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Florida State will look to bounce back from its worst season in more than four decades on Saturday as it takes on Boise State in Jacksonville.
In the first year under head coach Willie Taggart, FSU went just 5-7, missed a bowl game for the first time since 1981 in 2018 and suffered through its first losing season since 1976. FSU will be facing a Boise State team that won 10 games a season ago.
The Broncos will be replacing their best two offensive players in quarterback Brett Rypien and running back Alexander Mattison. Starting under center for Boise State will be a true freshman in Hank Bachmeier.
Defensively, Boise State will return linebacker Curtis Weaver. Weaver led the Broncos last season with 9.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. Boise State ranked third in the Mountain West in total defense and fourth in scoring defense.
Boise State will be facing an offense that was one of the worst in the country last season in FSU, but the Seminoles upgraded the coaching staff with additions of offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, wide receivers coach Ron Dugans and offensive line coach Randy Clements. James Blackman, a redshirt sophomore, will make his 14th career start at quarterback. The skill players to watch for FSU are running back Cam Akers and wide receiver Tamorrion Terry, but the biggest question mark is the offensive line.
Defensively, FSU gave up more points per game than any other Florida State team ever last season. Defensive tackle Marvin Wilson headlines that side of the ball while the Seminoles return leading tackler Hamsah Nasirildeen and a deep corps of defensive backs.
FSU will look to avoid losing three straight openers for the first time since the 1970s. Since 2009, Boise State has defeated Oregon, Georgia, Virginia Tech and Washington in season openers. A 35-13 defeat against Ole Miss in head coach Bryan Harsin’s debut in 2014 was the last season-opening loss for the Broncos. Saturday’s contest in Jacksonville begins at 7 p.m. ET and airs on ESPN.
Prediction: Florida State 27, Boise State 19
Florida A&M at No. 17 UCF
Thursday, Aug. 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
After two straight undefeated regular seasons, UCF kicks off the 2019 campaign on Thursday against Florida A&M. Brandon Wimbush, a Notre Dame transfer, will get the start at quarterback for the Knights. The Rattlers went 6-5 last season under first-year head coach Willie Simmons. Florida A&M won the first meeting between the schools back in 1987.
Prediction: UCF 63, Florida A&M 6
Florida International at Tulane
Thursday, Aug. 29 at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Two programs heading in the right direction will square off on Thursday night in New Orleans. In two seasons under Butch Davis, Florida International is 17-9. Last season, Tulane made its first bowl game since 2013 en route to a 7-6 finish. Tulane defensive end Patrick Johnson and FIU linebacker Sage Lewis are two players to watch.
Prediction: Florida International 30, Tulane 26
No. 19 Wisconsin at South Florida
Friday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
After a 7-0 start to 2018, South Florida lost its final six games and looks to start strong in year No. 3 under Charlie Strong. Blake Barnett returns at quarterback for the Bulls, but the USF defense will have to find a way to slow Wisconsin’s Johnathan Taylor. Taylor rushed for nearly 2,200 yards and 16 touchdowns a season ago.
Prediction: Wisconsin 31, South Florida 17
Florida Atlantic at No. 5 Ohio State
Saturday, Aug. 31 at 12 p.m. ET (FOX)
The Ryan Day era at Ohio State begins with a contest against Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic. After winning Conference USA in Kiffin’s first season, the Owls went just 5-7 in 2018. FAU will have to find a way to replace running back Devin Singletary. Georgia transfer Justin Fields will be under center for the Buckeyes.
Prediction: Ohio State 55, Florida Atlantic 12
Mike Ferguson is a contributor for The Grueling Truth, covering Florida sports and sports history. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. To keep up with all of his work, like his Facebook page.
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