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‘Soft’ factors working for FSU in Saturday’s opener vs. Boise State

The heat is on.

Denver Broncos v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Look, we get it. Despite all the chatter those of us in the media can muster, Florida State and Boise State still need to suit up on Saturday, put helmet to helmet, and play 60 minutes of football. But here’s the thing: no football game is played in a vacuum.

Translation: every game is played by actual, real-life, flesh-and-blood human beings. And while every football field may have the same dimensions, the location of that rectangle can still affect the outcome of the contest disputed thereon. Especially when those variables continue to change, mere hours prior to a kickoff that itself has been altered.

I decided to pen this piece because I’ve lived in both the mountain west — specifically, Boulder, CO — and in Tallahassee for extended stretches. And the respective settings could not be more different.

The beautiful northern Rocky Mountain region of the US enjoys a semi-arid climate. And while that makes for lots of sun and rather mild winters, there’s really no season that affords a realistic comparison to northern Florida in late August. You just can’t simulate the muggy, oppressive humidity of Tallahassee at this time of year. If the Broncos have prepared wisely, and they’re a successful enough program to think they have, they’ve been emphasizing hydration for weeks now.

But even if you think you’ve enough water, it’s difficult to really understand how much is needed in 86-degree heat, which is the forecast for Tally at kickoff while I’m updating this on Friday night. The “RealFeel” prediction for game time at Doak Campbell Stadium, with humidity: 97 degrees, climbing to 100 at 2 pm. That could be a rather demanding adjustment for the Broncos— only two of whom are from Florida.

And that forecast includes a real shot of rain around halftime. Anyone who’s ever lived in the Sunshine State knows that that nickname can be very misleading when the skies decide to open. There’s rain, and then there’s Florida rain, and the accompanying humidity that it can bring.

But that’s just what Boise State could face in Tallahassee. There’s also the matter of when. This game, of course, was originally scheduled for a prime-time kickoff in Jacksonville, where the Broncos flew yesterday. Today, they’ll board busses for a three-hour trip west to Tally, after which they’ll bed down in the third different city and second timezone in three days.

It’s simply not that easy to go to sleep at, say, 10 pm, local time, when your body clock is still maintaining that it’s 8 pm, which is the dilemma faced by Boise State players tonight after traveling east two timezones. And then there’s the morning after, which, for Boise State players, is game day.

Look, I wake up in my own bed most mornings and still don’t know where the hell I am about half the time— these guys have to do that and then go play a game.

And on Mountain Time, this new noon kickoff is a 10 am start for the Broncos; they’ve not started that early since the opener of the 2016 season, against Louisiana-Lafeyette. I worked back to 2013 and couldn’t find an instance in which Boise State kicked off at noon, Eastern Time, against a power-five team.

Before Hurricane Dorian shifted this game from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, Boise State was already facing a de facto road game. Bronco supporters were already going to be far outnumbered by the Seminole faithful. But now it’s actually at FSU, not a technically neutral location. Florida State has the advantage of its own locker room, familiar facilities, and an overall feel for the stadium (especially important for kickers and punters), not to mention what should be an even more lopsided home-field advantage.

On the other hand, it’s also worth noting that when you’re used to thin, mountainous air, as they are in Boise (elevation 2,730’) and then you head to flat land (Tallahassee’s elevation: 203’), there’s quite a difference. I was used to jogging for an hour to 90 minutes in Boulder. When I came back east, I could run for two, three hours, and it felt easy— and I hate jogging. There’s a reason the US Olympic Training Center is in Colorado Springs, CO. Then again, I rarely ran in a 99-degree atmosphere. And I never did it in full pads with Marvin Wilson chasing me.