CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher hopes his players will be ready for a demanding opening month that could determine whether the Seminoles are playoff contenders.
Speaking at the Atlantic Coast Conference's preseason media days Thursday, Fisher pointed to lessons learned from last year's lopsided loss to Louisville and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson in September. The Seminoles open the season this year against Alabama in Atlanta, then face ACC foes Miami and North Carolina State later in September.
"I think last year will hopefully make us understand that it's not only a one-game deal at the beginning, that it's going to be all the way through and that first half of the season," Fisher said. "We're going to have to be extremely prepared physically, mentally, psychologically and every way for it. And then I think last year hopefully will be that teaching tool because you learn from your experiences, good and bad."
The annual showdown with Clemson isn't until November. The Tigers and Seminoles have combined to win the last six league titles, and each have won a national title in the past four seasons.
FSU should get a boost from the return of safety Derwin James, who missed 11 games in 2016 due to a knee injury. James, considered one of the top defensive players in college football, is healthy and ready to get back on the field.
"It was a long experience that I went through last year," James said. "I learned a lot just from being on the sidelines and watch from a coach's standpoint. … When the coaches get on you it's because of a reason and something they see. I didn't get that at first, but now I understand that."
The Atlantic Division took center stage, including Dabo Swinney's reigning national champion Tigers and the Cardinals with Jackson. They joined coaches and players from Boston College, North Carolina State, Syracuse and Wake Forest in Charlotte on Thursday.
Commissioner John Swofford held his state-of-the-league forum, celebrating a big 2016 for the league but also noting: "We also know you don't live too long on last year's laurels." Swofford also said that he doesn't see divisional realignment coming anytime soon, nor have there been discussions about adding Notre Dame -- a member in all other league sports -- as a football member.
Swofford also declined to provide specific updates on work to launch the ACC's TV channel in 2019.
The Coastal Division teams -- Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia and Virginia Tech -- will hold interview sessions Friday.