Florida State Seminoles

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Wide receiver Travis Rudolph #15 of the Florida State Seminoles scores on a 18-yard pass from quarterback Jameis Winston #5 in the third quarter of the College Football Playoff Semifinal against the Oregon Ducks at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2015 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Florida State WR Travis Rudolph’s act of kindness makes autistic boy’s day, will make yours too

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I officially have a new favorite college football player. And, on a completely unrelated note, if it gets dusty up in here, don’t blame me.

Travis Rudolph is a star wide receiver for the Florida State Seminoles, talented enough to lead FSU in receiving a year ago and be named preseason first-team All-ACC last month. He might, though, be a better human being than he is a football player.

Check that, he is.

That would be Rudolph sitting with Bo Paske, a middle schooler with autism who the player noticed was eating lunch alone as the team visited Montford Middle School.  The act of kindness, which brought Bo’s mom Leah to tears, just seemed like the thing to do to Rudolph.

“I asked if I could sit next to him, and he said ‘sure, why not?’” Rudolph said according to the Orlando Sentinel. “I just felt like we had a great conversation.

“He started off and was so open. He told me his name was Bo, and how much he loves Florida State, and he went from there.”

Rudolph told reporters following practice yesterday that he nearly teared up reading the mother’s Facebook post.  He also said the young boy can have his cell number if he needs/wants it.

Suffice to say, Rudolph’s head coach was very proud of his player.

“You can affect people in a lot of ways. That’s the way you affect people,” Jimbo Fisher said. “Make somebody’s day by being yourself, and going and spreading the word, and understanding the impact you have as an athlete and role model to people in the community.”

“I was extremely proud of him. He made some young man’s day.”

Everyone, regardless of whether you’re an FSU fan or not, should be proud of this young man.  What a beautiful display of humanity and compassion, something from which we could all learn a lesson.

CFT 2016 Preseason Previews: the ACC

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 05:  Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers holds the ACC Championship trophy after defeating the North Carolina Tar Heels 45-37 at the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Championship at Bank of America Stadium on December 5, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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As the 2016 season draws near, we will peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the East Coast’s Power Five entrant.

The first two years of the College Football Playoff, the ACC, along with the Big Ten and SEC, sent a team to the semifinals each postseason go ’round.  Florida State was knocked out of the semifinals by Oregon in 2014, while Clemson made it to the national championship game last year before being bested by Alabama.

During that span, and really for a couple of years prior, FSU and Clemson were essentially the only football things the conference had to crow about nationally.  Could this be the year when other teams in the league join them?  That remains to be seen, although North Carolina and Louisville both have the talent and potential to be labeled as playoff darkhorses entering the 2016 season.

So, without any further ado, let’s see how this little corner of the college football world sees the ACC race shaking out.

ACC ATLANTIC

1. Clemson (14-1 in 2015; lost to Alabama in College Football Playoff title game)
This is damn-near flip-a-coin territory as you really couldn’t go wrong in the top spot with two of the best teams not only in the division but in the country.  In the end, I went with the team with the more experienced — and, for now, talented and productive — quarterback.  Deshaun Watson is not only the most heralded and decorated quarterback at the FBS level, he’s one of the most gifted players at any position in the game and is earmarked for the Top Three of next year’s NFL draft.  In the sport of college football, one player — see: Newton, Cam — can indeed make a team better than the roster would suggest they should be.  Fortunately for Watson, he’s not in that category as he’s surrounded by talented playmakers, although there could be some concern in replacing experience lost on the defensive side of the ball.

2. Florida State (10-3 in 2015, lost to Houston in Peach Bowl)
Last year was a quote-unquote “rebuilding year” at FSU, and the Seminoles still managed a 10-win season and a spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games.  They return nine starters on offense — one of those starters, quarterback Sean Maguire, will begin the season on the sidelines due to injury, replaced by redshirt freshman Deondre Francois — and six on the defensive side of the ball.  Since winning the national championship in 2013, Jimbo Fisher has pulled in recruiting classes ranked second (2016), third (2015) and fourth (2014).  So yes, there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to talent.  And, perhaps most importantly, they get Clemson at home in Tallahassee this season.

3. Louisville (8-5 in 2015, beat Texas A&M in Music City Bowl)
After winning six of their last seven games last season, Louisville is poised to provide Clemson and Florida State with a challenge in the ACC Atlantic — whether that statement should end with an exclamation point or question mark remains to be seen.  The Cardinals nearly derailed the Tigers’ early-season title hopes last season in coming three points shy of an upset.  That was followed a month later by a 20-point loss to the Seminoles.  With 16 returning starters, including superb dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson, the talent is certainly there for the U of L to, potentially, compete with the big boys of the division.  Whether they can turn that competing potential into reality will be known within the first month of the season as they will face their divisional nemeses in Weeks 3 (FSU) and 5 (at Clemson).

4. North Carolina State (7-6 in 2015, lost to Mississippi State in Belk Bowl)
The following stat is highly illuminating, and a fairly good summation of the state of the Wolfpack under Dave Doeren: in the last two seasons, NC State went 0-10 vs. bowl-eligible teams in the regular season, 13-1 vs. teams that weren’t.  In other words, the Wolfpack is just good enough to qualify for a middle-of-the-road bowl, but don’t appear even remotely ready to compete against the best the division has to offer let alone the conference elite.  The loss of do-everything quarterback Jacoby Brissett won’t help get to the next level, and neither will a schedule that features road tests against Clemson, Louisville and North Carolina as well as home dates with Notre Dame, Florida State and Miami.

5. Boston College (3-9 in 2015)
Coming off a combined six wins the previous two seasons, BC went 7-6 in each of the first two years of the Steve Addazio era on Chestnut Hill.  Year 3 brought a slide back to 3-9, a mark that included zero wins in conference play, again renewing concerns about the future of the Eagles football program.  The Eagles careened to the end 2015 on an eight-game losing streak and will enter 2016 with a third offensive coordinator in four seasons.  The defense being above-average is a given; if Scot Loeffler can resurrect a moribund offense, BC could be headed back to a bowl game after a one-year sabbatical.

6. Wake Forest (3-9 in 2015)
Hired to replace the resigning Jim Grobe, Dave Clawson was viewed as a head coach who could help breathe some life into a flailing football program.  Instead, Clawson has put a pair of three-win seasons on the board — the worst two-year stretch for the Demon Deacons since four wins in 1995-96 — that have left his seat at least a little bit on the warm side.  Wake hasn’t played in a bowl since 2011, and Clawson hasn’t shied away from publicly stating the postseason is his goal this season.  The schedule sets up somewhat favorably for a bowl run as Wake plays seven homes games this year, with six of those coming against sub-.500 teams.  If a bowl is not in the picture? Place Clawson squarely on the hot seat entering 2017.

7. Syracuse (4-8 in 2015)
If nothing more, first-year head coach Dino Babers and his fast-paced offense will add some on-field electricity to a Carrier Dome that could certainly use it.  Whether that translates into immediate success in the won/loss column seems unlikely as Babers will likely need 2-3 years to procure the personnel that will fit his system.  Well, that and the fact that Babers inherited a program that won a combined seven games the past two seasons.  And a 2016 schedule that includes games against Louisville, Notre Dame, Clemson and Florida State.

ACC COASTAL

1. North Carolina (11-3 in 2015, lost to Baylor in Russell Athletic Bowl)
North Carolina allowed two touchdowns fewer per game last season than the year before, and they return six defensive starters from that much-improved squad.  While they return seven starters on the other side of the ball, one of those that has to be replaced is record-setting quarterback Marquise Williams.  The good news is that Williams’ replacement, redshirt junior Mitch Trubisky, has plenty of experience, having thrown for 1,000-plus yards in 19 games as a career backup.  The schedule could prove problematic in getting back to double-digit wins as UNC opens the season on a neutral field against Georgia, then travel to Florida State, Miami and Duke the rest of the year.  Still, the Tar Heels should be the team to beat in the Coastal.

2. Miami (8-5 in 2015, lost to Washington State in Sun Bowl)
Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Mark Richt is a significant upgrade over Al Golden on the sidelines, and it’s not really close.  Richt’s parting of the ways with Georgia paved the way for The U to find its best hope for a return to national prominence since the days of Butch Davis.  With 15 returning starters, a number that includes ACC passing-yards-per-game leader Brad Kaaya, the talent is there for Richt to make an immediate impact.  In fact, it should surprise no one if it’s the Hurricanes representing the Coastal in a conference championship game — an appearance that would mark Miami’s first-ever appearance in the title tilt since joining the league in 2004.  And that little factoid, in a nutshell, sums up the pre-Richt State of The U.

3. Pittsburgh (8-5 in 2015, lost to Navy in Military Bowl)
James Conner and his kicking cancer’s ass — while also rehabbing a bum MCL — is one of the feel-good stories of the entire 2016 offseason.  Combine a healthy Connor with reigning ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year Qadree Ollison, and the Panthers would possess one of the most talented backfield tandems in the conference if not the nation.  Coming off the program’s best season in five years under first-year head coach Pat Narduzzi and returning 16 starters, there’s a cautious optimism permeating the Steel City.   Whether that optimism remains after league road trips to North Carolina, Miami and Clemson — not to mention a date with Oklahoma State in Stillwater — is to be determined.

4. Virginia Tech (7-6 in 2015, beat Tulsa in Independence Bowl)
For the first time in nearly three decades, Frank Beamer won’t be patrolling the sidelines when Tech opens the 2016 season.  40-year-old Justin Fuente is Beamer’s replacement, and arguably the best move he made since his hiring was retaining long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster.  With Foster in place, Fuente can turn his attention to installing his up-temp offense in Blacksburg.  It may take a year or two — and a recruiting class or two — for Fuente’s offensive ways to take root and blossom, but he should prove to be one of the three best hires of the 2015 coaching carousel.

5. Georgia Tech (3-9 in 2015)
From the opener in 2014 through the first two games of last season, Tech won 13 of 16 games.  After that, the Yellow Jackets went 1-9 the last 10 games to stagger to the end of 2015.  The lone win in that stretch?  A 22-16 shocker over Florida State.  The good news, if you can call it that, is that six of those nine losses were by eight points or less, with three of those coming by four or fewer.  Still, Tech’s streak of 18 straight bowl appearances came to an end; if the running game gets back to its previous levels — they averaged nearly 90 yards fewer on the ground than the year before — and Justin Thomas reverts to his sophomore form under center, there’s no reason the Yellow Jackets can’t start a new one.

6. Duke (8-5 in 2015, beat Indiana in Pinstripe Bowl)
In the first iteration of this preview, I slotted Duke at No. 4 in the Coastal, in very large part because of the guarded (misguided?) optimism that starting quarterback Thomas Sirk would, coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon, return at some point early on in the 2016 season.  Whoops?  With Sirk out for the season, the task of maintaining Duke football’s lofty levels of recent success has gotten exponentially more difficult.  The Blue Devils won 27 games the past three seasons, five more than the program won, combined, in the 13 seasons before David Cutcliffe‘s arrival in 2008.  What people tend to forget is that, prior to win totals of 10 (2013), nine (2014) and eight (2015) the past three seasons, Cutcliffe’s squads posted win totals of four, five, three, three and six from 2008-12; here’s to guessing there’s a dip back toward the latter in 2016 before rising back to the former.

7. Virginia (4-8 in 2015)
Bronco Mendenhall was one of the best — and most surprising — hires of the most recent spinning of the coaching carousel, but the former BYU head coach has his work cut out for him in Charlottesville.  The past four seasons under Mike London, the Cavaliers won a total of 15 games.  UVa. also, naturally, struggled in conference play, winning just eight of 32 ACC games in that span.  If anyone can get the program turned around it’s Mendenhall, although it’ll take time.  Fortunately for all involved, the new coach should get plenty of that.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION
Clemson over North Carolina

North Dakota State starts 5-time FCS title defense with OT defeat of Charleston Southern

AMES, IA - AUGUST 30: North Dakota Bison fans cheer on their team in the second half of play against the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium on August 30, 2014 in Ames, Iowa. North Dakota State defeated Iowa State 34-14. (Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images)
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Charleston Southern came at the five-time kings, and they missed.

Playing in the third annual FCS Kickoff — the official opening to college football season whenever there’s not a game in Australia — the No. 6 ranked Buccanneers had a chance to knock off the top-ranked and five-time defending FCS national champions at their raucous FargoDome home yesterday. After tying the game at 17-17 with 2:59 remaining in regulation, Charleston Southern allowed North Dakota State to march to their 35-yard line when Troy McGowens stepped in front of an Eason Stick and raced the ball to the Bison’s 40-yard line.

With just 18 ticks remaining, Charleston Southern pushed the ball to the Bison 33, setting Jacob Smoak up for a game-winning 51-yard field goal. It sailed wide left.

And, as they’ve done so many other times this decade, the Bison capitalized when winning time presented itself.

North Dakota State (1-0) opened overtime by scoring on their very first play, a 25-yard King Frazier scoring dash, then limited Charleston Southern (0-1) to just one yard on its possession, forcing Kyle Copeland into an incomplete pass on 4th-and-9 from the 24.

The 24-17 overtime win pushed North Dakota State to an unthinkable 72-5 since the beginning of the 2011 season, including a 43-3 mark in the FargoDome.

Overall, North Dakota State held a 194-94 yardage edge through the air, 230-169 on the ground and a 21-11 edge in first downs. Stick completed 17-of-27 throws for 194 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, while Copeland hit only 8-of-20 passes for 94 yards with a pick. Frazier led the Bison with 11 carries for 79 yards and a score, while Mike Holloway led all rushers for the Bucs with 10 carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns.

Each team will have a chance to prove its mettle on the FBS level next month. North Dakota State — 4-0 against FBS competition during its run, all on the road (obviously), with three wins of those wins by multiple touchdowns — visits defending Big Ten West champion Iowa on Sept. 17. Charleston Southern visits No. 4 Florida State on Sept. 10.

Florida State strength coach Vic Viloria arrested on DUI charge

RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 27: Florida State Seminoles players take the field for their game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on September 27, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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In what has become Discipline Saturday across college football, Florida State has seen one of its coaches entangled with law enforcement. Head football strength coach Vic Viloria was arrested Friday night for driving under the influence as well as property damage. He was released just after noon local time from a Leon County jail, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

According to the report, police found Viloria asleep at the wheel with his truck in drive and his foot on the break pedal. He had already launched the vehicle up an embankment, missing a utility pole and colliding with an electronic cross-walk sign.

From the paper:

He told police he was coming from work where he drank multiple “big” alcoholic beverages in his office on FSU’s campus. He also acknowledged that he should not have been driving.

A passerby had earlier alerted police to Viloria sitting at the stoplight at Lakeshore Drive and Monroe Street where he sat through several green lights without moving, court records say.

He told police he ended up on the off-ramp as he tried to turn around to head to his Golden Eagle home. Officers noted his watery eyes, slurred speech and a moderate smell of alcohol on his breath.

And the Tallahassee police force’s incident report:

The Seminoles have released the following statement:

“We are aware of the reported incident and are in the process of gathering more information. The issue falls under the human resources policies for university employees, which restricts further comment at this time.”

Viloria is one of Jimbo Fisher‘s top lieutenants, having served as his head strength coach for all seven of Fisher’s year as the Seminoles’ as head coach. His official Florida State bio lists Viloria as “a major part of Florida State’s resurgence.”

“The foundation for the unprecedented success is forged by Viloria,” it reads. “The Seminoles have made noticeable physical gains across the board and significantly cut back on injuries as Viloria and his staff remain on the cutting edge of technology. Under Viloria, FSU became the first college football program to utilize advanced GPS technology to measure energy exertion and regulate rest and physical action.”

Viloria is the second college football coach to be arrested for DUI this month. Nebraska wide receivers coach Keith Williams received his third arrest for such charge, and was suspended without pay for the remainder of the month, while also being required to miss the Huskers’ first four games of the season.

Jimbo Fisher pegs Deondre Francois as QB starter vs. Ole Miss

TALLAHASSEE, FL - APRIL 11:  Head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Florida State Seminole watches action during Florida State's Garnet and Gold spring game at Doak Campbell Stadium on April 11, 2015 in Tallahassee, Florida.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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As if we didn’t already know, Deondre Francois will start at quarterback for Florida State next Monday night against Ole Miss, Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher revealed Saturday.

This particular two and two weren’t hard to put together, considering Francois was in a two-horse race with Sean Maguire and Maguire recently missed time with a foot injury. (Maguire has returned to the practice field two weeks ahead of his four week prognosis, however.)

Maguire saw action in eight games last season and was good, not great. The then-junior connected on 59 percent of his passes for 1,520 yards (an even eight per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against six interceptions, good for an efficiency rating that would have placed him 40th nationally with enough qualifying attempts.

Francois, however, is more in the mold of other Fisher quarterbacks. A consensus four-star recruit out of IMG Academy, Francois was 247Sports‘s No. 64 player nationally in the class of 2015 and the No. 3 pro-style quarterback, ranking behind only UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Alabama’s Blake Barnett.

Earning the start is an incredibly good omen for Francois. Every starting quarterback to matriculate under Fisher at Florida State — read: not Everett Golson — has gone on to become a first-round pick: Christian Ponder to the Vikings, E.J. Manuel to the Bills and Heisman winner Jameis Winston No. 1 overall to the Buccaneers.

Starting Francois is also an incredibly good omen for the Seminoles. Every uber-recent team to win a national championship has been piloted there by a first-year starter at quarterback (with one notable exception), dating back to Alabama’s Greg McElroy in 2009, to Auburn’s Cam Newton in 2010, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron in 2011 (then again in 2012), Winston for Florida State in 2013, Ohio State’s Cardale Jones in 2014 and, finally, Alabama’s Jake Coker in 2015.

Is there anything to that trend beyond mere coincidence? I have no idea. But, should the redshirt freshman hold on to his gig for the remainder of the season, both Francois and Florida State will be on the right side of (recent) history.

The fourth-ranked ‘Noles face No. 11 Ole Miss next Monday night in Orlando (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).