Coming off a 40-7 bloodbath in Chapel Hill last weekend, you’d hope Syracuse would have a little bit of relief its next time out. Unfortunately for Orange fans, not only is relief not coming, but the job is going to be immensely difficult. Enter the 4th-ranked team in the nation Florida State, a team that has serious College Football Playoff aspirations. We don’t need to remind you of what happened the last time these two squared off. Needless to say, this will be a very challenging endeavor for SU.
The fall after Deondre Francois’ injury appears to be a thing of the past. The Seminoles endured five straight seasons of failing to surpass seven wins, which falls way below the standard that the 2013 National Championship team set. But last year’s 10-win season, culminating with a victory in the Cheez-It Bowl over Oklahoma, got the program back to national relevance. Now, a 5-0 start, a top-5 ranking, and some serious playoff aspirations have FSU back at the level it was at before Francois’ injury. The question is, can it pick up another national championship in this window?
HEAD COACH MIKE NORVELL
If there’s one man to credit for Florida State’s rise back to the top, Norvell might be the guy. Willie Taggart wasn’t exactly spectacular after Jimbo Fisher jumped ship for Texas A&M. Norvell should’ve come over from Memphis sooner. 2021 is a good year to point at for proof. The Seminoles were down in the dumps after dropping to 0-4, which included a loss to FCS Jacksonville State. Somehow, FSU rallied to a 5-3 finish that included a thrilling walk-off victory over Syracuse in Tallahassee (the last game between the two at Doak Campbell Stadium). Norvell has the Seminoles built for sustained success.
QB JORDAN TRAVIS
If you watched last year’s Syracuse-Florida State clash, Travis needs no introduction. The redshirt senior completed over 90% of his passes and three scores while running for a score as well. That is efficiency at its finest. In 2023, it’s hard to complain about what Travis has done. A completion percentage over 60%, just 12 touchdowns to one interception, and almost 1200 passing yards to go along with a pair of rushing scores. In a collegiate football landscape dominated by the likes of Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Michael Penix, Travis does not get enough love.
RB TREY BENSON
The Orange run defense collapsed down the stretch last season, and Benson took full advantage of that. The Mississippi native shredded SU for 163 yards on just 18 carries. That’s over nine yards per attempt. He’s continued his strong work in 2023. Benson has nearly 400 yards and six touchdowns through the running attack over the Seminoles’ first five games. FSU’s receiving weapons are a little more spread out- Johnny Wilson is the number one but there’s a little more balance in that unit. There’s no doubt who runs the ship of the Florida State ground game. Best running back in the ACC? There’s a case to be made.
DL JARED VERSE
Verse is a consensus early first-round pick in 2024 NFL Mock Drafts, and you don’t have to look far beyond the stat sheet to see why. The Dayton native had 16.5 TFL and nine sacks last season, one and one of which came in the Dome last November. Verse also saw the Orange when he was a UAlbany Great Dane in September 2021, recording four tackles in that contest. Verse hasn’t been nearly as terrifying early on this season, but still has 4.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks through just five games. He might be the best defensive player in all the ACC.
LB KALEN DELOACH
If Verse is the Batman of the Seminole defense, DeLoach is an A+ Robin. The Savannah native was third on the team in tackles and tackles for loss last season, and he has taken his game to another level in 2023. DeLoach leads FSU in tackles and sacks and, like Verse holds a share of the team lead in tackles for loss. DeLoach wasn’t otherworldly against SU last season with three tackles, but in that was 0.5 TFL and a quarterback hurry. This is not the same player the offensive line dealt with last season.
This game had a six-day hold placed on it when it came to scheduling a kickoff time. Thanks to an abysmal performance from Syracuse, it lost a shot at primetime. This is still a noon kick on ABC, but getting national respect that won’t exactly come easily against a top-5 team on the rise, seeking to reach the sport’s promised land.