But Seminole head coach Jimbo Fisher isn’t taking the Rebels lightly.
Ole Miss presents a number of challenges for his playoff-hopeful club, from veteran quarterback Chad Kelly to a talent-rich wide receiver corps Fisher said has “size and athleticism” and “really attacks the football.”
“We’re looking forward to our opening game,” he said. “We felt very good about camp. We had a hard, tough camp as most people do. We had some adversity in camp that we were able to work through and overcome. I like our attitude. We’re working hard, and we have a great demeanor. We know it’s going to be one heck of an opener with Ole Miss. We know they have a great team. We’ll have our hands full and will need to be playing great football right out of the gate.”
Fisher is in his seventh year at Florida State, having guided the Seminoles to a 68-14 record and six bowl games, including a 2013 national championship. His 2016 team has national championship aspirations as well after positing a 10-3 record last season and returning such heralded players as star running back Dalvin Cook, a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate. Cook rushed for 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Ole Miss, though, is a formidable first test for Fisher and Co. The Rebels finished 10-3 in their previous campaign, too, and like Florida State, was one of five programs in the country to make consecutive New Year’s Six bowl appearances in the first two years of the College Football Playoff system.
“We have to come out with great habits and not let the moment overwhelm us, which we shouldn’t,” Fisher said. “We have to keep our poise and be able to execute in the opening game and not try to do too much.
“We have to take care of the football and create turnovers on the other side, control the line of scrimmage. We have to eliminate big plays and make big plays. It always comes down to the same things. Also the kicking game, and you can’t jump off-sides and put yourself in negative plays. You can’t get behind the 8-Ball.”
Kelly is the catalyst of an Ole Miss offense that topped the SEC in scoring, total offense and passing last season. His 4,542 total yards and 4,042 passing yards were the third-most in SEC history.
“We feel we have good players and have done a great job in camp,” Fisher said, when asked how the FSU secondary matches up with Kelly. “We have to be disciplined with our cover guys. We have to make him throw in tight windows, which he can do, and those receivers catch the ball really well. We have to tackle well, mix coverages and mix blitzes. We have to affect him. We can’t let him get comfortable. We have to rush in lanes, because he can really run the football, too, and he’s really competitive.”
The Seminoles will hands the keys to their offense to redshirt freshman quarterback Deondre Francois, and he will man an offense that posted 31.7 points per game, 168.2 rushing yards and 255.8 passing yards last season.
“Playing quarterback is a grind. There are going to be good day and bad days, things you can’t control,” Fisher said. “It’s his ability to come to work every day, study the game, study his own habits, learn himself and not get too high or too low but to keep and even keel. That’s what I really like. He pushes himself.
“Not only his command of the offense, but he gets the respect of the players. They like him as a person, but they respect his work ethic and his competitiveness. The defense knows if they keep playing hard and get him the ball he’s going to work his tail off. They respect him for how he goes about his business daily.”