FSU's path to a BCS title

An elite defense gives the Seminoles a good shot at an undefeated season

Originally Published: May 31, 2012
By Travis Haney | ESPN Insider
EJ ManuelJeremy Brevard/US PresswireEJ Manuel and the Seminoles' offense have room for improvement in 2012.

ESPN Insider's "20 teams that can win it all" series is previewing each of the top 20 teams in Brian Fremeau's five-year program metric, with the help of ESPN's Stats & Information group (for a full explanation and links to all of the previews as they are published, click here). This is the entry for the Florida State Seminoles.

Florida State's administrators have talked a lot recently about the university's position as a football school in a basketball conference. There has even been flirtation with the Big 12, even if it's (for now) a great deal of smoke and no fire.

But if it is here-and-now respect the Seminoles desire, with regard to TV contracts and the like, wouldn't winning another national title be the quickest means to that end? Like 2011, this season will begin with FSU somewhere on the periphery of the national championship conversation. It's not in the center of it, but it's not far off.

And it's hopeful of inching closer and closer to the hunt by November and December, because that 1999 title is feeling like ancient history at this point.

Why Florida State can win it all

The defense is really quite good
Remember those vintage Florida State teams of the 1990s? Yeah, they had offensive firepower for days, but they also featured punishing defenses -- and particularly the front sevens, with the likes of Derrick Brooks and Corey Simon.

The current defense, run by Mark Stoops, could approach that level. Eight starters return from a group that gave up 275 total yards a game -- 30 per game better than the Virginia Cavaliers, who were second in the ACC. The jaw-dropper within that figure is the 2.3 yards per carry the Seminoles allowed. "That's ridiculous," a rival ACC coach said.

• Joined ESPN as Insider's national college football writer in April 2012
• Previously wrote for The Oklahoman and The Post and Courier