Start Time: 7:00 PM Central
Location: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida
Radio: 1300 AM the Zone (Austin), 89.9 FM KTSW (San Marcos), 930 AM (San Antonio)
Series Record: None
Live Stats: Here
Betting Line: Florida State -29
Views from Tallahassee: Tomahawk Nation (SB Nation)
The Opponent: Sure, they're rebuilding. Sure, Jameis Winston is gone. But this is still Florida State, and they're ranked as a consensus top ten team. In a rebuilding year. FSU are heavy favorites, and it's not hard to see why.
Replacing Winston as signal caller is Notre Dame graduate transfer Everett Golson (3445 yards passing, 29 touchdowns to 14 interceptions), who can be a pretty damn competent game manager if he manages to stay upright. However, he can be turnover prone against good teams, and he could be vulnerable to sacks and coughing up a few balls behind an o-line that's replacing all five players up front.
However, FSU doesn't need Golson to play incredibly well to score a ton of points. Running back Dalvin Cook (1008 rushing yards, 8 TDs, 5.9 YPC) returns after being acquitted of misdemeanor battery charges and will likely shoulder even more carries than last year with the departure of Karlos Williams. FSU also has an embarrassment of talent at receiver with Jesus Wilson (3 stars), Travis Rudolph (5 stars), Ermon Lane (5 stars), and Kermit Whitfield (4 stars). Even if Golson gives up a few turnovers, their skill players could still put up 30+ points on many teams.
The Seminoles' defense must replace three starters on the defensive line, and although the back seven returns most of their personnel, they did look vulnerable at times last season. FSU had trouble developing much of a pass rush against opponents, and injuries hurt the secondary. But the 'Noles still have an embarrassment of talent at all positions, and with Jalen Ramsey alone FSU almost certainly have the personnel to shut down Texas State's inconsistent receiving corps.
Texas State Outlook: Well, we certainly can't act like the Texas State Bobcats have been here before. The Bobcats have played Power Five opponents such as Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor, Kentucky, and Minnesota in the past, but they've never taken on a Top 10 team in one of the toughest environments to play at in all of college football.
The Bobcat offense will be led by junior quarterback Tyler Jones, who returns after a much improved sophomore season that saw him emerge as a true dual threat under center (2670 passing yards, 22 TDs, 7 INTs; 6 rushing touchdowns). He'll need to start out hot and avoid the slow starts that have occasionally plagued him during his time at Texas State if the Bobcats want to have any chance of staying with the 'Noles.
Workhorse running back Robert Lowe also returns (1091 yards rushing, 12 TDs, 5.9 YPC) to chew up yards between the 20's, but Texas State may have a secret weapon in backup running back Chris Nutall returning. After sitting out the 2014 season for academic ineligibility, Nutall has returned with a vengeance by being incredibly difficult to bring down during spring and fall practices. We'll see if that success in practice translates to him being back up to Division 1 game speed, as FSU's talent-laden defense will provide an immediate test for the running backs and Texas State's strongest offensive line in years.
Texas State's defense will see a number of new faces at key positions. LB David Mayo and CB Craig Mager have departed to the NFL, and LB Mike Orakpo, pass rush threat DE Michael Odiari, and safety Colby Targun have graduated. The defensive line does have two returning starters at DT in Dallas McClarty and Mershad Dillon, but they'll need to put in better performances than last year's "plug up the middle and let the linebackers do the work on the edge" strategy. The linebacking position has been completely re-tooled, as running back Tim Gay has been converted over to a LB/DE hybrid and Trey McGowan will take over David Mayo's position. To be blunt, this position has gone from a strength to a major question mark.
The secondary does see some familiar faces return, as Dila Rosemond and Damani Alexcee remain at safety while interception hawk David Mims II moves over to Craig Mager's position. Texas Track and Field transfer Easy Anyama will start at the Wolf position, which will give him the flexibility to act as a third defensive back in defensive coordinator John Thompson's defense. Look for Anyama to be used both in pass coverage and run support, and he'll likely be sent on a few linebacker-esque blitzes as well. As long as the starters stay healthy, there appears to be good depth within the back five. If anyone gets injured, then things could get interesting.
One other storyline to keep an eye on is Texas State's special teams. Once a strength in 2014, this year only two players return to their roles on special teams (Jafus Gaines and Brandon Smith returning kickoffs). JUCO transfer Lumi Kaba has reportedly been booming field goals and kickoffs deep in practice, but he'll get an immediate test in what might be sloppy conditions caused by the leftovers of tropical storm Erika in Tallahassee.
Prediction: As much as I want to go full homer and predict that Texas State will shock the world with a 2012 Houston-esque upset, it's tough to see that happening.
If Texas State can crack 21+ points and make Golson throw 4-5 interceptions or so, they could keep the game close. If not, we could see yet another Bobcat faceplant on the big stage. If Texas State can keep this game respectable, then that will be a good sign for the season to come.
Florida State 41, Texas State 24