Florida State football preview: Seminoles 2017 schedule, roster and three things to watch

Jimbo Fisher knows Alabama awaits in the opener, but he's not biting into the talk about FSU's looming showdown in Atlanta.

Florida State enters the 2017 season with the same lofty expectations in the ACC under eighth-year coach Jimbo Fisher.

Fisher has brought that elite stability back to the program. The Seminoles have finished in the Top 10 five times and won 10 or more games six times in those seven seasons. The Seminoles capped last season with an impressive 33-32 victory against Michigan in the Capital One Orange Bowl, and that increased expectations heading into 2017.

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The Seminoles open with Alabama at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlantaand travel to Clemson later in the season, so there will be plenty for Fisher to talk about. The Seminoles are ranked No. 5 in Sporting News' Way-Too-Early Top 25, and here's a preview of the FSU’s 2017 schedule, roster and biggest questions entering the season.

When is Florida State'sspring game?

Florida State’s spring game is Saturday, April 8, at 3 p.m. at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. Television coverage has yet to be determined.

2017 Florida State football schedule

Sept. 2: vs. Alabama (Atlanta)

Sept. 9: vs. Louisiana-Monroe

Sept. 16: vs. Miami, Fla.

Sept. 23: vs. N.C. State

Sept. 30: at Wake Forest

Oct. 7: BYE

Oct. 14: at Duke

Oct. 21: vs. Louisville

Oct. 28: at Boston College

Nov. 4: vs. Syracuse

Nov. 11: at Clemson

Nov. 18: vs. Delaware State

Nov. 25: at Florida

Dec. 2: ACC championship game

2017 Florida State recruiting class

Florida State’s recruiting class averaged a No. 6 ranking across four major recruiting sites, and the Seminoles did well once again. Five-star defensive tackle was a high-profile get on Signing Day, and five-star running back Cam Akers should contribute right away.

2017 Florida State roster

Florida State’s roster will be updated throughout the spring and fall here.

Three things to watch

1. How do you replace Dalvin Cook?

Cook was a game-changer at running back who finished with 4,464 rushing yards and 46 TDs the last three seasons with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Jacques Patrick, who averaged 5.7 yards per carry last season, likely will get the first crack at the starting job. Cam Akers will attract a lot of attention as a five-star recruit, too. Amir Rasul also could figure in with carries. You can’t just replace a player like Cook, but FSU has solid options in the backfield.

2. What’s next for Deondre Francois?

Francois gave FSU the stability it needed at quarterback last season, and he could emerge into a Heisman Trophy candidate as a redshirt sophomore. Despite constant comparisons to Jameis Winston, Francois has done a nice job carving his own path. The Seminoles did to re-tool an offensive line that lost tackle Roderick Johnson to the 2017 NFL Draft. Francois can make the leap with improved protection. Francois finished 4-2 against ranked teams in 2016, and he’ll get Alabama in the opener. That’s a statement game for a quarterback if there ever was one.

3. Who picks up pressure?

FSU’s defense ranked 44th in the FBS by allowing 25.0 points per game, and the key will be replacing DeMarcus Walker, who had 16 sacks. Brian Burns (8.5 sacks), Josh Sweat (7.0), Derrick Nnadi (6.0) and Jacob Pugh (4.5) give the Seminoles incredible talent up front. Leading tackler Matthew Thomas leads the linebackers, and safety Derwin James returns after missing most of last season with a knee injury. Florida State boasts a lot of talent on that side.

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