Risk and reward: Jimbo Fisher hopes tough opener pays dividends for FSU
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is as anxious as everyone else to see if scheduling one of the Seminoles' toughest opponents to start the season will pay dividends.
Fourth-ranked Florida State has a history of opening up against Power Five opponents -- including Miami and Clemson -- but that was before the College Football Playoff. The Sept. 5 game in Orlando against No. 11 Mississippi marks the fourth time since 2004 that the Seminoles have opened with a ranked opponent.
"I think you hope so. But also you are taking a huge risk," Fisher said on Monday about facing a Top 25 team to start the season. "It will be anxious to see now that teams are doing that, how much they reward the teams that do play these kind of schedules."
This game is in the middle of a stretch in which Florida State will open the season with a neutral-site game against a Power Five team. Two years ago, Florida State defeated Oklahoma State 37-31 in Arlington, Texas. Next season it faces Alabama in Atlanta. This year also marks the sixth time since 2005 the Seminoles have played on Labor Day.
As the College Football Playoff begins its third season, Fisher is like many coaches who wonder how a loss might factor into the committee's thinking in determining the four-team field. Fisher said though no one would know the true effect until a two-loss team makes the field, which may not happen anytime soon.
"I think at the end of the day when scheduling is concerned, it should be what gets me to the playoffs which is the National Championship game," Fisher said. "You've got to win your conference schedule, those things, but how you schedule outside, to me, is the key."
The Mississippi game also begins a challenging stretch for the Seminoles, who could face four ranked teams in their first six contests -- Sept. 17 at No. 19 Louisville, Oct. 1 against No. 20 North Carolina and Oct. 8 at Miami, which could be ranked. The game that could have the greatest playoff impact for Florida State will be Oct. 29 when the Seminoles host Clemson.
A win for Mississippi against Florida State could also have championship implications for the Rebels.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said that a win would give his program further confidence and show that things remain on the right track.
"I think with the September we have, we don't need to waste much time jumping into battles," he said. "We are going to have some really tough challenges in that month. You hope you stay healthy and you hope you learn from the last game, win or lose, and are able to improve through the course of this slate of game."
As preparations ramp up for the Rebels, Fisher said he was pleased with how his team came out of preseason camp and how physical they were in practice. Fisher also noted that redshirt freshman Deondre Francois has settled in to the starting job at quarterback. Sean Maguire, who had surgery to place a screw in his broken right foot two weeks ago, has returned to practice but his status is questionable.
The only other notable injury to a starter is center Alec Eberle, who continues to be evaluated for a concussion.
Monday also marked the release of the first depth chart of the season. The only surprises were that freshmen Ricky Aguayo and Logan Tyler will split the kicking duties while Rick Leonard is listed as the starting right tackle. Leonard was a defensive end last season before switching to the offensive line in the spring.
"I feel comfortable right now. But never comfortable enough," Fisher said. "As a coach, we're always Debbie Downer now. I'm going to tell you. We see everything that can go wrong. I still think we're a work in progress as always. I think all teams are at this stage. We've done some really nice things."