The Brain Kelly era will begin tonight at 6:30 as the LSU Tigers face off against the Florida State Seminoles in a Labor Day weekend matchup at the Caesar’s Superdome. Here is all the information that you need to know regarding tonight’s big time matchup.
This will be the tenth time that both these highly accomplished college football programs in the modern era face off against each other with the Florida State Seminoles holding the all-time series lead at 7-2, but the last time these two teams have met was all the way back in 1991. Although the Seminoles and the Tigers have accomplished a lot with both teams winning a national championship within the last decade, both programs are trying to bring back the magic after some down seasons. The Tigers have a lot of great history playing in the Superdome including winning three of the program’s four national championships inside the historic sports venue.
Speaking of historic, this is the start of a brand new era at LSU as Brian Kelly enters his first year as head coach of the LSU Tigers. Kelly has accomplished a lot over his Hall of Fame coaching career as he is the winningest active head football coach in all of the FBS with 284 victories at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, Cincinnati, and Notre Dame. Kelly is also the winningest head football coach in Notre Dame history with 113 victories. The only check that is unmarked in his impressive resume is a national championship, and that is the main reason why he wanted to go to LSU.
Sunday will be Kelly’s first test to see how far the Tigers are away from accomplishing his goal as he takes over a program that has struggled since their magical 2019 National Championship season with back to back subpar seasons. His first task as a SEC head football coach will actually come against a familiar opponent in Florida State. While at Notre Dame, Kelly is 3-2 against the Seminoles with the most recent win going against Mike Norvell in a 41-38 opening season overtime thriller.
“We’re playing a team that I’m quite familiar with. I opened up against Florida State last year. I know Mike very well. Mike Norvell has done a really outstanding job in developing this football team. They’re a disciplined group now. It wasn’t the same group that we saw a couple years ago. Last year they took us to overtime with the team that I coached last year. It’s a team that has some talented players.”Brian Kelly on Florida State
In speaking of Mike Norvell, the Florida State Seminoles are entering year number three under the former Memphis head coach, and a lot of the Seminole faithful are expecting that 2022 year would be the year that this program turns the corner. If there is an advantage that the Seminoles have entering this game, it is the fact that the Seminoles have already played a game.
Florida State Offense:
Florida State was one of the few teams around the country that had a Week 0 game hosting Duquesne. The Seminoles were dominant in the 47-7 victory over the running the football for 406 yards led by a trio of running backs in Trey Benson, Treshaun Ward and Lawrence Toafili that each ran for over 100 yards in the game.
Also, add in the fact that the offense is led by dual threat quarterback Jordan Travis, who ran for over 535 yards and seven touchdowns last season, running the football is what the Seminoles want to do. Jordan Travis is the key for this offense and was very successful when he was running the show last season after completing 62% of his passes for 1,539 yards and 15 touchdowns. Travis comes in with 2,674 yards passing and 21 touchdowns with 1,317 yards rushing and seven more touchdowns on the ground.
The coaching staff made a priority to bolster the receiving core as Mycah Pittman, Deuce Spann, Johnny Wilson, and Winston Wright have all arrived here in Tallahassee. Along with the newcomers, veterans Malik McClain, Ontario Wilson, and tight end Cameron McDonald return to make this a deeper core than it has been in the past.
The biggest concern offensively for the Seminoles is on the offensive line as the Seminoles used 10 offensive linemen and six different combinations against Duquesne.
The Florida State offensive line has a huge challenge in front of them facing the talented and experienced LSU defensive line. Consisted of BJ Ojulari, Ali Gaye, Maason Smith, and Jaquelin Roy, this defensive line has a chance to become one of the best in the entire country. This group has combined for 43.5 tackles for loss and 23 sacks. Ojulari is a preseason All-American selection and has 16.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in two years. Meanwhile, Roy and Gaye also received preseason All-SEC honors. The defensive line is also not just top heavy with Missouri transfer Mekhi Wingo, Desmond Little, Jacobian Guillory, and Saivion Jones filling in behind the first front four.
At linebacker, Mike Jones Jr. and Greg Penn III are the two starters at linebacker. Jones excelled over the last couple of games last season coming over from Clemson. Micah Baskerville is one of the most experienced defenders on this team with 171 tackles to his credit over his four years playing at LSU. Harold Perkins is a five star freshman that could be in for a big role tonight as he has the sideline to sideline speed to be used as a spy against Florida State’s Jordan Travis. West Weeks, Jared Small, and South Carolina transfer Kolbe Fields will also play and rotate at linebacker as well.
The secondary has a lot of experienced players that have excelled in years past, but they have done so at different schools. Only starting safeties Jay Ward and Major Burns are returning starters from last year’s team. Meanwhile, Arkansas transfers Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks, Ohio State transfer Sevyn Banks, Oklahoma State transfer Jarrick Bernard-Converse, McNeese State transfer Colby Richardson, and ULL transfer Mekhi Garner will all be dotting the purple and gold for the first time in game action. At cornerback, Bernard-Converse, Richardson, Banks, and Garner all have a lot of starts under their belt with their prior teams. The nickel position will be manned by Brooks and Sage Ryan, who also has a couple of starts to his credit after playing for the Tigers as a freshman before an injury ended his season.
The Tigers defense is led by new defensive coordinator Matt House, who was most recently the Kansas City Chiefs linebackers coach and before that, was the defensive coordinator for the Kentucky Wildcats.
The LSU offense has as many question marks as any other team in the country, but this offense also has the talent to become one of the most dangerous offenses in the country as well.
The mystery behind this starting LSU offense was recently resolved as Jayden Daniels was recently announced as the starter a couple of hours prior to kickoff. Daniels comes in as a transfer from Arizona State and has a lot of experience in the Pac 12 throwing for over 6,000 yards and 32 touchdowns while also adding 1,288 rushing yards and 13 more touchdowns on the ground. Daniels won the job over Garrett Nussmeier, who returns after appearing in four games last season including the Arkansas game when he threw for 179 yards and a touchdown against the Razorbacks. Both quarterbacks are talented as they both have explosive arms and the ability to extend plays with their legs. Just because Daniels is named the starter does not mean that Garrett Nussmeier won’t play.
At running back, Noah Cain comes in as a transfer from Penn State after running for 790 yards and 12 touchdowns throughout his Nittany Lions playing career. With John Emery Jr. not being available for the first two games of the season, Josh Williams and Armoni Goodwin will share carries with Cain.
Without a doubt, the biggest strength of this offense is the wide receiver position, which may be the deepest in all of college football led by preseason All-American candidate Kayshon Boutte. Boutte, who is wearing the Tigers’ coveted number seven jersey, could add his name to the list of great wide receivers to ever wear the purple and gold as he already has 83 catches for 1,244 yards and 14 touchdowns through his first two seasons. Jaray Jenkins is a veteran playmaker for the Tigers and the leader of the group after having 62 catches for 966 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 career starts. Malik Nabers is expected to become the next breakout star of this group after earning Freshman All-SEC honors in 2021 with 28 catches for 417 yards and three touchdowns. Jack Bech led LSU in receptions last season with 43 for 489 yards and three touchdowns after splitting time at tight end. Now, he is at wide receiver. Also, add in the physical beast Brian Thomas Jr., who had 28 catches for 359 yards and two touchdowns in 2021, Chris Hilton Jr., and ULL transfer Kyren Lacy, this offense has a lot of options.
At tight end, Kole Taylor and Jack Mashburn return as starters. Also, with a chance to become one of the Tigers’ biggest freshmen stars is tight end Mason Taylor, who is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Jason Taylor. Kelly has raved about Taylor’s ability as a tight end and expects him to have a freshman season like Brock Bowers from Georgia.
Like Florida State, the offensive line for the Tigers is also a question mark as Garrett Dellinger will play at center for the first time in his career. Five star freshman Will Campbell will start at left tackle. Cam Wire brings some experience at right tackle with ten starts. Anthony Bradford has started five games and will play right guard. Then, at left guard is FIU transfer Miles Frazier. Filling in behind the starting five is East Tennessee State transfer Tre’Mond Shorts, freshman Emery Jones, Marlon Martinez, Xavier Hill, Kardell Thomas, Charles Turner, and Marcus Dumervil.
The LSU offense is led by new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, who most recently was the Cincinnati defensive coordinator.
Florida State Defense:
The Seminoles have a lot to prepare for knowing how new LSU’s offense really is, but the defense is coming off a dominant performance against Duquesne. The Seminoles only gave up 164 total yards to the Dukes int he 47-7 win.
The defensive front does have to replace ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jermaine Johnson, who had 18 tackles for loss and 12 sacks last season and is now with the New York Jets. However, the Seminoles have another edge rusher that could become a potential replacement in Jared Verse, who comes in after having a great career at Albany. Also, the interior duo of Fabien Lovett and Robert Cooper will make it tough for the LSU offensive line.
At linebacker, Kalen Deloach, who had 69 tackles last season, and Tatum Bethune, who comes in as a transfer from UCF, will lead the core. Meanwhile, in the secondary, Kevin Knowles returns after having a spectacular freshman season at nickel. At cornerback, Renardo Green and Omarion Cooper will have their hands full with a great receiving core. Akeem Dent and Jammie Robinson are experienced safeties. Dent comes in as a veteran starter with 28 starts under his belt and is a former five star prospect. Meanwhile Robinson may be the best defensive player on the team after having 85 tackles and four interceptions coming in from South Carolina.
LSU and Florida State Special Teams:
The LSU Tigers special teams unit will have some new faces. Starting at punter, Jay Bramblett comes in as a transfer from Notre Dame where he averaged 41 yards per punt in three years with the Fighting Irish. It was announced earlier in the week that freshman Damian Ramos would get the start at kicker after battling with true freshman Nathan Dibert and Northwestern transfer Trey Finison. East Carolina transfer Slade Roy will handle long snapping for the Tigers. Then, finally, I asked Coach Kelly earlier this week if he had named a starter in the return game and he responded by saying that Malik Nabers will handle both kick returns and punt returns.
The Seminoles are much more experienced on special teams. For Florida State, Ryan Fitzgerald returns as a veteran kicker after making 10 of 13 field goals last season. Fitzgerald will also handle the kickoff duties for the Seminoles. Alex Mastromanno returns as the punter for the Seminoles averaging 42 yards per punt. Returning kicks and punts will be Mycah Pittman.
Key Matchup to Watch: Florida State Offensive Line vs. LSU Defensive Line
The key matchup is the Florida State offensive line versus the LSU defensive line. It is one thing to run for over 400 yards against Duquesne, but it is another thing to do so against this talented LSU defensive line. The Seminoles don’t need to run for that many yards nor they are expected to, but if this unproven offensive line can hold its own against the Tigers’ defensive front, then this will give them a big advantage considering the dynamic quarterback and running backs the Seminoles have. If they cannot generate push against Maason Smith, Jaquelin Roy, and company, this could be a long night for the Seminoles.
Key Offensive Player For Florida State: Jordan Travis
Jordan Travis is the key player to watch for the Seminoles not only because he is the team’s starting quarterback, but he is a dual threat that is hard to contain. He has improved a lot as a passer and is still as dynamic as a runner. If he keeps the Tigers defense on its toes, the Seminoles will have a lot of success tonight offensively.
Key Offensive Player For LSU: Kayshon Boutte
With such a young offense for the Tigers, Kayshon Boutte would need to step up as the dominant receiver he is capable of being especially with a new starting quarterback suiting up for the Tigers tonight. If Boutte makes life easier for Daniels, this new look offense could be in for a big debut.
Key Defensive Players For Florida State: Cornerbacks Renardo Green and Omarion Cooper
Both Renardo Green and Omarion Cooper will have their hands full against this talented wide receiver core featuring the likes of Boutte, Bech, Nabers, Jenkins, Thomas, etc. The list can really go on and on. The key is how the cornerbacks hold up against these wide receivers. Both safeties are experienced just like LSU so they should be able to handle their own, but how well these cornerbacks match up with the LSU wide receivers could be a major key in this ball game.
Key Defensive Players For LSU: Mike Jones Jr. and Greg Penn III
This really can be said for the entire linebacking core. Spying a quarterback like Jordan Travis is not easy so if these linebackers can cover sideline to sideline and limit Travis’ explosive ability on the ground, that would also limit the Seminoles’ offense. Expect freshman Harold Perkins to also be in this role of keeping an eye on Travis in the backfield as a spy.
Prediction: LSU 27, Florida State 20
It is going to be a back and forth battle between the Tigers and the Seminoles. I believe that both these teams really mirror each other so much. The Seminoles will throw the first punch because their team will look much sharper from the opening gate after playing a game last week. However, I do think that the talent of the Tigers will take over in the second half and will come up big in a close, competitive game. Brian Kelly will start the new era of LSU football with a win.
Check out this episode of The Chase With Jace as myself and Marcus preview the Florida State matchup. The segment starts at the 47 minute mark.
Kickoff between the LSU Tigers and the Florida State Seminoles is set for 6:30 on ABC.
Check back right here immediately following the game for a postgame recap!