TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With games against both national finalists, as well as a meeting with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, the Florida State football team already knew that its 2017 schedule would be among the toughest in the nation.
On Tuesday, the Seminoles learned exactly how that schedule falls on the calendar. Including contests against powerhouses Alabama and Clemson, FSU will face eight teams that went to bowl games last season.
The Seminoles will also open and close their ACC slate against their two biggest conference rivals, head north for a Friday-night game and, as usual, wrap up the regular season in Gainesville, Fla.
Here are the highlights:
All eyes on Atlanta
Eighteen months after it was first announced, Florida State and Alabama will meet at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in what will be one of the most anticipated regular-season contests in recent history. The Seminoles and Crimson Tide (14-1 in 2016) will christen Atlanta’s state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 2 in a game that will immediately shape the College Football Playoff race. FSU’s first appearance in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game will also mark the first time that FSU’s Jimbo Fisher and Alabama’s Nick Saban meet as head coaches. (Fisher coached against and the Crimson Tide as FSU’s offensive coordinator in 2007.) Since Fisher took over at FSU in 2010, he and Saban are the two winningest coaches in college football: Fisher’s 78 wins are second only to Saban’s 86.
Extended home stand
Following their trip to Atlanta, the Seminoles will head back to Tallahassee, where they will enjoy their first three-game home stand since 2012. FSU begins its home slate on Sept. 9, when it hosts Sun Belt foe Louisiana-Monroe (4-8 in 2016) at Doak Campbell Stadium. FSU beat ULM, 34-0, on Sept. 3, 2011, the only previous meeting between the two.
From there, the Seminoles embark on back-to-back ACC games against Miami (9-4) and North Carolina State (7-6) – teams that provided FSU with two of its most dramatic victories in 2016.
FSU opens its conference schedule against the Hurricanes for the first time since 2009. The game also marks the earliest meeting between the Noles and Canes in a non-season opener since Sept. 16, 1972. Miami will be breaking in a new quarterback, as Brad Kaaya, the school’s all-time leading passer, declared for the NFL draft following the 2016 season.
Another ACC Atlantic test awaits in Week 4, as the NC State Wolfpack visits Tallahassee on Military Appreciation Day. Despite its 7-6 record, NC State finished the 2016 season with wins in three of its last four games. That includes a victory over Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl.
Tour through the Old North State
The Seminoles will play back-to-back road games just once, and even that comes with a welcome bye week in between.
FSU’s first true road game will take place at Wake Forest (7-6 in 2016), where the Seminoles will visit a Demon Deacons team coming off its first bowl win in five years.
Then, following an open date on Oct. 7, the Seminoles will head back to North Carolina, where they will visit Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium for the first time since 2011. Florida State is 19-0 all-time against Duke (4-8), its best record against an ACC foe.
Noles vs. Jackson, Round III
Florida State will get another crack at Heisman Trophy-winner Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals (9-4 in 2016) at home on Oct. 21. The Seminoles will be looking to avenge a 63-20 defeat at Louisville in 2016, as well as maintain the balance of power in the ACC Atlantic Division. The Cardinals finished second in the Atlantic standings a year ago, marking the first time since 2011 that FSU and Clemson hadn’t placed first or second.
While Jackson had success against the Seminoles a year ago, his first trip to Doak Campbell Stadium in 2015 wasn’t so kind: Although he passed for three touchdowns, Jackson was sacked five times and turned the ball over twice in FSU’s 41-21 victory.
Another Friday in Boston
Following the Louisville game, Florida State will have a short turnaround before heading to Boston College (7-6 in 2016) for a Friday-night game on Oct. 27. It will mark the third straight season that the Seminoles and Eagles have met on a Friday, with FSU having won both of those games.
FSU will kick off November with a home game against Syracuse (4-8 in 2016) that will serve as the centerpiece for Parents Weekend.
Then the Seminoles are off to Clemson, S.C., for a showdown with the defending national champion Clemson Tigers (14-1). FSU and Clemson will finish their ACC schedules against each other, which means the Atlantic Division race could come down to the wire.
Although Clemson must replace star quarterback Deshaun Watson and a host of key players from last year’s title team, Memorial Stadium is still a notoriously difficult place to play: the Seminoles will be looking to win there for just the third time since 2001.
FSU’s home finale will take place on Nov. 18, when the Seminoles meet Football Championship Subdivision opponent Delaware State (0-11) for the first time. The Seminoles will close out their home slate with both Homecoming and Senior Day festivities.
Finally, the Seminoles will cap their regular season in Gainesville, where they can reach a number of milestones against the Florida Gators (9-4).
A win would mark FSU’s first ever five-game winning streak over the Gators, its first four-game winning streak at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, and its best eight-year run against UF. The Seminoles have won six of seven against the Gators since Fisher took over in 2010, a feat matched only by Bobby Bowden’s teams from 1987-93.
2017 Florida State Football Schedule
Sept. 2, Alabama (in Atlanta)
Sept. 9, Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 16, Miami*
Sept. 23, NC State*
Sept. 30, at Wake Forest*
Oct. 14, at Duke*
Oct. 21, Louisville*
Oct. 27, at Boston College* (Friday)
Nov. 4, Syracuse* (Parents Weekend)
Nov. 11 at Clemson*
Nov. 18 Delaware State (Homecoming)
Nov. 25 at Florida
* — ACC game