On Saturday, August 31 at noon on ESPNews the Seminoles will kick off the 2019 season in Doak Campbell Stadium against the Boise State Broncos.
Boise State’s record last season was 10-3 and they won the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. The Broncos were supposed to play Boston College in the First Responder Bowl but the game was canceled due to thunderstorms.
This is the first meeting between the two schools.
Florida State is currently favored by 6.5.
Projected starters for the Seminoles
QB James Blackman. RB Cam Akers. WR Tamarrion Terry, Keith Gavin, DJ Matthews. TE Tre’ McKitty. OL Jauan Williams, Brady Scott, Baveon Johnson, Dontae Lucas, Ryan Roberts.
Nose Tackle Robert Cooper. DE Marvin Wilson, Corey Durden. OLB Janarius Robinson, Leonard Warner. ILB Dontavious Jackson, Jaiden Lars-Woodbey. CB Asante Samuel, Stanford Samuels. S Hamsah Nasirildeen, Lavonta Taylor.
Florida State offense versus Boise State defense
This past Sunday Coach Taggart announced that James Blackman would be the starting quarterback versus Boise State. His ability to stretch the field should help the rushing attack by pushing the linebackers back to help Broncos secondary. Boise finished in the middle of the pack (67th in yards allowed) against the pass last season but got torched through the air by Fresno State in their last game.
The Florida State receiver group is one of the deepest and most athletic the Broncos have seen and I expect this to be a clear advantage for the ‘Noles on Saturday. Whether or not Blackman has enough time to exploit this advantage is the most glaring question. The Broncos front seven versus the much-maligned FSU offensive line could result in some third and longs forcing the quarterback to take too much time.
The biggest matchup on this side of the ball is left tackle Jauan Williams against the Broncos best pass rusher Curtis Weaver (9.5 sacks in ‘18). Williams has added 40 pounds but feels healthier as he gave his shoulder time to heal. New offensive line coach Randy Clements is excited about his improvement and hopefully for the Seminoles Williams can live up to his potential.
BSU’s defense ranked 15th in yards allowed versus the run last year thanks to the solid guys upfront, like David Moa and Chase Hatada, to go along with tackling machines at linebacker, Riley Whimpey and Zeke Noa. Moa may be the only lineman to match up with FSU’s size but the quicker/smaller defensive ends gave the Seminoles issues in ‘18 just as much as the bigger defenders.
Florida State defense versus Boise State offense
Boise State is trying to find replacements for their 3 best offensive weapons; quarterback Brett Rypien, running back Alexander Mattison and wide receiver Sean Modster. Broncos coach Bryan Harsin decided last week to go with the true freshman Hank Bachmeier at QB. Going into the off-season Chase Cord seemed like the most likely candidate to replace Rypien but he wasn’t able to get enough reps while he recovered from an injury and Bachmeier played well enough to win the job. Mattison ripped up the Mountain West but now he’s in the NFL, so Boise will go with a rotation of Andrew Van Buren, Robert Mahone and George Holani at running back. Khalil Shakir and CT Thomas are very capable of helping replace Modster.
With all the question marks at the skill positions it would be easy to assume that the offense might have a dip in production. But the drop off might not be that substantial as BSU’s returns all five of the starters on an offensive line that helped Mattison rush for 1,414 yards, 8th in FBS. All five have been in the program for at least 3 years with 3 of those players are redshirt seniors.
We will find out early how much FSU’s Robert Cooper has improved in the off-season as he tries take up blockers against Boise’s experienced line. If he improves like the Marvin Wilson did between his freshman and sophomore seasons the linebackers Jackson and Lars-Woodbey will be able to flow to the ball carrier. The coaches like what they have seen from Cooper in camp and expect him to do great things this year.
Lavonta Taylor is transitioning to the Rover position where he will be able to play corner or safety depending on what helps the defense the most. Former Seminole great Lamarcus Joyner played like this while he was on campus and continues to do this in the NFL for the Raiders. Figuring out where he is lined up will be one more detail that the inexperienced Bachmeier will have to look out for.
The Seminole defense struggled on third down and long last year due to the lack of a pass rush and breakdowns in the secondary. That trend may continue if the outside linebackers are unable to put pressure on Bachmeier. The corners gained a lot of experience and should be able to handle whatever the offense throws at them. But the verdict is still out on how well the safeties can defend the pass.
FSU has the talent and experience coming back and they will have the advantage on special teams in this game. However after last season Florida State fans are taking the ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ approach to this group. Ricky Agauyo was only 7/11 on field goal attempts last year. Punter Logan Tyler was 41th in the country with 43 yards per punt. DJ Matthews is back to return punts and Keith Gavin will take on kickoff return duties for the Seminoles in 2019. Boise State’s Joel Velasquez will handle the kickoffs and possibly the field goal kicking and punting duties as well. Khalil Shakur is the Broncos’ return man.
The Broncos played more of a mistake free brand of football than the Seminoles in 2018. Boise averaged 3.5 penalties and 1.3 turnovers less than Florida State last year. With FSU bringing back the bulk of the roster and and BSU starting a true freshman under center, the Broncos may be more proned to mistakes than last year.
Even with Florida State getting better at doing little things it still won’t be enough for the Garnet and Gold to run away with it. I expect the Seminoles to win by a field goal or less in the low 20s unless the O-line is able to impose their size on the Broncos smaller front seven. If that is the case then ‘Noles should win by a couple scores.