This top ten nationally ranked matchup is the only ranked on ranked matchup of the opening college football weekend and it is also a rematch of last year’s thrilling matchup in the Caesar’s Superdome last year on Labor Day weekend.
It was an exciting finish as Jayden Daniels connected with Jaray Jenkins with one second left on the clock to pull within a point at 24-23, but as the Tigers were trying to connect on the potential game tying extra point to send the game to overtime, kicker Damian Ramos’ extra point attempt was blocked as the Tigers lost a heartbreaker to start the Brian Kelly era.
Fast forward a year later and there will be a lot of more eyes on this game as both programs have emerged since last year.
After the Florida State loss and a later loss to Tennessee, the program got on a roll by defeating Ole Miss and Alabama to clinch the SEC West and a spot to play in the SEC Championship Game. With a 10 win campaign and a SEC West title, expectations are high for the Tigers in 2023.
“We’re a smarter football team. We understand the systems, the process, the things necessary to become more consistent in everything we do to be a championship football team. That comes right down to the smallest of details.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on how the program has improved going into year two
With LSU earning a number five preseason ranking in the AP Top 25, there is a lot of noise surrounding the Tigers, but the same thing goes for #8 Florida State.
After two losing seasons in Tallahassee, the 2022 season was a huge lift to the program under head coach Mike Norvell. Last season, the Seminoles also won 10 games while finishing second in the Atlantic division behind perennial ACC power and eventual conference champion Clemson. After having a big season in year three, Norvell wants to also take his team to the next level, which is a conference championship and a playoff berth in year four.
Looking at the makeup of both teams being preseason top ten teams, LSU head coach Brian Kelly has noticed that both programs mirror each other in a lot of different ways.
“Jordan Travis and Jayden Daniels are two great quarterbacks, elite quarterbacks that can make things happen. They are two guys that can run, throw, and are elusive. You are going to see some great wide receivers and guys that can make plays on both sides of the football. Certainly, on the defensive side of the football, Harold Perkins and Jared Verse are two elite defensive players. It’s exciting playmakers and you are going to see two playmakers that want to be physical at the point of attack. These are two teams that want to run the football and can run the football. You are looking at two teams that mirror each other in a lot of ways.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly
Both teams especially mirror each other at the quarterback position. As Kelly has mentioned, both teams have game changers at the quarterback position that can make highlight plays with both their arm and legs in LSU’s Jayden Daniels and Florida State’s Jordan Travis.
Daniels is heading into his second year as the Tigers’ starting quarterback. If it was not for legendary Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow’s 2019 national championship season, Jayden Daniels’ 2022 season would be the most productive single season for a LSU quarterback in program history. The former Arizona State quarterback could be in for a special 2023 campaign after throwing for 2,913 yards and 17 touchdowns while running for another 885 yards and 11 touchdowns. With another year in the system under offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, Daniels has been making a lot of strides as a passer to go along with his electrifying legs.
“Year 2 allows him to have a comfort level from a knowledge standpoint where he feels he can let it rip a little. We encourage him to more and more.”LSU HC Brian Kelly on Jayden Daniels’ progression
On the other side of this quarterback matchup is another guy that can extend plays and make magic happen. That is Florida State’s Jordan Travis. As another potential Heisman Trophy candidate, Travis had an extraordinary 2022 campaign in which he threw for 3,214 yards and 24 touchdowns plus another 417 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. In last year’s matchup, Travis was lethal on third down and made plays when the Seminoles needed him the most in the Superdome as he threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Coach Kelly knows that the defense has to do a better job of containing the Seminoles’ playmaking quarterback.
Both Daniels and Travis will certainly try to use their legs often in Sunday’s matchup as the signal callers will have to face against two of the most impactful and dominant players on the defensive side of the football.
In last season’s matchup, Travis extended a lot of plays by avoiding sacks, but he also did not play against LSU’s star defender Harold Perkins Jr. in the matchup. The preseason All-American was unblockable when inserted into the starting lineup midway through the 2022 season with 40 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and an interception. As playing majority as a pass rush specialist last season, defensive coordinator Matt House was working with the former five star linebacker to become a more complete defensive player.
“I think you are going to see him make plays all over the field. His plays came mostly from the perimeter. He was a perimeter player that made a lot of his plays getting after the quarterback. He is still going to get after the quarterback, but he is going to get after running backs and tight ends. That is going to be exciting to watch. You are going to see a linebacker and not a pass rush specialist. I am excited to watch the development of Harold Perkins into that player that can impact the game not just coming from the edge and harassing the quarterback, but from all facets. I think that is going to be that kind of Harold Perkins.”LSU HC Brian Kelly on Harold Perkins
While Travis will have his eyes on the All-American pass rusher, Jayden Daniels will certainly have his eyes on Florida State’s game wrecker Jared Verse. Verse was a nightmare for the Tigers last season as the preseason ACC Defensive Player of the Year played a pivotal role in getting the Seminoles the win as he sacked Daniels twice and blocked Ramos’ extra point attempt to secure the Seminoles’ win. After having nine sacks a year ago, the LSU offense will certainly circle wherever #5 lines up.
“You are going to have to account for Harold Perkins just like we are going to have to account for Jared Verse. We are going to have to have many different ways in how we handle Jared Verse. We have to slide, have chips, doubles, and all kinds of things. He is that good of a player.”LSU HC Brian Kelly on Jared Verse
The Tigers and the Seminoles offense will have plenty of skill players to throw the football too, which will obviously make it tough for both defenses.
As it has always been at LSU, the wide receiving core is not only talented, but deep. The core is led by Malik Nabers, who led the SEC last season in catches with 72 while also having 1,017 yards and three touchdowns. The Youngsville, Louisiana native was Daniels’ top passing target, and after having a memorable Citrus Bowl performance, Nabers is looking to put his stamp as the leader of this talented group.
Along with Nabers, there are a lot of mouths to feed at the skill positions. Brian Thomas Jr., Kyren Lacy, and Alabama transfer Aaron Anderson will headline the wide receiving core while at tight end, the Tigers return Freshman All-SEC tight end Mason Taylor, who had 38 catches for 414 yards and three touchdowns in his first year. His ability as a pass catcher and how Mike Denbrock likes to utilize the tight end will give Taylor a chance to have even a better sophomore campaign.
Surrounding Daniels in the backfield is a deep running back rotation. Although the Tigers will be without the services of Armoni Goodwin and John Emery Jr., the Tigers will lean heavily on running backs like Noah Cain, Josh Williams, and Logan Diggs to make it a running back by committee approach.
The deep running back rotation will run behind a veteran offensive line. Although the Tigers’ have plenty of talented skill players, their best player is arguably an offensive lineman in starting left tackle Will Campbell. In fact, the freshman All-American was awarded the prestigious number 7 jersey by Brian Kelly. It is the first time that the honor has been given to an offensive lineman.
“I was just as shocked as anybody. I’ve heard about it 10 minutes before y’all did. It’s a huge honor. I couldn’t be more thankful that I was chosen, and I have to represent it the right way.”LSU OT Will Campbell on wearing #7
The Tigers also have another tackle on the right side that started for the majority of the year as a freshman in Emery Jones. It was the first time that the program had two starting freshman tackles last season and after both looked like veterans, much is expected from the tackle tandem. While the two star tackles return so does the entire offensive line as Garrett Dellinger returns at left guard, Charles Turner returns at center, and Miles Frazier returns at right guard.
While the Florida State defense will have their hands full, they have some talented players on that side of the football, especially up front led by Verse, All-ACC selection Fabien Lovett, ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year Patrick Payton, and Joshua Farmer.
Meanwhile, Florida State has some lethal weapons on their own led by 6’7, 240 pound target Johnny Wilson, who is one of the most freakish athletes that you will find in college football. Wilson is a matchup nightmare after having 43 catches for 897 yards and five scores last season. He will be the Seminoles’ biggest X factor on offense and will lead a motivated wide receiver core that features a couple of Louisiana natives including Michigan State transfer Keon Coleman and Destyn Hill. Add in tight end Jaheim Bell and a loaded running back room that includes veteran backs in Trey Benson and Lawrance Toafili.
The LSU defensive line has to be without one of the most impactful defensive players in the country in Maason Smith. The former five star prospect from Terrebonne High School in Houma, Louisiana tore his ACL on the first drive of the Florida State game and did not play the rest of the season. Smith will have to wait at least one more game to return back to the field after he was suspended by the NCAA for one game for receiving illegal benefits prior to NIL.
For the second year in a row, the defensive front will have to adjust without big #0 in the lineup. The good news is that the Tigers will return another All-American caliber defensive lineman in Mekhi Wingo, who like Campbell, received a prestigious Tigers number in 18. Although Smith won’t be besides him, Wingo likes this defensive line group even better this season.
“It’s easier to know that he is not playing now than him going down in the first quarter last year, but we have guys like Jalen Lee, Jacobian Guillory, and Jordan Jefferson. I think those guys will be able to fill the void. As a team, we are going to try and rally around and put our best product on the field.”LSU Defensive Lineman Mekhi Wingo on defensive line depth
On the edges of the defensive line, Saivion Jones and Texas transfer Ovie Oghoufo will command the edges. At linebacker, alongside Perkins, Oregon State transfer Omar Speights is an All-Pac 12 defender and will combine to make a good 1-2 punch with Perkins.
The backend is the question mark of this LSU defense as the Tigers will have two new starters at cornerback in Southeastern transfer Zy Alexander and Sage Ryan, who after playing majority nickel and safety throughout his career, will be making the transition at cornerback. Andre Sam, who like Alexander, comes in from the Southland Conference at McNeese State, will be one of the starting back safeties.
There are some veterans for the backend as Major Burns and team captain Greg Brooks are back, but regardless, it is going to be a tough challenge for the secondary against an athletic, talented Florida State receiving core.
“We have a lot of confidence right now and we are ready to show our talents this Sunday. Obviously, Florida State has good receiving talent, but we also have some good DBs as well. It should be a fun matchup and really confident in our unit.”LSU DB Greg Brooks
Special teams wise, it was a rough outing in this matchup for LSU last season and proved to be one of the factors in LSU’s loss to Florida State with a couple of blocked field goals and two muffed punts.
LSU will look to be much improved in that area as the Tigers will return their kicker Damian Ramos and punter Jay Bramblett. Returning kicks and punts will be the dynamic Aaron Anderson, who is a human highlight reel waiting to happen.
“He has to touch the football. It’s our job as a coaching staff to make that happen. He’s valuable in the screen game and jet sweeps, but he’s not just a “speedy” one trick pony. He has unbelievable ball skills. He can break people down in space. We have to get him the ball.”LSU OC Mike Denbrock on Aaron Anderson
Keys To The Game For LSU:
- Be aggressive taking shots down the field if you are Jayden Daniels.
- Defensive front and Harold Perkins needs to consistently put pressure and wrap up Jordan Travis.
- Special Teams must be improved and not be a negative factor.
Final Score Prediction: LSU 30 Florida State 20
Last year, LSU got outplayed by Florida State and came into the game blindfolded with a new coaching staff, a new quarterback, a new offensive line, and a lot of transfers on the defensive side of the football. Despite all that, LSU still had opportunities to win the game. LSU is a much better team compared to this point last season and is a much more confident team. LSU’s offense has had a great fall camp, and Jayden Daniles is going to be more aggressive in throwing the ball to his playmakers. Florida State’s offense will make plays, but Harold Perkins and Omar Speights are going to make a big impact at linebacker to at least bend, but not break against the Seminoles’ offense. I like the makeup of this LSU team and the motivation in order to get revenge from last season.
Check out the other LSU/Florida State Preview Shows that Jace was on this week!