TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It's Rankings Week at Nole Nation, and each day we'll be counting down the top teams, players and matchups of the 2013 season. First up, a look at FSU's schedule.
1. Clemson Tigers (Oct. 19 in Clemson, S.C.): There are 11 other games on the schedule, and Florida State can't afford to overlook anyone. But for most fans and prognosticators, the 2013 season comes down to this one. FSU and Clemson figure to be playing for the division title, and Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and an improved Tigers defense will offer plenty of concerns for Jimbo Fisher's crew. The winner of this game has won the Atlantic Division in each of the last four seasons.
2. Florida Gators (Nov. 30 in Gainesville, Fla.): Last year's debacle in Tallahassee might have been FSU's ugliest game of the year, and the task won't get any easier this time around when the Seminoles close out the season on the road in Gainesville. If FSU can protect the football better than it did a year ago it has a chance, but that tough Gators defense might be the biggest test Jameis Winston will face all year.
3. Miami Hurricanes (Nov. 2 in Tallahassee): If you've got season tickets at Doak Campbell Stadium this year, this one might be the only game you can get excited about. The rest of the home slate offers plenty of yawns, but the meeting with in-state rival Miami figures to be one of the Seminoles' toughest challenges. The Hurricanes played FSU tough a year ago, and there's every reason to believe they've improved this season with QB Stephen Morris and RB Duke Johnson leading the offense, and a familiar face in former FSU offensive coordinator James Coley calling the plays.
4. Pittsburgh Panthers (Sept. 2 in Pittsburgh): Pittsburgh might not look like a big challenge on paper, but this game has all the makings of a potential disaster for FSU. It's the season opener, being played on national TV on a Monday night. It's Pittsburgh's first game as a member of the ACC, and it's perhaps the Panthers' biggest home game in years. Moreover, it will be the first game action for Winston, and it will come in a hostile environment against a defense that was actually quite formidable last season. The Seminoles figure to be favored, but this one won't be easy.
5. Nevada Wolfpack (Sept. 14 in Tallahassee): It's not exactly a marquee nonconference showdown, and Nevada actually spent the better part of the past year trying to get out of even playing this game, but it could still provide something of a challenge for FSU. The Wolfpack are among the most prolific running teams in the country (271 yards per game in 2012), which means an early test for FSU's revamped defensive line, which includes four new starters.
6. Maryland Terrapins (Oct. 5 in Tallahassee): This marks the final time the Terps will face FSU as members of the ACC before bolting for greener pastures in the Big Ten in 2014, and Maryland figures to want to leave on a high note. The Terps' defense was a strong suit last season, but they couldn't overcome a bevy of injuries on offense. If head coach Randy Edsall can find a quarterback who can move the football this season, this could actually be a much tougher game than most fans are expecting.
7. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (Nov. 9 in Winston-Salem, N.C.): Florida State's last trip to Wake Forest was a nightmare that included a spot start by a backup quarterback, a broken back for the starting tailback and five turnovers en route to a disastrous 35-30 loss in 2011. It's doubtful the Deacons will sneak up on FSU this time around, but Wake Forest should be improved after a rough 2012 season, and the timing of the game -- just a week after a rivalry game against Miami -- could complicate matters.
8. Syracuse Orange (Nov. 16 in Tallahassee): There certainly figures to be some intrigue surrounding this game as the Orange come to Tallahassee for the first time as members of the ACC. The question, however, is how much talent Syracuse will bring with it. The Orange lost a bevy of veteran talent from last year, along with head coach Doug Marrone, who is now coaching former FSU quarterback EJ Manuel with the Buffalo Bills.
9. NC State Wolfpack (Oct. 26 in Tallahassee): Like Wake Forest, it's hard to chalk up an easy win over NC State without considering the rather gruesome history of upsets in the series. Still, FSU's struggles against the Wolfpack have largely come on the road. The Seminoles have beaten N.C. State three consecutive times in Tallahassee by a combined score of 102-52.
10. Boston College Eagles (Sept. 28 in Chestnut Hill, Mass.): The Eagles have two things going for them in this game -- the venue and the bye week that precedes it. Still, it's unlikely the weather in late September in Boston will be bad enough to concern FSU, and even an extra week of prep doesn't seem ample enough time to find a winning game plan. Last year, the Seminoles thumped B.C. in Tallahassee 51-7.
11. Idaho Vandals (Nov. 23 in Tallahassee): The Vandals were a late addition to the schedule after the ACC reversed plans for a nine-game conference slate. The upside is it should be an easy win for FSU. Idaho was 1-11 last year and finished 123rd in the nation in scoring offense (15.8 points per game) and 122nd in scoring defense (42.4 ppg). The downside is that it's another ho-hum game on a home slate that might have included Virginia Tech had the ACC stuck to its guns on scheduling.
12. Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (Sept. 21 in Tallahassee): After getting two straight FCS opponents to open the 2012 season, the Wildcats will be FSU's only lower-tier opposition this year. And if the game ends without the use of a running clock in the second half, it will be a huge upgrade from last year's Savannah State fiasco.