June 6, 2007

New-look Seminoles facing tough test in 2007

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At a Glance
A quick look at how Olin Buchanan ranks the schedules in the ACC starting with the most difficult:
1. Florida State 7. Duke
2. Boston College 8. Virginia Tech
3. Maryland 9. Georgia Tech
4. N.C. State 10. North Carolina
5. Miami 11. Virginia
6. Clemson 12. Wake Forest

Based on the arrival of offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, other changes to the offensive staff and the return of 15 starters, Florida State expects to be significantly improved.

The Seminoles had better be.

Even if Florida State makes remarkable progress, it might not show up in the standings. FSU has a very demanding schedule, one which we believe is the toughest in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A season-opening trip to Clemson foretells the trials to come. The Seminoles must also go on the road to face defending ACC champion Wake Forest, and FSU will take on Alabama in Jacksonville, Fla.

But the most difficult part of Florida State's slate is a stretch in November. The Seminoles face a grind which will take them to Boston College, Virginia Tech and defending national champion Florida. In between they get to play host to Maryland, which is coming off a nine-victory season.

On the other end of the spectrum, Wake Forest is trying to post consecutive winning seasons for only the third time in the last 20 years. With the Demon Deacons' schedule including six teams that had losing records last year, that possibility is definitely enhanced.

1. Florida State Seminoles
Florida State Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 3 at Clemson
Sept. 8 UAB
Sept. 15 at Colorado
Sept. 29 Alabama
Oct. 6 N.C. State
Oct. 11 at Wake Forest
Oct. 20 Miami (Fla.)
Oct. 27 Duke
Nov. 3 at Boston College
Nov. 10 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 17 Maryland
Nov. 24 at Florida
Why: The Seminoles play eight bowl teams from a year ago and face Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Florida on the road. Getting Alabama at a neutral site doesn't figure to be much easier.
Toughest game: When the Seminoles travel to Virginia Tech on Nov. 10, the Hokies will presumably be on the verge of clinching the Coastal Division. Playing in Blacksburg with something at stake for the Hokies is not an ideal situation.
Cakewalk: From Sept. 8 to Oct. 6, the Seminoles face four teams coming off losing seasons. They get UAB (3-9) and N.C. State (3-9) at home, Colorado (2-10) on the road and Alabama (6-7) at a neutral site.
Trap game: A nine-win team like Maryland doesn't usually figure into trap games, but the Terps are still often overlooked in the ACC. The Seminoles get Maryland in Tallahassee, but that's one week after a trip to Virginia Tech and one week before going to face rival Florida.
Changes from last season: Adding Alabama upgrades the non-conference schedule. The Seminoles drop Virginia from the Coastal Division and add Virginia Tech. This year they go to Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College and Florida, but get Miami at home.
2. Boston College Eagles
Boston College Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 Wake Forest
Sept. 8 N.C. State
Sept. 15 at Georgia Tech
Sept. 22 Army
Sept. 29 Massachusetts
Oct. 6 Bowling Green
Oct. 13 at Notre Dame
Oct. 25 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 3 Florida State
Nov. 10 at Maryland
Nov. 17 at Clemson
Nov. 24 Miami (Fla.)
Why: Opening against Wake Forest and playing Georgia Tech in week three is no picnic, but the second half of the season is a grind. The Eagles face trips to Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Maryland and Clemson and home games against Florida State and Miami.
Toughest game: At Virginia Tech on Nov. 25. A road trip to Blacksburg is never a joy ride, and the Hokies return an experienced, rugged defense. This could be a preview of the ACC championship game.
Cakewalk: In a three-week span from Nov. 22 to Oct. 6, the Eagles face Army, Massachusetts and Bowling Green. Army won three games last season and Bowling Green won four. UMass did post 13 victories, but that was in Division I-AA.
Trap game: The Eagles go to Georgia Tech on Sept. 15, one week after facing former coach Tom O'Brien (who left B.C. for North Carolina State in the offseason). The N.C. State game figures to be emotional, so it's reasonable to expect a letdown the following week.
Changes from last season: Duke drops off the schedule and is replaced by Georgia Tech. Notre Dame replaces BYU as the strongest non-conference opponent. Whether that's an upgrade or downgrade in the schedule is subject to debate.
3. Maryland Terrapins
Maryland Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 Villanova
Sept. 8 at Florida International
Sept. 13 West Virginia
Sept. 22 at Wake Forest
Sept. 29 at Rutgers
Oct. 6 Georgia Tech
Oct. 20 Virginia
Oct. 27 Clemson
Nov. 3 at North Carolina
Nov. 10 Boston College
Nov. 17 at Florida State
Nov. 24 at N.C. State
Why: Closing September with West Virginia, Wake Forest and Rutgers is as tough a three-game stretch as there is. The Terps also get Georgia Tech and Clemson at home and take a trip to Florida State.
Toughest game: Last season Maryland ranked 96th nationally in run defense. On Sept. 13 the Terps face West Virginia, which was second nationally in rushing offense. Facing Steve Slaton and Pat White with a suspect run defense is a recipe for disaster, which was the case last season when the Terps allowed 45 points to West Virginia.
Cakewalk: Maryland opens the season with Villanova, which won six games in Division I-AA last year, and follows with a trip to winless Florida International.
Trap game: By Nov. 3, North Carolina could be making significant progress in its first season under Butch Davis. If that's the case, Maryland might catch the Tar Heels at the most inopportune time after Clemson and before consecutive games against Boston College and Florida State.
Changes from last season: The non-conference slate is much harder with the Terps adding Rutgers and dropping Middle Tennessee State. Ouch. However, North Carolina replaces Miami from the Coastal Division. Ah, that feels better.
4. North Carolina State Wolfpack
N.C. State Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 Central Florida
Sept. 8 at Boston College
Sept. 15 Wofford
Sept. 22 Clemson
Sept. 29 Louisville
Oct. 6 at Florida State
Oct. 20 at East Carolina
Oct. 27 Virginia
Nov. 3 at Miami (Fla.)
Nov. 10 North Carolina
Nov. 17 at Wake Forest
Nov. 24 Maryland
Why: Louisville is the marquee name on the non-conference slate, but Division I-AA Wofford and Central Florida compromise the strength of schedule. There will be no envy, though, with trips to Boston College, Florida State, Miami and Wake Forest.
Toughest game: Big East teams are constantly hearing how they're inferior and always looking to make a point against teams from more prestigious conferences. Louisville will not only have that motivation when the Cardinals visit Raleigh on Sept. 29, but they will also have national championship aspirations. They will have quarterback Brian Brohm, too.
Cakewalk: This isn't so much a walk and it is a jaunt. Division I-AA Wofford shouldn't provide too much suspense on Sept. 15, but after that nothing is assured. Clemson, Louisville and Florida State follow.
Trap game: East Carolina would love to knock off state schools North Carolina and N.C. State - which ventures into Greenville on Oct. 20. Last season the Pirates beat the Wolfpack in Raleigh. This time they want to do it in front of their fans, and they get a chance a week after N.C. State goes to Florida State.
Changes from last season: The Wolfpack loses Akron and gains Louisville. That's bad news, especially considering that Akron beat N.C. State last year. Miami replaces Georgia Tech as a Coastal Division foe.
5. Miami Hurricanes
Miami Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 Marshall
Sept. 8 at Oklahoma
Sept. 15 Florida International
Sept. 20 Texas A&M
Sept. 29 Duke
Oct. 6 at North Carolina
Oct. 13 Georgia Tech
Oct. 20 at Florida State
Nov. 3 N.C. State
Nov. 10 Virginia
Nov. 17 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 24 at Boston College
Why: The Hurricanes might petition for admission into the Big 12 South with a road game at Oklahoma and a home game against Texas A&M. They also go to Florida State, Virginia Tech and Boston College.
Toughest game: There are plenty to choose, but a Nov. 17 visit to Blacksburg looks most difficult. The Hurricanes lost to the Hokies in Miami last year, and Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon projects to be better than he was a year ago. Also, Virginia Tech's defense is one of the few that can match Miami's.
Cakewalk: In a four-week span from Sept. 15 to Oct. 6 the Hurricanes face Florida International (winless in '06), Duke (winless in '06) and North Carolina (3-9 in '06). Those games are interrupted by a home date with Texas A&M, which should be a dramatic upgrade in caliber of opponent. But did you see the Holiday Bowl?
Trap game: Georgia Tech defeated Miami 30-23 in 2006, and the Yellow Jackets could do it again on Oct. 13 if the Hurricanes are looking ahead to a trip to Florida State the next week.
Changes from last season: Louisville and Houston have been replaced by Oklahoma and Texas A&M. There is no Division I-AA opponent this year. A road game against Maryland from the Atlantic Division is gone. Instead, the Hurricanes play at home against N.C. State.
6. Clemson Tigers
Clemson Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 3 Florida State
Sept. 8 La.-Monroe
Sept. 15 Furman
Sept. 22 at N.C. State
Sept. 29 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 6 Virgnia Tech
Oct. 20 Central Michigan
Oct. 27 at Maryland
Nov. 3 at Duke
Nov. 10 Wake Forest
Nov. 17 Boston College
Nov. 24 at South Carolina
Why: A regular season finale with state rival South Carolina is the only non-conference game against a BCS conference team. The Tigers get Florida State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College at home.
Toughest game: Virginia Tech's defense should be one of the best in the country, and facing it is a tall order for a first-time starting quarterback. The game is midway through the season (Oct. 6) at Death Valley, so the Tigers have that going for them.
Cakewalk: After opening the season against Florida State, the Tigers face Louisiana-Monroe, Furman and N.C. State in consecutive weeks. That's two teams coming off losing seasons and a Division I-AA opponent.
Trap game: Central Michigan, which has a very good quarterback in sophomore Dan LeFevour, is one of those MAC teams that always has a chip on its shoulder. Also worrisome is that the Chippewas, who posted 10 victories in 2006, come in a week before Clemson goes to Maryland on Oct. 27.
Changes from last season: Even with a Division I-AA opponent, the non-conference schedule looks tougher with Florida Atlantic, Temple and Louisiana Tech gone. However, Boston College, Florida State, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech all go into Death Valley this year.
7. Duke Blue Devils
Duke Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 Connecticut
Sept. 8 at Virginia
Sept. 15 at Northwestern
Sept. 22 at Navy
Sept. 29 at Miami (Fla.)
Oct. 6 Wake Forest
Oct. 13 Virginia Tech
Oct. 27 at Florida State
Nov. 3 Clemson
Nov. 10 Georgia Tech
Nov. 17 at Notre Dame
Nov. 24 at North Carolina
Why: At least no Division I-AA teams taint the schedule. Facing Notre Dame on the road is always impressive. The Atlantic Division trio of Wake Forest, Florida State and Clemson is a tough draw.
Toughest game: Take your pick. The suggestion here is a Sept. 29 trip to Miami. Weakened by suspensions, the Hurricanes eked out a 20-15 victory in Durham last season. The Hurricanes will be looking to put Duke back in its place.
Cakewalk: Are you kidding? The Blue Devils are 1-22 over the last two seasons. They have death marches, not cakewalks.
Trap game: Does not apply.
Changes from last season: Goodbye frying pan, hello fire. After going winless in 2006 the Blue Devils' schedule actually appears more difficult with Connecticut, Notre Dame and Northwestern replacing Vanderbilt, Alabama and Richmond in non-conference play. Duke also must travel to Navy, Miami and Florida State. But hey, they get Wake Forest, Virginia Tech and Clemson at home! Thanks for nothing.
8. Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 East Carolina
Sept. 8 at LSU
Sept. 15 Ohio
Sept. 22 William and Mary
Sept. 29 North Carolina
Oct. 6 at Clemson
Oct. 13 at Duke
Oct. 25 Boston College
Nov. 1 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 10 Florida State
Nov. 17 Miami (Fla.)
Nov. 24 at Virginia
Why: East Carolina is a respectable opening foe, and a trip to LSU is a stellar early season matchup. The Hokies take on Florida State, Clemson and Boston College from the Atlantic Division.
Toughest game: That would be a Sept. 8 trip to LSU, which is a strong national championship contender. Agreeing to play LSU is admirable. Playing the Tigers this season in Baton Rouge is masochistic.
Cakewalk: Should the Hokies fall at LSU, at least they will have a soft place to land. Their next three games are in Blacksburg against Ohio, Division I-AA William & Mary and North Carolina. Yeah, yeah. Ohio won nine games last season and reached the MAC championship game, but let's be realistic. It's Ohio, not Ohio State.
Trap game: Georgia Tech defeated Virginia Tech 38-27 last season, but Calvin Johnson, who had a huge performance in that game, is now in Detroit. That means the Hokies can relax a bit but not too much. Virginia Tech visits Atlanta for a Thursday night game on Nov. 1, one week after facing Boston College and before taking on Florida State and Miami in succession.
Changes from last season: Virginia Tech maintained a Division I-AA speed bump by replacing Northeastern with William & Mary. The Hokies play only one non-ACC opponent from a BCS conference school. However, the Hokies dropped Cincinnati and added SEC powerhouse LSU, so that's a monumental upgrade. Florida State replaces Wake Forest as an Atlantic Division opponent and the Hokies get Boston College and Miami at home.
9. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 at Notre Dame
Sept. 8 Samford
Sept. 15 Boston College
Sept. 22 at Virginia
Sept. 29 Clemson
Oct. 6 at Maryland
Oct. 13 at Miami (Fla.)
Oct. 20 Army
Nov. 1 Virginia Tech
Nov. 10 at Duke
Nov. 17 North Carolina
Nov. 24 Georgia
Why: Five opponents posted at least nine victories in 2006, but Virginia, Army, Duke and North Carolina are coming off losing seasons. Samford is a Division I-AA team. The Yellow Jackets' projected toughest games Boston College, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Georgia will be played in Atlanta.
Toughest game: The best is saved for last. Georgia Tech is 0-6 against Georgia since Mark Richt has taken over as the Bulldogs coach. The game is in Atlanta on Nov. 24, which may be to the Yellow Jackets' advantage. However, Georgia figures to be improved over last season.
Cakewalk: Mid-November brings back-to-back games against Duke and North Carolina, which combined for three victories last season.
Trap game: If Virginia is improved from last season, then Georgia Tech could be ripe for an upset when it heads to Charlottesville on Sept. 22. That game is sandwiched by games against Boston College and Clemson.
Changes from last season: Army replaces Troy in non-conference. The bigger issue is that Boston College replaces N.C. State as an Atlantic Division opponent.
10. North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 James Madison
Sept. 8 at East Carolina
Sept. 15 Virginia
Sept. 22 at South Florida
Sept. 29 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 6 Miami (Fla.)
Oct. 13 South Carolina
Oct. 27 at Wake Forest
Nov. 3 Maryland
Nov. 10
Nov. 17 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 24 Duke
Why: Trips to Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are formidable, but the remainder of the schedule isn't as intimidating. The Tar Heels get Miami, South Carolina and Maryland at home. They also take a trip to South Florida.
Toughest game: Virginia Tech blasted the Tar Heels by 25 points in Chapel Hill last season. This year the game moves to Blacksburg. Why should it be any different this time?
Cakewalk: The Butch Davis era figures to get off to a good start with a season-opening home game against Division I-AA James Madison. After that, there's no more cake.
Trap game: North Carolina is 8-1-1 all-time against East Carolina, but you know the Pirates are just aching to knock off the big state school. The Heels have to go to Greenville on Sept. 8, which happens to be a week before the Tar Heels start ACC play.
Changes from last season: Exit Rutgers and Notre Dame. Enter South Carolina and East Carolina. That lightens the load some. The Heels also get Atlantic Division foe Maryland rather than Clemson, which ripped them 52-7 last year.
11. Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 at Wyoming
Sept. 8 Duke
Sept. 15 at North Carolina
Sept. 22 Georgia Tech
Sept. 29 Pittsburgh
Oct. 6 at Middle Tennessee
Oct. 13 Connecticut
Oct. 20 at Maryland
Oct. 27 at N.C. State
Nov. 3 Wake Forest
Nov. 10 at Miami (Fla.)
Nov. 24 Virginia Tech
Why: Middle Tennessee State is the only non-conference opponent coming off a winning record, and getting Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State is like hitting the ACC scheduling trifecta.
Toughest game: Venturing into Miami on Nov. 10 could be a scary. The Cavaliers had one of the nation's worst offenses in 2006, and Miami figures to have one of the nation's best defenses in 2007. If the Cavs don't make remarkable offensive progress this season, they could be in serious trouble in this game - especially if new Miami coach Randy Shannon restores the Hurricanes' attitude.
Cakewalk: A road trip to 6-6 Wyoming in the season-opener isn't assured, but the next two games against Duke and North Carolina are definitely winnable.
Trap game: You'd expect Virginia to beat Middle Tennessee State. A team from a BCS school against a Sun Belt Conference foe. Easy win, right? The Blue Raiders can be dangerous in Murfreesboro. Two years ago they upset Vanderbilt, which cost the Commodores a bowl bid.
Changes from last season: Western Michigan and East Carolina are gone and replaced by Middle Tennessee State and Connecticut, which may be a slight downgrade. Wake Forest replaces Florida State from the Atlantic Division.
12. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake Forest Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 1 at Boston College
Sept. 8 Nebraska
Sept. 15 Army
Sept. 22 Maryland
Oct. 6 at Duke
Oct. 11 Florida State
Oct. 20 at Navy
Oct. 27 North Carolina
Nov. 3 at Virginia
Nov. 10 at Clemson
Nov. 17 N.C. State
Nov. 24 at Vanderbilt
Why: Scheduling Nebraska was a bold move, but the non-conference slate also lists Army and Navy. Is Wake Forest trying to get in on the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy? Four of the last five games are against teams coming off losing seasons.
Toughest game: Six of the starters from the Deacons' excellent defense of last year are gone, including three in the secondary. That doesn't bode well for a Sept. 8 game against Nebraska, a likely top-20 team that boasted one of the best offenses in the country last season. The Cornhuskers might be better this year with Sam Keller at quarterback and WR Maurice Purify returning.
Cakewalk: Army comes to Winston-Salem on Sept. 15. The Cadets haven't managed a winning season since 1996. That doesn't figure to change.
Trap game: Navy may not be as good as it was last season, but the Midshipmen might catch the Deacons at just the right time. Wake Forest goes to Annapolis nine days after facing Florida State.
Changes from last season: The out-of-conference degree of difficulty is raised with Nebraska, Vanderbilt and Navy replacing Syracuse, Mississippi and Connecticut. Even Army is an upgrade from Division I-AA Liberty. The Deacons catch a break, however, with Virginia replacing Virginia Tech as a Coastal Division opponent.

More: Big Ten | Big 12 | Big East | SEC | Pac-10 | Non-BCS I | Non-BCS II | Ultimate Road Trip

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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