The long-awaited start to the 2016 Florida State football season is finally upon us, and the Seminoles will start it off in style against SEC West opponent Ole Miss in a matchup between preseason top-15 teams. Although it’s technically a neutral-site game, there are sure to be plenty of ’Noles in the house at Camping World Stadium in Orlando for Monday night’s 8 p.m. ET kick.
Both teams are receiving love in the preseason AP and Coaches polls, but more significantly they’re receiving love from SB Nation’s Bill Connelly, whose S&P+ projections include both FSU and Ole Miss in the top 10. A win is imperative for both teams, as their schedules won’t allow much room for error; FSU follows this one up with trips to Louisville and USF within the first four weeks of the season and the Rebels will have faced Alabama and Georgia back-to-back by the time September ends.
Florida State’s offense enters 2016 confident thanks to the return of the country’s most explosive running back, Dalvin Cook.
Cook tore up Power 5 opponents last season, rushing for 7.69 yards per carry against P5 opposition as part of a 1,691-yard, 19-TD year. FSU’s offensive line will be deep and athletic, and they’ll be facing a talented group of defensive lineman from Ole Miss that ranked top-20 in opponent-adjusted run defense.
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Questions linger in the back seven for Ole Miss, however, where the Rebs are looking at starting first- and second-year players at safety. They’ll be going up against an inexperienced quarterback in redshirt freshman Deondre Francois, who will make his debut for the Seminoles. Francois is a talented, mobile and physically gifted player and Jimbo Fisher has indicated that he has a good grasp of the offense, and he’ll have experience to work with at wideout in Travis Rudolph, Kermit Whitfield and Bobo Wilson. Francois’ legs will allow Fisher to use him to establish the threat of the QB run, and if he can avoid big errors he’ll be able to rely on Cook and guide the offense to success.
The Ole Miss offense is led by Chad Kelly, who led the SEC in passing in 2015 on the strength of a 4,000-yard, 31-TD season. He’ll have an inexperienced O-line in front of him after losing five contributors from a season ago, which could make things difficult against an extremely talented D-line led by tackle Derrick Nnadi and end DeMarcus Walker. On the back end, FSU’s secondary projects as maybe the best in the country, with dynamo safety Derwin James spearheading the unit along with safety Trey Marshall and lengthy corners Marquez White and Tarvarus McFadden.
Bud and Ingram go in-depth ahead of Monday’s season-opening clash, and you won’t find a better pre-game preview anywhere else.