When Florida State takes the field September 4th against Samford the Jimbo Fisher era will officially be under way. The expectations for the 2010 have been increasing as the season nears. With FSU picked to play for the ACC Championship, and with Christian Ponder garnering Heisman Trophy attention, the game against the Bulldogs is being looked at as the start to what could be a promising season for the Seminoles.
Samford enters will be entering this game with one of their most experienced teams they've had in some time. With 23 seniors and 15 returning starters Samford should be competitive in the Southern Conference of the FCS.
Offensively the Bulldogs are led by running back Chris Evans, who enters his senior season as the school's all-time leading rusher. What makes Evans more dangerous is that he also led the team in receptions in 2009 with 38.
For Samford they'll need to play mistake free football. While we've seen FSU struggle against lesser competition over the past few years this year seems different. The Bulldogs do have Evans, and they'll have a 3 year starter at quarterback in junior Dustin Taliaferro. Dustin passed for 1,692 yards and 9 touchdowns last year while accumulating 5 scores on the ground. The offensive line is short on depth and there isn't a lot of experience coming back at wide receiver for Samford.
Where the Bulldogs stand out early is on defense. Last year they ranked in the top 20 in the FCS in total defense, sacks, tackles for a loss and scoring defense. They return middle linebacker Bryce Smith, who led the nation is solo tackles per game last year. He'll be depended on against FSU to show that athleticism as he leads a young group of linebackers.
Up front Samford returns 3 starters in John Michael Clay, Patrick Hatcher and Jason Gaines. That trio combined for 20 TFL's and over 10 sacks last year.
The defensive backfield will be tested by FSU's offense as they don't have a lot of starting experience. Thomas Broussard will be a 4th year starter at free safety, but the 3 other spots will be filled by guys that have been mostly back-ups so far in their careers.
What FSU must do to win: Play smart, and temper the excitement. There is not a lot of concern about this team heading into the start of the 2010 season, so the ‘Noles will just to play within themselves and play mistake free ball. FSU's offense will be too much for Samford to handle as Ponder should get his Heisman campaign off to a great start. Look for the new coaching staff to work in several players offensively to get some of their feet wet before they head further into the season. Defensively this game gives the Seminoles a chance to work out some kinks before they head to Oklahoma in week 2.
NoleDigest way too early prediction: While this game has no affect on what happens in the ACC this game is about getting off to a good start. FSU should out in this game looking to prove a point. There is a lot of motivation within the program to erase the past few years on the field. Look for Christian to play some great football early and put a lot of points up on the board before what more than likely will be a short day. With the talent in the backfield, and an offensive line that will have it's way, look for the offense to have a huge day. Samford may find some success on the ground with Evans, but it shouldn't be enough to threaten the outcome of the game. This should be a dominating blow-out.
FSU 60 Samford 10
Stay tuned to NoleDigest as we continue the "Road to Charlotte" series when we look at the Oklahoma Sooners.
The Road to Charlotte: Game 1- Samford
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