TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Willie Taggart's inaugural campaign at Florida State did not go nearly as expected, with his underachieving Seminoles winning just five games and seeing the school's 36-season bowl streak come to an end. But it's a new year and Florida State is hoping to get off on the right foot Saturday night in a neutral site game against Boise State at Jacksonville, Fla.
TV: Noon ET, ESPNews. LINE: Florida State -5.5.
"I don't think I have to motivate them to go out there and play on Saturday," Taggart told reporters. "We're ready. It's been a long time. … It's the beginning of the season, new chapter, new beginning, and a chance for us to go out and show our improvement." The big news in the days before the opener was Taggart's decision to hand the quarterback job back to James Blackman, who started 12 games as a freshman in 2017 but lost out to Deondre Francois last season, after he beat out Wisconsin grad transfer Alex Hornibrook in a tight competition for the job. "We evaluated it the entire training camp from a statistical standpoint," Taggart said, "but also just getting our guys to play, the entire offense to play consistently was a big part of it. And then just getting a good feel for who has this football team. And I think James, when it comes to that part of it, James has the football team." All eyes will also be on Boise State at quarterback, as highly regarded recruit Hank Bachmeier takes over for four-year starter Brett Rypien, the first time in the Broncos' FBS history (since 1996) that a true freshman signal-caller will start a season opener.
ABOUT BOISE STATE (2018: 10-3)
Bachmeier has huge shoes to fill as Rypien, the 2018 Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, left school as the conference's all-time leader in passing yards (13,581), completions (1,036) and 300-yard games (21). Head coach Bryan Harsin was also left with a void at running back with the early departure of Alexander Mattison (1,415 yards, 17 touchdowns in 2018), but the return of all five starting offensive linemen figures to help junior Robert Mahone or sophomore Andrew Van Buren extend the school's streak of seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher to 11. While the offense expects to suffer growing pains, a stout, aggressive defense (212 sacks the last six seasons) that features six players on preseason watch lists, led by outside linebacker Curtis Weaver, will keep the Broncos in games.
ABOUT FLORIDA STATE (5-7)
It's finally Blackman's time at quarterback and he threw for 2,230 yards and 19 touchdowns with 11 interceptions as the starter in 2017, adding 510 yards passing and five touchdowns a year ago as the backup to Francois. He will have plenty of weapons at his disposal, including junior running back Cam Akers, who broke the school freshman rushing record in 2017 with 1,024 yards but slipped to 706 yards and six scores last season, and big-play receiver Tamorrion Terry, who set the team freshman receiving record a year ago with 744 yards to go with his team-high eight receiving touchdowns, fourth among all receivers in the ACC. Defense is usually a strength for Florida State and the talent is there despite the loss of first-round pick Brian Burns (defensive end), but last year's unit underperformed, surrendering 31.5 points and 416.3 yards per game.
1. This will be the first meeting between the schools but they will meet again next season in Boise, Idaho.
2. Florida State has played at least one game in an NFL stadium every year since 2012, a streak that continues Saturday at the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
3. Boise State has been selected for a bowl game in each of the last 17 seasons.
PREDICTION: Florida State 23, Boise State 20