As college football returns around the country Thursday evening, Florida State fans will have to wait until Saturday night for the Noles to kick off their 2015 season. Of course, it will probably a blowout as Florida State hosts the Texas State Bobcats of the Sun Belt conference. Texas State is a very good Sun Belt team, but should be overmatched by the talented Seminoles. This will not be a preview of the game, as there are plenty out there that are available, most of them having the Noles winning big. If you’re really looking for one, check out Tomahawk Nation’s coverage. They are an excellent resource for everything Florida State.

Rather, this will be a preview of things that I’m going to watch for in this game. This Florida State team, while pretty talented, has tons of questions on both sides of the ball and hopefully this scrimmage with Texas State will lead to some answers.

As a side note, numbers for each individual player are included after the names. Sometimes it’s hard to see the player names on the jerseys so the numbers of each are included so you can put a name to a number during the game.

Offense

  1. First and foremost, we have to start with Everett Golson (6). While I’m confident that Golson will have a field day with the Texas State defense, it will be interesting to see how Jimbo schemes around his new dual-threat quarterback. If you remember, the offense under Jameis Winston featured a lot of drop back passing and snaps under center. While he is certainly capable of doing those things if asked, Golson’s talents many be better utilized with roll out passes, designed quarterback runs and mostly shotgun formations. While Golson is significantly shorter than Winston was at 6’0”, he has a huge arm and is not afraid of taking the deep shots down field. With the defense having to respect Golson’s legs as well as this talented trio of running backs, Jimbo might be able to scheme up a few deep play-action shots. So for Nole fans out there, keep an eye out for how Jimbo runs this offense under Golson because this will be a continuing theme throughout the season.
  1. Another reason why Jimbo might utilize more roll outs and designed quarterback runs is because of the shaky play of the offensive line in fall camp. While the left side of the line is certainly solid with Roderick Johnson (77) and Kareem Are (72), center and the right side are anything but solid. At center, redshirt freshman Corey Martinez (57) will start. Wilson Bell (78), a redshirt sophomore, will start at right guard and Brock Ruble (71), a redshirt freshman, will start at right tackle. While this line may be very talented in the long term, 4 of the 5 starters have never started a college game in their career. Jimbo may have to call for more rollouts simply because this line is so inexperienced and expecting them to hold up in pass protection for a significant length of time is too much. The play of the offensive line will be important not only for Golson and the passing game, but for opening up holes for Dalvin Cook (4) and the running game. And, if Jimbo is to be believed, this team will be very focused on running the ball this year. Texas State won’t pose a significant threat in terms of pass rush or run defense, but it will be important to see if this young, inexperienced offensive line can take advantage of the mismatch and play more to their potential than to their inexperience.
  1. Florida State lost (arguably) the best wide receiver and definitely the best tight end in school history in Rashad Greene and Nick O’Leary. One of the biggest questions heading into the season is if one of these young pass-catchers can step up to be the top option for Golson like Greene and O’Leary were for Winston. Travis Rudolph (15) and Jesus “Bobo” Wilson (3) are FSU’s top two wide receiver options right now as both are consistent in their route running and catching. But it remains to be seen if either can truly become that #1 option that Florida State needs. Also options are sophomores Ja’Vonn “Pigg” Harrison (13), Ermon Lane (1) and true freshman George Campbell (11). At tight end, redshirt freshman Ryan Izzo (81) is the clear starter, as he is the best blend of catching and blocking. Mavin Saunders (88) has been receiving a lot of hype, but at this point in his career he is a pass-catcher only and his blocking leaves much to be desired. Against a weaker Texas State defense, it will be important to see if one or two pass-catchers can step up, run the right routes and be in the right places against the blitz. If this game can be defined as a scrimmage of sorts, the wide receiver group (which Jimbo has openly criticized) needs to take this opportunity to become more consistent.

Running back is one positions I don’t have any questions on. Dalvin Cook (4) is a Top 5 back in the country and Mario Pender (7) would start for many teams around the country. 6’2”, 235 lb. freshman Jacques Patrick (9) is a man-child and I expect him to be FSU’s answer to Karlos Williams in short-yardage situations. Running back is the most solid position on the offensive side of the ball.

Defense

  1. Starting up front, the first thing to watch for is if Florida State can find its pass rush in this game. While Texas State probably won’t throw the ball a lot, especially if they get down early, Florida State will still have opportunities to unleash its talented corps of pass rushers in this game. 5-star freshman Josh Sweat (9) is the big name to watch for as he has recovered in a freakish manner from blowing out his knee last fall. If healthy, he has been compared to a Jadeveon Clowney-like talent at defensive end. Other players to watch for are Jacob Pugh (16), the presumed starter at the jack position on defense, and Demarcus Walker (44), the starter opposite Pugh at defensive end. While Walker is primarily a run-stopping defensive end, it will be interesting to see if he has progressed as a pass-rusher under new defensive ends coach Brad Lawing. On the interior, Nile Lawrence-Stample (99) and Derrick Nnadi (91) are your starters, with Derrick Mitchell (11) and Demarcus Christmas (90) as the primary backups.
  1. Quite frankly, linebacker depth is absolutely terrible. Terrance Smith (24) and Reggie Northup (5) are the starters and All-ACC type players, but after them, there isn’t really much. Another thing to keep an eye out for is how much they allow Smith and Northrup to play, especially if this game gets ugly early. After them, Lorenzo Phillips (35), Tyrell Lyons (22), and Ro’Derrick Hoskins (18) are the primary backups. To say that there is a significant step down in talent would be an understatement. Lyons and Hoskins saw significant playing time last season when injuries at the position forced them into action, but neither is of the level of player that Smith and Northup are, and Phillips is largely an unknown after coming over from junior college (formerly enrolled at LSU). Linebacker depth is something that will quite possibly define just how good this defense will be so it will be worth keeping an eye on just how long Charles Kelly allows his seniors to play.
  1. Finally, with all the talent that this defensive secondary has, just how do Jimbo and Kelly organize it? Jalen Ramsey (8) moves to boundary corner after spending his first two seasons at safety and star respectively and fellow junior Marquez White (27) won the field corner job in fall camp. It also looks like Trey Marshall (20) will start at the star position (a hybrid safety-linebacker position in FSU’s 4-2-5 defense). At safety, Tyler Hunter (1) and Nate Andrews (29) are the presumed starters but Lamarcus Brutus (42) has made a name for himself in fall camp and should push for playing time. But the Noles still have a plethora of talent in the defensive secondary that isn’t just going to ride the bench. 5-star safety Derwin James (3) will see a lot of snaps this season and fellow 5-star corner Tarvarus McFadden (15) is a very talented player as well. This game should serve as a preliminary indicator for just how much mixing and matching the coaching staff will do along this defensive secondary to take advantage of their athleticism and talent.

I guess a short paragraph on my prediction wouldn’t hurt. Texas State is a good team by Sun Belt standards, but are simply not as talented from top to bottom as Florida State is. While I expect Texas State to put up a fight at the beginning, the Noles should pull away sometime in the second half. Don’t be surprised if the score at halftime is closer than it should be. The Bobcats should put up a better fight than USF next week however.

Give me Florida State 38-13 over Texas State.

Rejoice! Football season is finally here! Make sure to drink lots of liquor and cheep beer because this season will probably be filled with a lot of up and down moments. But also remember to enjoy every minute of it because this offseason was long and terrible.

Go Noles!

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