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Playing Nice: Florida State

Previewing LSU’s massive week one opener against the Seminoles with our pals from Tomahawk Nation

Another year of football means another year of Playing Nice where we extend an olive branch to LSU’s opponent for the week and get a helpful preview.

Last year I had the great pleasure to work with my buddy Perry from our Florida State sister site Tomahawk Nation and he was kind enough to join us this year.

1. A year ago LSU-Florida State was a battle of big name programs who had fallen on some tough times. This time around its No. 5 vs. No. 8. What would a win mean for Florida State?

It would validate the preseason hype in the minds of both Florida State’s team and fans — both of which can be dangerous. FSU got a nice crash-to-earth lesson last season when it went on a three-game losing streak following its four-win to kick off the year, and the hope is that the memory of that is fresh enough it doesn’t distract from the long haul ahead.

2. Are the Noles “back” and if not what constitutes them being back? An ACC championship and CFP appearance?

A win over Clemson and a berth in the ACC Championship are, at least to me, a minimum expectation of FSU fully being on their way back. I think it’s possible but not entirely realistic to expect a College Football Playoff appearance this year, though if you want to play the soft factor of all soft factors, Florida State played in the first and last BCS Championship game, as well as the first four-team playoff. It’s only right that we take things full circle.

3. Like Jayden Daniels, Jordan Travis is getting some early Heisman buzz. What does a Heisman-winning season look like for Travis?

Repeat the formula of 2022 with major wins over LSU and Clemson, or even just one of the two, and Travis is likely a Heisman finalist. His production already warrants a discussion, and his highlight reel plays are exactly what voters and commentators salivate over when picking contenders. If he can up his stats just slightly (which, with the additions in the passing game, is very likely) and Florida State doesn’t fully implode this season, it’s hard to not see a path where he ends up in New York.

4. Last year Florida State really exposed LSU’s offensive line. LSU ought to be better up front this time around. My question is is FSU’s defensive front better, worse, or equal to last year?

Better, with the contributions of transfer Braden Fiske really going to determine how much better. Fabien Lovett should be healthier this time around, and Patrick Payton is arguably an upgrade at starter at end opposite Jared Verse.

5. Secondary is probably LSU’s biggest question mark coming into this season. That seems like a big problem going up against Florida State right out of the gate, right?

Unfortunately for the Tigers, yes — Florida State put together a “not allowed to be used in NCAA Football” type offense, adding major transfers in wide receivers Keon Coleman and tight ends Jaheim Bell and Kyle Morlock. Additionally, Destyn Hill (a 2021 signee who recently enrolled) has emerged as a co-starter and that’s before mentioning returning players like Johnny Wilson and Kentron Poitier.

6. How much an advantage do you think Florida State had last year having played a week 0 game? And do you think this year’s game will be a little more balanced with it being both teams’ first game?

I think it served as a good confidence booster and proof of concept for the Seminoles, who hadn’t won a season opener since 2016 (vs. Ole Miss in Camping World Stadium, no less!). If the same game plays out in 2022 without that week zero game, it’s probably more likely that FSU loses just based off how trauma-bit the team has been. I’m not sure if it makes things more balanced, seeing as Florida State’s gotten plenty of confidence since that matchup, but honestly, LSU had its own dose of reality-dealing and confidence-building, so this might not make sense, but as balanced as last year’s game was, I think this year’s is even more so?

7. Finally, who wins this thing anyway?

Last year, I was hesitant to pick FSU because I had yet to see them close out a big game — and while I do think LSU brings a team into this matchup that could easily find itself in College Football Playoff contention this season, Florida State has added too much on the offensive side of the ball while rounding out its defense. The weak spots have been more or less plugged up, upgrades at already good spots have been made and on each side of the ball, you have a player who should be consistently amongst the nation’s best week in and week out (Travis and Verse). It’s not going to be a blowout, it’s not going to be a slugfest, but it will darn sure be entertaining. FSU pulls away late in the third, but LSU makes it look closer in the end — 34-24.