The Mike Norvell era begins with a tough start
FSU opens in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium against West Virginia, which should get a bump in Year 2 under coach Neal Brown. After a cupcake (Samford), the Seminoles travel to Boise State (which knocked them off last year in Tallahassee). Then, after an open date, FSU goes to North Carolina (where the Seminoles historically struggle) before hosting superpower Clemson. That’s four losable matchups in the first five games — not the kind of soft open a new coach might want.
Syracuse is a trap
Assuming the Orange improves from last year’s 5-7 dud, FSU’s Nov. 19 game at Syracuse feels like a trap. The ’Noles have a short week to prepare for a road game in a tough venue where weird things happen, like the air conditioning going out of a dome named after an HVAC company (Carrier) in FSU’s 23-point blowout loss two years ago.
I’m excited for the Manny Diaz Bowl
Remember how Diaz spent 18 glorious days as Temple’s head coach in December 2018 before returning to Miami to replace Mark Richt? You can bet that the Owls haven’t forgotten, which makes Miami’s Sept. 5 opener against Temple a much more enticing matchup than it appears on paper. Speaking of which…
Miami’s non-conference schedule is harder than it looks
Except for Wagner, of course. Temple has averaged 8.6 wins in the past five seasons and will be motivated to play Diaz and defensive end Quincy Roche, the reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Year who transferred from Temple to Miami earlier this week. UAB is 20-8 over the past two years, and Miami has lost two in a row to Conference USA teams. And Michigan State is a marquee matchup on the road. Even if the non-conference slate lacks brand recognition, it has some potential pitfalls for Miami.
Circle Nov. 7 on your calendar
That’s when Miami hosts Florida State. If things go south early for the ’Canes (which is possible), an early November game against a new coach leading their in-state ACC rival could become a final referendum for their embattled second-year coach. Sound familiar? It’s the exact same formula that led to Willie Taggart’s firing from FSU last season.
Clemson could be in for a third consecutive undefeated regular season
Not that the Tigers need much help — they’re the clear preseason No. 1 team in the nation — but the schedule gave them some breaks. Their Thursday night opener against Georgia Tech gives them more time to prepare for a potentially plucky Louisville team. Their other weeknight game (Friday, Oct. 2) is against Boston College and its first-time head coach, former Bucs assistant Jeff Hafley … and gives an Clemson extra day off before facing FSU. Even the toughest game (at Notre Dame on Nov. 7) is more manageable thanks to an open date the week before.
My early Coastal Division pick: North Carolina
The serious, football-only argument for the Tar Heels centers on quarterback Sam Howell, the one that got away from FSU to set a true freshman record with 38 touchdown passes last season. But this is the Coastal, where seven different teams have won the division in the past seven seasons. Traditional logic doesn’t apply.
So what’s the Coastal Chaos reasoning behind North Carolina? Because the Tar Heels could start 0-2 (with defeats at UCF and against Auburn in Atlanta), almost lose to Division I-AA power James Madison … and then finish 9-3 to earn a trip to the ACC title game in Charlotte.