NoleGameday

Game Preview: Florida State vs. Charleston Southern

Charleston Southern (0-1) Bio Flash:

Head Coach: Jamey Chadwell

2015 Record: 10-3 (6-0 in Big South)

Key Players: RB Mike Holloway, WR Kameron Brown, DB Troy McGowens

Game Introduction:

The wild opening weekend of college football concluded Monday night with Florida State taking on Ole Miss. Even before that game kicked off, many experts and analysts had called this the greatest opening weekend in college football history. The Monday night game certainly lived up to the hype, and was the perfect cherry on top to an incredible weekend. FSU broke a school record for largest comeback in history, and delivered one of the best second-half performances under head coach Jimbo Fisher. Charleston Southern, on the other hand, got to rest this weekend after a heartbreaking overtime loss in the Fargodome to North Dakota State. Florida State must play just five days after their clash with Ole Miss, where as Charleston Southern will have had a full two weeks to rest. The game kicks off at 12:30 on the ACC Network.

Headlines:

DeMarcus Walker is the real deal

After terrorizing quarterbacks with 10.5 sacks last year, expectations were high when Walker announced he was returning for his senior year. However, Walker seemingly flew under the radar in preseason as Derwin James became the popular figurehead for the Noles’ defense. There were even those who questioned Walker’s abilities, noting that he is a tad undersized and maybe doesn’t possess the speed NFL scouts look for. Well, Walker silenced those critics with 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble against Ole Miss. Derwin James is legit too, but Walker proved he is undoubtedly the leader of this ‘Noles defense.

Florida State’s defense knows how to create turnovers

While some of it may have to do with Chad Kelly making poor decisions, FSU forced four turnovers against Ole Miss. Three of those came in the second half, and DeMarcus Walker’s strip-sack gave the offense a short field to help the ‘Noles regain the lead. This could be the best defense head coach Jimbo Fisher has ever had at creating turnovers, and it all starts up front. Walker and friends continually put pressure on Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly, forcing him to throw the ball early or off his back foot. Florida State defensive coordinator Charles Kelly called some fantastic blitzing schemes, and was able to make the Ole Miss Kelly uncomfortable all night. It didn’t matter whether it was Jacob Pugh coming through the middle or Derwin James finessing on the edge, the ‘Noles were able to create a lot of pressure. This caused Chad Kelly to make some poor decisions, and ultimately led to him turning the football over four times. The secondary also seemed more aggressive than past years on both downfield throws and the flats. Coverage in the middle of the field still needs some work, but that should be smoothed out as Matthew Thomas and Trey Marshall gain more experience. I expect more of the same from this defense against a Charleston Southern offense who only managed 17 points and 263 yards against North Dakota State.

Florida State’s offense is still struggling to get six close to the end zone

While many are excited about true freshman Ricky Aguayo’s 6/6 kicking performance (and rightfully so), I have a different takeaway from that. That was six times FSU’s offense couldn’t get six and had to settle for three. Half of those field goals were 30 yards or under, which means the offense stalled around or inside the red zone. If Florida State had scored touchdowns instead of field goals on half of Aguayo’s field goals the ‘Noles would’ve scored 57 points. Aguayo’s longest field goal was 44 yards, and he certainly had ice in his veins. However, it’s concerning that the ‘Noles are still stalling late in drives after focusing on fixing that issue in the offseason. It also concerns me that head coach Jimbo Fisher elected to kick a field goal on the four yard line already down 21-6. Alas, Florida State came out victorious and showed me again why he’s paid millions of dollars and I’m not. But a similar decision to kick a field goal inside the five last year against Georgia Tech perhaps cost FSU the game, and conservative decision making could haunt the ‘Noles down the road. Look for Florida State to try new plays , and target new players in the red zone against CSU. If FSU can’t figure out how to finish drives consistently soon, it could be a long season.

Burning Questions:

Can Florida State start fast?

The ‘Noles reverted back to their old ways of starting slow, but still somehow came out on top thanks to a 33-0 run. Are these old habits here to stay, or can FSU play a complete game? The 2014 season saw an accumulation of slow starts and come from behind wins, but finally crashed in humiliating fashion in the playoffs against Oregon. Interestingly enough, Florida State got off to a hot start against Clemson last year as Dalvin Cook scored on his first carry, but FSU ultimately dropped that game. While a fast start against Charleston Southern won’t do much for Florida State’s national perception, it could give confidence to some of the young guys. Penalties really hurt the ‘Noles Monday night, and they finished with 15 flags for 127 yards. This Saturday, look for coach Fisher to feed Dalvin Cook early and often, and for the offensive line to smooth out some of the problems from the Ole Miss game.

Can Francois continue his aggressive play and limit turnovers?

Deondre Francois’ debut looked fantastic from a statistical point of view, and film doesn’t lie: the kid is legit. He has a laser for an arm and looked more athletic than I thought he was. Francois certainly isn’t shy, as throughout the game he pushed the ball downfield rather than taking the easy check down. Not to mention he doesn’t shy away from contact, as he lowered is head and fought for extra yards more than once. Playing the way he did Monday night as a redshirt freshman typically gets you in trouble, but Francois never turned the ball over. To be fair, Ole Miss’ best defensive back Ken Webster got knocked out of the game early by an injury, but Francois looked like he had the poise of a veteran. Even when things went wrong, Frenchy was able to turn nothing into something. One play in particular caught my eye in the third quarter. Florida State was trying to set up a jet sweet to WR Bobo Wilson, but the play got busted from bad timing and Ole Miss penetration. Instead of panicking or pitching it to Wilson, Francois faked the pitch and took off the other way for a 31-yard scamper. What should have been a 10-yard loss turned into a 31-yard gain and first and goal for the ‘Noles. If Francois can come up with these types of plays all year while limiting turnovers, Florida State could have something special under center.

Does Charleston Southern have a chance?

They do, but that’s only because every game starts off zero to zero. In the Buccaneer’s opening game against North Dakota State, they struggled to move the ball on offense. They earned only 11 first downs, and stalled drives more often than not. Some credit should go to North Dakota State’s defense, as they had an exceptional game. Defensively the Buccaneers looked a little sharper, but no where near good enough to instill faith in me that they can stop Dalvin Cook and friends. The Bucs’  best chance would be to stack the box and mix coverage schemes on every play. Assign a LB to Dalvin Cook every play, and try to limit his explosiveness. At the end of the day, Florida State is just a much more talented team with a lot more depth. This isn’t a knock on Charleston Southern, as they are very good in their own respect and even went undefeated in the Big South Conference last year.

Forecast:

This game should be fun for those who are a part of Nole Nation, as Florida State is coming off some of the best 30 minutes of football they’ve ever played under head coach Jimbo Fisher. I think Dalvin Cook will get off to a hot start, and Francois will enjoy more time in the pocket. Play action will be utilized a good amount just like Monday night, as Dalvin Cook has become a fantastic decoy. Defensively, the ‘Noles need to force Charleston Southern into third and long situations. The Buccaneers are at their best running the option out of the pistol, as CSU QB Kyle Copeland didn’t do much in the passing game to instill confidence going 8 of 20 for 94 yards with 1 interception. This will be a good game for young guys to get a lot of reps, and see what the future holds for the ‘Noles. It’s always tough to predict a score for these games, but I’ll go with 52-13 ‘Noles.

Ben Brewton

Writer at Nole Gameday covering football and basketball. FSU alum. Follow me on twitter (@Ben_Brewton) and we can talk sports. On the 8th day, God created college football.



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