After a seemingly endless offseason, No. 4 FSU opens its 2016 campaign with a neutral-site showdown with No. 11 Ole Miss in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium. Here’s how the Tomahawk Nation staff sees this one playing out:
Ole Miss is very talented; likely the second most talented team on the schedule but the Rebels are also very young and thin at key spots that spell danger vs. this Florida State team. With the limited health of their best edge-setter Fadol Brown, Ole Miss is thin at DE, LB, and young at safety, a terrifying prospect vs. Dalvin Cook behind a veteran offensive line. Chad Kelly is dangerous and so are his very talented wide receivers but they're young at offensive tackle (starting their best guard at LT) and running back. I think the ‘Noles will largely shut down the Ole Miss running game forcing Chad Kelly into unfavorable passing situations vs. Josh Sweat and Demarcus Walker as well as a very talented FSU secondary. Francois will manage the game well and Florida State will ride a healthy Dalvin Cook and an elite defense to the tune of a 24-16 victory over the Rebels of Mississippi.
As always, I'm going to assume the worst when it comes to these big games. I think as much as this Florida State team could be great on defense, the offense could really struggle. The offensive line worries me and you just never know with a young quarterback. If Cook breaks out, I think FSU wins by at least 10. If he is held in check, I think it's a toss up. Oh, and Florida State’s kicking game worries me. I'll go FSU 24, Ole Miss 21.
34-20 Noles. Good night, sweet Chad.
A low scoring, field-position game can and usually does come down to the kicking game and considering FSU is starting freshman at both kicker and punter, put me in the uneasy camp. FSU misses 2 makeable field goals and struggles to flip the field all night. The injuries on the offensive line prevent any form of rhythm from developing. FSU comes up just short in the end.
Ole Miss 23, Florida State 16
It's always a neat story when the little guys like FIU or Delaware or Ole Miss are good at football. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, that nice story is about to get off to a rough start. Luckily, they're in a conference where they can bounce back and pick up wins (though Tennessee admittedly had an impressive victory over Appalachian State in week 1, so they look to be tough opponent). Ole Miss does have an ACC quarterback, so FSU will have their hands full there. But otherwise, FSU is just better. FSU's running backs are better than the Ole Miss running backs. FSU's secondary is better than the Ole Miss secondary. FSU's fat guys are better than the Ole Miss fat guys. Noles by three scores.
Ole Miss has recruited well the past couple of years but they've lost a lot from last year's team. I don't envy any starting line going up against FSU's defense and Ole Miss is breaking a bunch of new starters at that position. While offensive line injuries, starting a new quarterback and kickers, and a lack of a proven top threat at receiver certainly worry me I think Cook, the defense, and FSU's depth will allow the Noles to start the season 1-0. FSU: 24-14.
I think Florida State matches up really well with a very talented team in Ole Miss. I especially like the Seminoles’ counter-punches on defense: Length at corner to contest 50/50 balls and slants off zone-reads, a bruising defensive line to counter the run threat between the tackles, and rangy athletic safeties that wouldn't mind a 1-on-1 chance against an out-of-pocket Chad Kelly. On offense, I like FSU’s OL that can IZ and OZ block to open things up nicely for the best running back in program history, an all-around player in Ryan Izzo at TE, and the WRs to make the right choices in defeating coverages. Also, I have this feeling that Deondre Francois is going to ball out. I think if Ole Miss plays soft to take away the intermediate stuff, I think he can hit the out-routes & comebacks all day. I'm very interested to see what his improvising looks like after a play breaks down too. Give me FSU 31, Ole Miss 20.
Florida State has the ability to out play the Rebels at almost every position. Ole Miss has been a powerhouse of the SEC for two years, but they've lost the main talent. More important than who they lost is where they lost the guys.
Ole Miss will be hurting where FSU is strongest. The loss of a Robert Nkemdiche means easier running lanes for Cook. The lack of wideout Laquan Treadwell makes the Seminoles’ secondary’s job easier. Laremy Tunsil's absence puts an inexperienced left tackle against Walker or Sweat and that spells disaster for the Rebels in the backfield.
FSU 38-OM 20
I expect a close game for three quarters before the Noles finally pull away and win by 2 TD’s.
Almost everyone has already heard about Cook. On Monday night they will be introduced to Francois, who will finish with very respectable numbers: over 250 passing and 60 rushing yards, but will also probably throw a pick. Cook will get his first 100 yard game of the season and will finish with ~120 yards.
Swag Kelly will also have respectable similar numbers to Francois, but the end zone will be elusive for OM once the D settles down after the first few series.
It will be a close, tight game for a little while, but then it will get fun. FSU 31 – Ole Miss 17.
There are tons of unanswered questions as we enter the opener. The biggest for Florida State (figuratively AND literally) are on the offensive line. Will Alec Eberle play? If not, the Seminoles will be forced to start a true freshman, Andrew Boselli at center (not ideal). We now know Kareem Are is out at left guard, forcing Derrick Kelly to start (not a huge loss, assuming Kelly is 100% after knee surgery). Can new right tackle Rick Leonard handle the Ole Miss pash rush, or will Jimbo Fisher need to keep Ryan Izzo and/or Freddie Stevenson in to help? How cohesive will the OL be with all the new bodies? The Seminoles also will be starting a green quarterback in Francois, a redshirt freshman with zero experience. He's obviously very talented (HS All-American), but you never know how a youngster will react in live-game action, especially on the biggest stage.
The Rebels are talented, especially under-center with Chad Kelly, but in the end, FSU has the most dynamic running back in college in Cook, and I believe the ‘Noles will be excellent on defense this season.
It probably won't be pretty at times (I really like the under), but I'll take the men in garnet and gold to win (and cover) 24-17.
Barring some injury we aren't aware of (assuming FSU's entire starting offensive line plays), Florida State just have too much depth at important positions and will be able to exploit some critical matchups on both sides of the ball. Offensively, I think FSU will be able to move the ball both with Cook and through the air against that young and untested Ole Miss secondary. On the other side of the ball, I'm counting on the defense to overwhelm Ole Miss' inexperienced offensive line, and I think FSU's secondary will be able to keep the Rebs' passing attack in check. Don't forget: Francois is probably going to make a freshman mistake at some point during this game. Chad Kelly can, and will, make some plays with his arm and feet. Both are to be expected. In the end, I think FSU takes a second half lead and wins by two scores. I'm going to take the ‘Noles 31-20.
Chad Kelly and his talented receivers will make some plays in this game, but the FSU defense should be able to keep them in check for most of the night. If the ‘Noles are going to win, the offensive line will need to protect Francois so the passing attack will offer a threat to keep the entire focus off of Cook. Florida State will also have to convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns. A red-zone conversion rate like last season could be costly. Even without a healthy interior offensive line, I think the ‘Noles do enough to get the job done, 27-20.
For the third straight year, the ‘Noles will have a new quarterback leading the offense. As long as Francois has a decent night, FSU should have a great shot to win, especially with Dalvin Cook running the ball. I, as most other people, think the Heisman Trophy candidate will begin his 2016 season strong and set the tone for the FSU offense. On defense, the ‘Noles have way too many weapons for Ole Miss to match up against, and the Rebels, just as every other 2016 opponent, will have scoring troubles all night. I think the ‘Noles pull it out 21-10
This FSU defense is going to be really good. 'Nole fans should be encouraged by that, but also exercise the caution I'm encouraging by employing the phrasing I chose: "going to be." That can present a problem in game one, of course, especially against a quarterback like Kelly who's no stranger to the spotlight.
I think that starting Seminole QB Deondre Francois is also going to be quite good, but that same spotlight is tricky for a signal-caller making his first start to manage. He'll make some big plays, especially with his legs, but he'll also make some mistakes. Cook is the difference-maker in this one, and the 'Noles win, 27-20.
After a weekend of spectacular matchups and shocking upsets, all eyes will be on this Florida State team.
Let me preface by saying that there will definitely be mistakes made by FSU’s offense (expect a bad pick from redshirt freshman QB Francois, WR drops, and a few missed blocking assignments from the OL). However, Cook will do what he does best, taking over a primetime game and racking up 150+ yards and a pair of touchdowns, and the Florida State defense will excel, limiting Ole Miss to a single big play from the Rebels’ talented QB, Kelly. 27-13 ‘Noles with a late TD from Cook icing the game.
Bud Elliott and Ingram Smith
For Bud and Ingram’s predictions, tune into the Ole Miss preview episode of the Nolecast, available on this page.