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No. 17 Florida State

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Last Season: 9-4 (defeated Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl).

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Returning Starters: 8 offense, 5 defense.

Key Game: at Clemson, Nov. 7.

Why They're Worth Watching

The Seminoles are the favorites in the ACC Atlantic, and for good reason. The entire offensive line returns, which means five linemen who have a combined 89 starts under their belts. That bodes well for the running game, even though FSU lost its leading rusher, Antone Smith. Expect Jermaine Thomas to shine. Quarterback Christian Ponder had the fourth-highest single-season rushing total by a quarterback in school history last season. He should take a step forward with the passing game after throwing 13 interceptions last season. The last time Florida State returned this many starters was 2003, which was also the last time the Seminoles won 10 games.

Player to Watch

Dekoda Watson, Sr., LB

This may be Florida State's best team in a few years, but they won't have a legitimate star offensively until Ponder or Thomas can perform in each game. Watson is worth keeping an eye on because he has three career defensive touchdowns and two blocked kicks.

Why They're Vulnerable

The Seminoles lost six defensive starters, including their top two tacklers and top two sack leaders. They must also find a replacement for Lou Groza Award winner Graham Gano at place kicker. Gano made all but two of his 26 field goal attempts last season. Thomas, who averaged seven yards per carry last season, has potential, but he needs to prove he can be the featured back. And it remains to be seen whether a wide receiver can emerge; a lot could depend on whether Taiwan Easterling and Richard Goodman have recovered from their respective injuries. That stands as one of the lingering issues on a team that otherwise has plenty of pieces to win its division.

-- Eric Prisbell

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