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FSU vs. Jacksonville State: Keys to victory, predictions

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Florida State (0-2) enters its home game against Jacksonville State, which has not played a game yet, as a prohibitive favorite and in search of its first win under head coach Mike Norvell. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. in a game that will be broadcast on regional television (on Fox Sports Sun in Florida, Fox Sports South in the Southeast and other regional networks are listed on the Osceola’s message board.

Why is a win against Jacksonville State important?

There are several reasons winning against the Gamecocks is important. First, it is a game you are supposed to win. Jacksonville State is an FCS program and a program of FSU’s stature should never lose to a program with 22 fewer scholarships available and what should be an advantage in size, speed and athletic ability for the Seminoles. Second, not only do the Seminoles need to win the game but they also need to play extremely well to build confidence in what they are doing on both sides of the ball as they move back into ACC play next week, when they travel to Notre Dame to take on the Fighting Irish.

Keys to Victory

Fast Start – This team needs to start fast on both offensive and defense and keep that momentum throughout the game. FSU needs to score early on offense, which it has been doing, but struggled to find the end zone the deeper it has got into its games against Georgia Tech and Miami. The defense needs to force Jacksonville State into some early three-and-outs, which is something the Seminoles haven’t had a lot of success with in the first two games. FSU ranks 65th out of 72 teams in allowing opponents to convert on third down 59.3 percent of the time. A fast start has both immediate and long-term effects. The longer FSU allows Jacksonville State to hang around the more the Gamecocks will believe they have a realistic shot at winning the game. Getting the game under control early would also allow Norvell to get some of the redshirt and true freshmen who are playing backup roles some much-needed snaps in the game, which could prove beneficial as FSU gets deeper into it season.

Get to the QB – FSU must get to Jacksonville State quarterback Zerrick Cooper and make him uncomfortable in the pocket, affect his ability to set his feet and hit receivers in rhythm. The Gamecocks were much more successful throwing the ball last year than they were running the ball and Cooper is their most talented player. JSU was 14th in passing offense a season ago. Getting to Cooper would also help an FSU secondary that has gotten off to a rough start in its first two games. The Seminoles rank 58th in pass defense and opposing quarterbacks to complete over 68 percent of their passes. Cooper is a 60-percent career passer. Make him uncomfortable and the percentage of his completions will go down, as will the Gamecocks’ chances of an upset.

Penalties – FSU didn’t help itself with penalties against Miami. Although it likely wouldn’t have mattered in the eventual outcome it might have made the final score more palatable. They committed 12 penalties against Miami and the six against the defense accounted for 78 yards in offense the Hurricanes didn’t have to earn. And that included three penalties on third down, which extended Miami drives (at least two of which resulted in touchdowns). FSU needs to be more disciplined on offense in this category as well, especially when it comes to pre-snap infractions, which aren’t forced by the defense. Of the six offensive penalties, they were actually called for nine, enforced against FSU last week, five were either false start or delay of game calls. Playing a “clean” game will help ensure that Jacksonville State has to earn anything it gets.

Predictions

Patrick Burnham – FSU 36, Jacksonville State 18

Bob Ferrante – FSU 38, Jacksonville State 23

Mark Salva – FSU 35, Jacksonville State 17

Jerry Kutz – FSU 31, Jacksonville State 28