Great emphasis has been placed on the importance of incorporating a tough route of non-conference matchups in the consideration of the College Football Playoffs. And, the Seminoles will have no problem checking off that box in the upcoming season.
ESPN’s Chris Low has comprised a list of the 10 toughest non-conference schedules amongst the Power 5 in 2018. Florida State finds themselves as one of five teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference to make this list, with the third-place ranking for the toughest non-conference schedule in the 2018 season.
The Seminoles earned this ranking mostly due to the opponents they will face towards the end of the season. But, as we have seen in college football time and time again, those “Cinderella” teams can appear at any time to derail a run to the Championship. So, here is a look at the Seminoles’ full non-conference schedule:
Head Coach Willie Taggert and his team will open their out-of-conference play with the Samford Bulldogs at home. This game will come five days after Florida State’s home opener against Virginia Tech. So, the Noles will be challenged with facing a quick turnaround early on in the season.
Samford is a NCAA Division I-FCS team that went 8-4 overall last season. The Bulldogs are returning 10 starters on their offense and six on defense.
Two weeks later after a trip to Syracuse, the Noles will welcome Northern Illinois to Doak S. Campbell Stadium. The last time the two met, Florida State brought home the 2012 Orange Bowl trophy by taking a 31-10 win over the Huskies.
The Seminoles’ defense will be tested in this matchup as the Huskies are returning their entire starting offensive line. Last season, that Northern Illinois offense averaged 28.9 points and 377.8 yards per game.
This is when Florida State earns that third-place ranking for the toughest non-conference schedule in the 2018 season. The Noles will be heading to northern Indiana to face the Fighting Irish who finished their 2017 season ranked 11 in the AP Poll.
Notre Dame is bringing back each of their defensive leaders in nearly every major category: tackles for loss, tackles, sacks, touchdowns, interceptions, and fumble recoveries. Needless to say, the Fighting Irish have the makeup to be one of the best defenses nationally in the upcoming season. So, pulling away with a win will not be easy for the Noles.
The last game of the season is a given for Florida State as it brings the annual in-state rival clash with the Florida Gators. The Seminoles will have the home field advantage in this year’s battle, but that doesn’t mean that the revamped Gator offense can’t take this one away.
Dan Mullen has made his return to Gainesville to serve as the Gators’ Head Coach and to completely revive an offense back to its once high-scoring ways. The last time Mullens was at the University of Florida, he was steering the Gators to two of their three National Championships as the Offensive Coordinator under Urban Meyer.
So, with a tough route of non-conference play ahead of the Seminoles, the road to the Playoffs won’t be an easy one. Coach Taggert’s first season with the Noles will bring the greatest test.