Florida State Seminoles vs. Ole Miss Rebels game preview


Time: 8 p.m.

Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze has been
joking for months about how neutral his team’s neutral-site game against
Florida State in Orlando, Florida really is.

After all, Camping World Stadium is
right in the backyard of many Florida State fans. For most Ole Miss
fans, it’s at least a 10-hour car ride to central Florida.

Not that Freeze is complaining. When No.
11 Ole Miss meets No. 4 Florida State on Monday night, it will cap off
an opening week of marquee matchups and the showdown will be the focal
point of the college football world.

And that’s exactly what the Rebels have wanted.

"It is a difficult task, but we relish
this opportunity," Freeze said. "It gives our football team a chance to
play on a national stage against one of the top teams in America. That’s
the kind of games we want to be in and we have an opportunity to expand
our brand."

Both teams expect to have a prolific offense this season, but for very different reasons.

Ole Miss will lean on senior quarterback
Chad Kelly, who threw for 4,042 yards and ran for 500 more last season.
He has experienced receivers around him, including Damore’ea
Stringfellow, Quincy Adeboyejo and tight end Evan Engram.

Florida State quarterback Deondre
Francois will be making his first career start, so expect the Seminoles
to rely on star running back Dalvin Cook, who starts the year among the
favorites to win the Heisman Trophy.

The Seminoles also have an experienced
defense led by safety Derwin James, who was second on the team as a
freshman last season with 91 tackles. He also added 9 tackles for a

"We’re ready to showcase what we’ve
been putting in the work for all year," James said. "I’m very excited.
Everyone is excited. We’re anxious. I feel like it’s going to be a great
game. Two great teams."

Here are some things to watch when Ole Miss faces Florida State on Monday:


Ole Miss junior Rod Taylor was the surprise winner of the left tackle
job during preseason camp. The 6-foot-3, 329-pounder has always been
talented, it’s just that his body type is more suited for guard, which
is where he spent most of his time in previous seasons. Now, he’ll be
charged with protecting quarterback Chad Kelly’s blindside.


Kelly was an unknown at this time last year, but led the Rebels to a
10-win season in 2015. Now he’ll try for a repeat performance without
former stars, including left tackle Laremy Tunsil and receiver Laquon
Treadwell, who are now in the NFL.


Cook begins his
Heisman campaign in a stadium where he helped lead Miami Central to a
state title. Cook has eight straight 100-yard games when they take place
in the state of Florida and is averaging 159.8 yards (180 carries,
1,278 yards and 15 touchdowns) during that span. Last year’s offensive
line, led by left tackle Rod Johnson, also returns intact.


Florida State junior
outside linebacker Matthew Thomas. He missed all of last season due to a
shoulder injury and team issues. Thomas’ quickness and ability to play
both the run and pass could free up defensive linemen DeMarcus Walker
and Josh Sweat from double teams.


With power out in 80
percent of Tallahassee and much of Florida State’s campus due to
Hurricane Hermine, the Seminoles had to improvise during their final two
days of practice. Fisher went through two hurricanes while he was an
assistant at LSU — Katrina and Rita — and said balancing personal and
football priorities in the aftermath of storms is always challenging.
"That’s the way life is sometimes," Fisher said. "Hopefully that’s a
good lesson for life."

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