in its history, defeating ULM 24-6 14 years ago.
Emulating a rival: Wofford’s Palmetto State rival Furman owns a spot in history against Georgia Tech that the Terriers would like to join. The only loss Georgia Tech owns against an FCS team came at the hands of the Paladins 31 years ago (17-14), while a 17-17 tie between the clubs in 1986 is the only time the Jackets have not defeated a team from the lower classification to kick off a season.
Trivia answer: I asked earlier: Which ACC team was the only FBS squad not to allow a single-game 100-yard rusher during the 2013 season?
Syracuse did not allow a rusher to crack the 100-yard mark in a single game in 2013. National rushing leader Andre Williams (Boston College) managed just 29 yards on nine carries against the Orange, before leaving with an injury.