FSU vs. Ole Miss: Five Things to Watch For

There will be many story lines unfolding when Florida State takes the field against Ole Miss tonight. The Seminoles return a Heisman candidate at running back, but are breaking in a new quarterback and have some injuries along the offensive line. On the other side of the ball, can DeMarcus Walker and Derwin James return to midseason form and help shut down an Ole Miss offense that was very efficient last year?

Here are five things that I’m looking for when Florida State suits up once again.

1. What will the run/pass ratio be?

We know Jimbo Fisher is a quarterback at heart. Go back to Jameis’ first start against Pittsburgh and Maguire’s first start against Clemson and you’ll see that Fisher isn’t afraid to throw the ball early with a new quarterback. Despite having Dalvin Cook at running back, I expect Fisher to come out throwing the football. Ole Miss will likely stack the box early on, forcing Deondre Francois to beat them with his arm. If Francois can get into an early rhythm and make the Rebels respect the pass game, then that will make Florida State’s offense that much more dangerous.

2. Can the offensive line depth handle injuries?

It is confirmed that Kareem Are will be out for the Ole Miss game and the situation surrounding Alec Eberle is still up in the air. As such, Florida State could be looking at starting backups at both left guard and center. At left guard, Derrick Kelly is the primary backup. Kelly started several games at right tackle last year and his starting experience will give him an edge in this game. Meanwhile, the Seminoles could be looking at starting a true freshman at center if Alec Eberle is out. Andrew Boselli seems to have outperformed expectations in fall camp, but he is still a true freshman going against a very tough Ole Miss defensive line. If FSU indeed has to start Boselli at center, look for Ole Miss to bring pressure up the middle early and often to rattle the young player.

3. What will the defensive line rotation look like?

We know that there is great depth at defensive tackle. Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas are your starters and the ‘Noles have good backups in Wally Aime, Fred Jones and Arthur Williams. Where it gets concerning is at defensive end. On one side, Josh Sweat and Jacob Pugh form a solid rotation at the BUCK linebacker spot. On the other side, DeMarcus Walker is a great player but there isn’t much proven production behind him. Keith Bryant was supposed to be his backup, but Bryant is out for the year with an injury. Other than Bryant, Adam Torres is an option as well as kicking Aime outside to strong-side end in situational packages. Walker can’t play every single snap, and it will be interesting to see how Charles Kelly opts to rotate his defensive linemen to make sure they are all fresh.

4. Are Tarvarus McFadden and Marcus Lewis ready to play major snaps?

From the beginning of spring practice, we’ve known that Tarvarus McFadden and Marcus Lewis were going to be big parts of this defense. It seems as if McFadden will get the starting nod at boundary cornerback while Lewis will start at the STAR position. They will face a big first test in an tough Ole Miss pass game led by the best quarterback that the SEC has to offer. Chad Kelly has a plethora of talented wide receivers to throw to and expect the Rebels to test the young cornerbacks early and often. Whether or not they are able to hold up to Kelly and his receivers will be a huge factor in this game.

5. Are the young specialists ready for the big stage?

Perhaps an underrated storyline this offseason has been the state of the kicking game. With both Roberto Aguayo and Cason Beatty moving on, there are new faces handling the kicking duties this year. Roberto’s younger brother, Ricky, will likely be handling field goal duties, but don’t be surprised if the coaching staff opts for Logan Tyler in longer situations. Tyler will also be the kickoff specialist and punter, and has the stronger leg of the two. After three years of automatic kicking with Roberto, the kicking game is a major question mark this year for Florida State. No longer can the Seminoles rely on Roberto to gift them three points if they get close enough. This will make for a lot of interesting fourth down decisions if Jimbo Fisher does not have trust in his young kickers.

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