TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – “Mark-your-calendars” season is officially here, as the ACC on Wednesday released the 2018 football schedules for all of its members.
Willie Taggart’s first season at Florida State will feature a marquee, Monday-night matchup, home games against two key rivals, a visit to one of the most venerable sites in college football and a pair of back-to-back road swings that could go a long way in determining if the Seminoles can return to the ACC championship game for the first time since 2014.
Here are the highlights:
Florida State helped pioneer college ur otball on Labor Day in the mid-2000s, and the Seminoles returned to the Monday-night stage years later when it played memorable games against Pittsburgh and Mississippi. But for the first time since 2009 – and only the third time this century – Doak Campbell Stadium will have the undivided attention of the college football world when the Seminoles and Virginia Tech Hokies put an exclamation point on the first week of the regular season.
While FSU and Virginia Tech have a surprisingly lengthy history – they’ve met 36 times since 1955, and the Seminoles claimed their 1999 national title with a win over the Hokies – this will be the first contest between the two programs since a 28-22 FSU victory in Blacksburg, Va., in 2012. Florida State hasn’t hosted Virginia Tech since 2008 and, before that, 1990.
FSU’s most memorable meetings with Virginia Tech, of course, featured matchups between coaching legends Bobby Bowden and Frank Beamer. But this year’s contest should shine a spotlight on two programs with an eye on the future. The Hokies are entering Year 3 under coach Justin Fuente, while FSU is set to usher in a new era with Taggart. Virginia tech is 19-8 in Fuente’s first two years at the helm.
FSU is 4-2 all-time on Labor Day, and 9-3 when opening its season with a conference game.
Regardless of what happens against Virginia Tech, the Seminoles won’t have much time to dwell on the outcome. Because, just five days later, they’ll hit the field again when FCS Samford visits on Sept. 8. Under coach Chris Hatcher, the Bulldogs have become one of the FCS’ better programs. They’ve been ranked in the FCS top 25 for 19 straight weeks and made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. FSU has met Samford just twice – a 20-6 victory in 1950, and a 59-6 romp that kicked off coach Jimbo Fisher’s tenure in 2010.
After a visit to Syracuse’s Carrier Dome on Sept. 15, the Seminoles will play their third home game in four weeks on Sept. 22, when they face the Northern Illinois Huskies. The game is a rematch of the 2012 Orange Bowl, which came on the heels of FSU’s first ACC title in seven years. Led by an MVP performance from senior fullback Lonnie Pryor, FSU cruised past NIU and Heisman finalist quarterback Jordan Lynch for a 31-10 victory. The game marked the first of five consecutive BCS/New Year’s Six bowl appearances for FSU, and served a springboard for the Seminoles’ run to the 2013 national title.
While the Huskies of late haven’t maintained the same standard that helped them reach that Orange Bowl, they can still be a challenging foe – they’ve made a bowl game in nine of the last 10 seasons and have bagged victories over Iowa, Northwestern and Nebraska in recent years.
The Seminoles will then get to the teeth of their conference schedule when they hit the road for back-to-back contests at Louisville and Miami.
Both the Cardinals and Hurricanes have emerged as thorns in the side of FSU’s conference title hopes in recent years. FSU will be looking to snap a two-game skid to Louisville, which, despite losing star quarterback Lamar Jackson to the NFL draft, can still be a formidable foe, especially at home.
A week later, the Seminoles head south for another test at Miami. Although they dropped three straight games to close their season, the Hurricanes enjoyed something of a renaissance in coach Mark Richt’s second year, winning their first 10 games and climbing to as high as No. 2 in the national rankings. UM also snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Seminoles with a late, dramatic victory in Tallahassee.
The Hurricanes are looking to prove themselves as more than a one-year wonder, while the Seminoles hope to reassert their dominance in both the state and conference pecking order.
A week later, the Seminoles will enjoy their bye week, which, incidentally, comes at the midway point of the season for the first time since 2009.
The Seminoles will close October with a pair of home games against ACC Atlantic teams – one obviously challenging, and the other perhaps more under the radar. While FSU’s Oct. 27 meeting with the Clemson Tigers should once again be one of the premier contests of the season, the Seminoles would be wise to not overlook its Homecoming date with Wake Forest on Oct. 20.
Wake finished 8-5 in 2017, gave the Seminoles all they could handle in a 26-19 FSU victory, and finished the season with wins over Louisville, NC State and Texas A&M. The Demon Deacons lost quarterback John Wolford to graduation but seem to have a pair of young stars in quarterback Kendall Hinton and receiver Greg Dortch.
If FSU is to win the Atlantic Division, it will almost certainly have to beat Clemson. The FSU-Clemson winner has claimed the division crown in each year since 2009, and has appeared in either the BCS National Championship Game or College Football Playoff in every year since 2013. That said, Clemson has had the upper hand in recent years, having won three straight over the Seminoles for the first time ever. The Seminoles, however, are 12-4 against the Tigers at home.
Florida State will then embark on another two-game road swing that could define its season. It starts with a Nov. 3 trip to North Carolina State. Despite Carter-Finley Stadium’s ominous reputation with FSU fans, the Seminoles have won their last two games there and can make it three straight for the first time since 1996.
From there, the Seminoles will head to Notre Dame for what might be their most anticipated game of the 2018 campaign. FSU will renew its occasional rivalry with the Fighting Irish on Nov. 10 – just three days shy of the 25th anniversary of the “Game of the Century” in 1993. While the Seminoles and Fighting Irish met four years ago in Tallahassee, this will mark FSU’s fourth trip to Notre Dame Stadium and its first since a 37-0 rout over ND in 2003. Despite dropping that 1993 contest, the Seminoles own a 6-2 all-time record over the Irish, which includes a 19-13 victory in 1981 that was part of the infamous “Octoberfest” schedule that helped put Bowden’s Seminoles on the map. (FSU played at Nebraska, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and LSU in consecutive weeks and went 3-2 in that stretch.)
The 2018 FSU football season ends the way it began: with two home games. FSU will close its campaign with Boston College (Nov. 17) and Florida (Nov. 24), and will be looking for atonement against one and continued dominance over the other.
Perhaps ironically, the Seminoles will be looking to wash out a bad taste from a lopsided loss at BC last season, and they’ll then seek to extend their school-record six-game winning streak over the Gators a week later.
FSU has won five straight and seven of its last eight against UF. As a result, the Gators will be breaking in their fourth head coach since that run began in 2010. Florida named former assistant Dan Mullen its head coach late last year. A few weeks later, Florida State hired Taggart. The two venerable programs haven’t had new head coaches in the same season since 1960.
Florida State in 2018 will face 10 teams that reached the postseason. Nine of FSU’s FBS opponents played in a bowl game (all but Syracuse and Florida), while Samford made a second consecutive FCS playoff appearance.
After starting their season on a Monday night, the Seminoles will play their next 11 games on a Saturday. And, for the first time since 2013, won’t have any games on a Thursday or Friday night.
2018 Florida State football schedule
Sept. 3 VIRGINIA TECH (Monday)
Sept. 8 SAMFORD (Hall of Fame Weekend)
Sept. 15 at Syracuse
Sept. 22 NORTHERN ILLINOIS (Parents Weekend)
Sept. 29 at Louisville
Oct. 6 at Miami
Oct. 20 WAKE FOREST (Homecoming)
Oct. 27 CLEMSON
Nov. 3 at NC State
Nov. 10 at Notre Dame
Nov. 17 BOSTON COLLEGE (Military Appreciation)
Nov. 24 FLORIDA