Expectations still very high for Florida State
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Jameis Winston, gone. Rashad Greene, gone. Nick O'Leary, gone.
Expectations at Florida State, still there.
An offseason of roster turnover was expected because of graduation and NFL defections. An offseason of tumult - most notably with one player dismissed after video showed him striking a woman and now another standout is awaiting his fate after similar allegations - was not. And the Seminoles are no longer the consensus pick to end the season reigning over the Atlantic Coast Conference, having ceded that role to Atlantic Division rival Clemson.
If nothing else, that all may serve as motivation for a program that has won 29 of its last 30 games.
''When we were the favorite, they didn't give me the trophy,'' Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said. ''When you're the underdog, they're not giving Clemson the trophy. ... We've (won) three conference championships in a row, but they're thinking another team is going to win it. To me, that's only great for the ACC because I think they're such a great brand of football out there.''
Now the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick by the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, Winston was energizing and polarizing on and off the field thanks to an uncanny knack for making big plays in games and a penchant for finding his way into a negative spotlight otherwise. He'll be replaced at quarterback by either Everett Golson - the Notre Dame transfer who nearly beat the Seminoles in Tallahassee last year - or Sean Maguire, who served as Winston's backup and was the presumed heir apparent to the starting job until Golson arrived.
Whichever one starts, they'll be leading a confident group.
''That's fine if people want to say that we won't win the conference, won't be in the picture, things like that, that's completely fine,'' standout defensive back Jalen Ramsey said. ''When things like that do happen, it will shock them. It will just feel better for us.''
Some things to note about the Seminoles heading into the season:
NEXT UP: Replacing Winston is just one part of Florida State's challenge this fall. The Seminoles scored 53 offensive touchdowns last year; 24 of them were either rushed for or caught by the now-graduated trio of Greene, O'Leary or Karlos Williams. (Another eight were rushed for by Dalvin Cook, whose status throughout training camp has been unclear because of battery charges filed against him in July). Even if Cook is reinstated, as is widely expected, many will have to deliver in much bigger offensive roles for the Seminoles.
SIMPLY THE BEST: Seminoles kicker Roberto Aguayo scored more points (136) last season than SMU's entire team (133). Aguayo has tried 201 kicks - including PATs - at Florida State and made 197 of them. He'll still have eligibility in 2016, though it's a good bet that he'll be in the NFL next year instead. It's a great luxury for Florida State knowing if the offense reaches the opposing 25-yard-line, at least three points are almost certain on that possession.
NORTHRUP FACTOR: Linebacker Reggie Northrup was the team's leading tackler in 2014, being involved in 122 stops. A knee injury against Oregon in the national semifinals was just another bad part of a bad blowout loss, but Northrup has worked nonstop and appears to have gotten himself ready - against long odds - to be ready for Week 1 this season. His leadership factor alone will be huge for the Seminoles.
FISHER'S RANK: Here's what Fisher has done in his first five seasons - 10-4, 9-4, 12-2, 14-0 and 13-1, with three ACC titles, four bowl wins and one national championship. Among active coaches with at least five years at college football's highest level, only Chris Petersen (100-18, .847) and Urban Meyer (142-26, .845) top Fisher (58-11, .841).
HOME COOKING: Florida State has gone 14-0 at home over the last two seasons, winning by an average score of 44-13. And while they legitimately were on the upset ropes a couple of times in Tallahassee last year, take note that out of the 840 minutes of clock time (excluding overtime) since the start of the 2013 campaign they've trailed for just under 75 minutes at Doak Campbell Stadium - or roughly 9 percent of the time.