National champs open 2014 as preseason coaches poll No. 1
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The reigning national champions will start this fall where they ended the 2013 season – at No. 1.
Florida State was ranked No. 1 in the Preseason Amway Coaches Poll (formerly USA Today Coaches Poll) released Thursday.
The Seminoles received 56 of 62 first-place votes. Rounding out the polls top five were No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oklahoma (three first-place votes), No. 4 Oregon (one first-place vote) and No. 5 Auburn. No. 6 Ohio State and No. 9 South Carolina each received one first-place vote, as well.
The last time FSU opened the season No. 1 in the Coaches Poll, in 1999, the Noles went wire-to-wire in the top spot and were crowned national champions.
“There is no added pressure,” Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Our goal every year is to win the National Championship. That’s why we’re at Florida State. We’re very excited about being No. 1 and happy to be No. 1, but we understand that we have to play like No. 1 and we have to play great football. That’s going to be our objective. We’re proud to start there and now we just have to go play great football.”
The Seminoles return 15 starters from last season’s 14-0 squad that set the national record for points (723), while leading the nation in points allowed (12.1).
Led by Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, Florida State had nine players selected to the 26-man Preseason All-ACC team released last week as the Seminoles were a near unanimous pick (104 of 112 votes) to capture their third consecutive ACC title.
Winston headlines an offense that returns four senior starters on the offensive line, including 2013 All-Americans Cameron Erving (LT) and Tre’ Jackson (RG), as well as all-conference honorees Josue Matias (LG) and Bobby Hart (RT). Senior wide receiver Rashad Greene, the Seminoles’ leading receiver the last three years, and Mackey Award finalist Nick O’Leary at tight end also return.
On defense, Florida State returns three members of the nation’s top pass defense that allowed just 156.3 passing yards per game last year in junior cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby and sophomore safety Jalen Ramsey. Williams was named the Defensive MVP of the BCS Championship Game.
The Seminoles also return to the defensive starting lineup junior defensive end Mario Edwards, Jr., junior defensive lineman Eddie Goldman and redshirt junior linebacker Terrance Smith.
Both specialists – redshirt sophomore kicker Roberto Aguayo and junior punter Cason Beatty return as well. Aguayo set the FBS record for points by a kicker (157) in 2013 en route to the Lou Groza Award and several All-America honors.
Sophomore Kermit Whitfield will again be a dangerous weapon in the kick return game. He led the nation in kick return average (36.4) in 2013, setting the ACC record in the process. He returned two kicks for touchdowns, including a 100-yard score against Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game.
Heading into the season, Florida State had 14 players capture 25 mentions on National College Football Awards Association 2014 Watch Lists.
The Seminoles report to fall camp on Sunday and will hold their first practice on Monday. Florida State will open the season against Oklahoma State at 8 p.m. on Aug. 30 at the Cowboys Classic held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Florida State 2014 opponents ranked in the Preseason Coaches Poll are: No. 16 Clemson and No. 17 Notre Dame. Florida and Oklahoma State just missed the poll, receiving the 27th and 30th most votes. Louisville and Miami were also receiving votes.