Last season's record: 10-4
Returning starters: 16
Key losses: QB Christian Ponder, G Rodney Hudson, WR Taiwan Easterling (MLB), DE Markus White, LB Mister Alexander, LB Kendall Smith
Key returnees: TB Chris Thompson, WR Bert Reed, OT Andrew Datko, OT Zebrie Sanders, K Dustin Hopkins, DE Brandon Jenkins, LB Nigel Bradham, CB Greg Reid, CB Xavier Rhodes, P Shawn Powell
Best game: Sept. 17, vs. Oklahoma
Projected finish: 12-2, Orange Bowl
Outlook: Unquestionably the most talented team in the conference, the media expect Florida State to cruise through the Atlantic Division and then defeat Coastal winner Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game. Ranked No. 5 in the coaches' poll and No. 6 in the AP Poll, coach Jimbo Fisher and Co. are ready to state their case as one of college football's elite programs once again. While the Seminoles have to replace Ponder, who was the 12th-overall pick in the NFL Draft, new starter E.J. Manuel has plenty of experience under center and is a gifted athlete at 6-5 and 245 pounds. On the other side of the ball, both the defensive line and the secondary are loaded and can throw fresh bodies at the opponent from series to series. Also, special teams should be a strength with Hopkins kicking, Powell punting and Reid returning.
John Crist is the editor-in-chief of NoleDigest.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.