But the circumstances are quite different than they were last September.
Outside of the obvious location change from Louisiana to Florida, the expectations for both teams are a whole lot higher.
A year ago, both teams needed their brands to warrant calling this a big game as both were unranked. Both were hoping to right the ship after sinking to some of their lowest levels this century.
Now, it’ll likely be a matchup of top-ten teams that are popular dark horse picks to be playing in the College Football Playoff this winter.
It’s not the end-all-be-all for either of these teams but a nonconference win over the other would be a huge resume-builder to start the year.
Florida State vs. LSU
Date: Sunday, Sept. 3, 2023
Location: Orlando, FL
Previous matchup: 2022 — Florida State 24, LSU 23
All-time series: FSU leads 8-2
LSU Tigers: Team Preview
2022 record: 10-4
Two things to know:
- LSU will likely enter Brian Kelly’s second season in Baton Rouge as a top-ten team in the country. His Tigers are coming off a 10-win, SEC West championship season. That ended with a blowout loss to Georgia in the SEC title game, but it recalibrated the expectations for the purple and gold from competing in their division to competing for the College Football Playoff.
- LSU — just like FSU — played their most recent game in Camping World Stadium. That game a 63-7 blowout of Purdue in the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl. With FSU as the reigning Cheez-It Bowl champion, this is to determine who is The Big Cheese (I’m sorry).
Three key players:
- LB Harold Perkins Jr. — It’s not often that a team with a quarterback that could be in New York City for the Heisman ceremony doesn’t lead this list, but this is one I’m willing to do it for. Harold Perkins is a former five-star linebacker who was flatly absurd for this LSU defense a season ago as a freshman.
He finished his first year in Baton Rouge named as a first-team All-SEC selection and was named to every first-team Freshman All-American Team I can find. Fast, agile and powerful just cracks the surface of what he flashed in his first year.
Whether rushing the QB or playing spy, Perkins made opposing quarterbacks crazy last season including haunting Alabama’s Bryce Young throughout their matchup.
Trying to prep for this year’s draft but Harold Perkins keeps getting in the way pic.twitter.com/gI6YARHDGr— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) February 15, 2023
He’s a leading candidate for SEC and potentially National Defensive Player of the Year this season. If FSU wants to be successful, they need to keep No. 40 off Jordan Travis as much as possible.
- QB Jayden Daniels — Despite not getting top billing from me, Daniels is no slouch at quarterback, though you wouldn’t know it from watching last year’s Florida State-LSU game. Daniels showed a reluctance to throw the ball down field until the final drive. He looked nothing more than a run-first QB whose arm was pretty iffy.
But he really took off soon after.
Many websites list him as the best quarterback in the SEC now that Bryce Young is playing in the NFL and it’s easy to see why. He’s an electric runner who commands the offense well and protects the ball as well as any QB in the country with five years starting under his belt. There’s not much more you can ask out of a college quarterback.
Despite the growth as a passer, he’s still most dangerous with his legs. FSU will need to limit that to keep the LSU offense down.
- DT Maason Smith — This spot could easily go to WR Malik Nabers, who is among the best receivers in the country and potential breakout superstar for the LSU offense, or Mekhi Wingo, another star defensive lineman for the Tigers who shined in Smith’s absence last year, but I think Smith is one to watch for this game in particular.
You likely don’t remember Smith from last year’s game because he suffered a season-ending injury in the first quarter while celebrating a teammates tackle for loss. The injury was a gut punch to the middle of the LSU defense in that contest as Smith was coming off an All-SEC and Freshman All-American season in 2021.
He’ll be making his first appearance since last year’s FSU game when the two meetup again this year. In the long run, it led to the development of Wingo as an elite DL as well. If Smith is back to full strength and plays to the level of his freshman campaign, he and Wingo will be the best DT combo the Seminoles face all season — a tall task in the season opener.
Florida State vs. LSU: Game Preview
The best scenario is Florida State’s run game finds success early and often, slowing down the LSU pass rush and turning Harold Perkins into a tackler instead of a game-breaking rusher. Enough success on the ground causes Perkins and others to slow up just a bit on play actions opening the door for Johnny Wilson to dominate downfield.
If FSU’s offense can do that, this can be a shootout that I don’t think LSU will be able to keep up with all night.
Realistically, this could be one of the best college football games of the season. Last year’s rather ugly contest in the rearview mirror, these teams are both poised to show the world they’re title contenders. Both teams have elite college quarterbacks aiming to prove they can be Heisman and NFL worthy. Both have elite receivers that be X-factors in any game. Both have professional-caliber starters along the front seven. I think we get a finish like last season with a much better football game building to an awesome finish.
Florida State can’t find their run game and Harold Perkins is able to focus on making Jordan Travis’ life miserable. In a battle of dynamic QBs, this could feel like a shootout. Any missed drives can have you scrambling to catch up quickly. Florida State can’t afford to have a disappearing act for a full quarter like we saw in the Clemson game in 2022 to win this one. If they vanish for a few drives in a row, it could be a mountain too tall to climb.