A tumultuous first half of the 2018 season for Florida State has ultimately come to an end. Midway through the first season of the Willie Taggart era and the Seminoles sit at just 3-3 with the prospect of extending the nation’s longest bowl streak to 37 years already in doubt.
FSU is coming off of what was its most heartbreaking and perhaps most encouraging effort of the season against Miami last week. On one hand, the Seminoles showed that they could stand toe-to-toe with a top-25 team on the road. On the other, they blew a 20-point lead and gifted Miami two touchdown drives with turnovers inside their own red zone in a 28-27 loss.
Letting the big lead away is compounded by the fact that it came to a rival and that FSU would have been just two wins away from bowl-eligibility with six games remaining. For that to happen, FSU will need finish at least 3-3 and that’s against a slate that includes four current top-20 teams and two of those contests come on the road.
For Florida State to make a bowl, its best football in 2018 will need to be ahead of it. The must-wins for FSU remaining appear to be home contests against Wake Forest on Oct. 20 and against Boston College on Nov. 17.
If it can win those games, the Seminoles must find a way to beat one of four current AP-ranked foes. No. 4 and 3-time reigning ACC champion Clemson or arch-rival and 14th-ranked Florida will visit Doak Campbell Stadium to conclude October and November, respectively. Road contests will come at No. 20 NC State and No. 5 Notre Dame to begin the month of November.
The first six games have hardly been a thing of beauty as the Seminoles suffered blowout losses to Virginia Tech and Syracuse in addition to the aforementioned heartbreaker at Miami. With the exception of one solid performance against Northern Illinois, FSU has needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat FCS Samford and an unthinkable interception and long touchdown against Louisville to be .500 at this point.
The biggest problem for Florida State has been without question the offensive line, which has been one of the weakest Power 5 position groups. The good news is that some progress has been made over the last three weeks, although there has been no running game to speak of despite having talented players like Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick in the backfield. Redshirt junior Deondre Francois has engineered a pair of game-winning drives, but is struggling to adjust on his reads and tends to have high highs and low lows.
The defense has had its share of breakdowns, but overall, has been the unquestioned strength of the team. The defensive line has proven to be deep and talented with junior defensive end Brian Burns leading the way. Dontavious Jackson, DeCalon Brooks and Leonard Warner have brought some stability to the corps of linebackers while the secondary led by junior cornerback Levonta Taylor has yet to reach its full potential.
With a difficult slate ahead, Florida State will likely have to do something it hasn’t since the Orange Bowl win over Michigan to conclude the 2016 season and that’s defeat a ranked team. FSU is just 8-9 in its last 17 games against FBS opponents and 5-8 in its last 13 against Power 5 competition. For the Seminoles to have any chance of finishing the season strong and preserving some important historical streaks, immense improvement is necessary.