Florida State is a perennial ACC frontrunner, and this year looks to be no different. In fact, the seventh-ranked Seminoles could be a dark horse in the race for a berth in the BCS championship game.
The key to Florida State’s success is defensive tenacity. The Seminoles ranked first in the ACC in sacks while allowing the fewest plays of 10 yards or more, and fourth in the nation in points allowed with an average of 15.1 points per game.
Perhaps the scariest number of all for this year’s opponents is nine—the number of starters returning from last year’s stingy defense. German-born defensive end Bjoern Werner will pair up with senior Brandon Jenkins, who has 21.5 career sacks and could challenge the school record in 2012, to terrorize opposing quarterbacks as part of an absurdly deep rotation on the defensive line. Meanwhile, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety LaMarcus Joyner project to shut down opposing wide receivers in the secondary.
Offensively Florida State will need to improve in order to make a run at a national title, though. Quarterback EJ Manuel, now in his second year as the starter, will need to be the same player he was in the Seminoles’ last five games in 2011, when he scored five touchdowns without tossing an interception. He will have his top four receivers back as well to help continue the unit’s improvement.
Of course, a healthy offensive line for Manuel will do wonders for the offense as a whole. The team lost 46 starts to injury a year ago, making Florida State one of the most injury prone teams in the FBS.
If the Seminoles can stay healthy in 2012, though, the offense could be able to provide enough firepower to help the elite defensive unit over the hump to a major bowl championship.