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Game Preview: Jacksonville State

The 'Noles look to take out their week one frustrations on Jacksonville State.

Game Introduction

After a close 41-38 (OT) loss to No. 9 Notre Dame, Florida State is confident heading into week two. In their 2020 bout, the Seminoles defeated the Gamecocks 41-24 but were tied at 21 apiece at halftime. The ‘Noles seem more complete across the board than last year's team, which should suit them well in this rematch. If they take care of business, the younger players on the roster should have an opportunity at developmental reps in the second half.

Jacksonville State is 0-1 after suffering a 31-0 loss against UAB a week ago. They were outgained 518-154 in total yards, and managed just 66 yards on the ground. In last year's matchup, the Gamecocks gave up 263 rushing yards to FSU. In their 2020 spring season, the Gamecocks went 7-2 and challenged for an FCS title, but are facing a step up in competition when they arrive in Tallahassee.

The game is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 11. Kickoff is at 8:00 p.m. on ACC Network.

Seminole Headlines

Milton and Travis two-quarterback system

After relieving Travis in the fourth quarter, Milton almost brought the ‘Noles a signature upset in his first game since 2018. He finished 5-for-7 for 48 yards while looking comfortable delivering passes under pressure. For someone coming off a devastating injury, Milton showed good enough mobility escaping the pocket and creating on his own.

Travis had his respective issues throughout the game, but did throw two touchdowns, including this one to wide receiver Ja’Khi Douglas. Travis torched Jacksonville State for 258 all-purpose yards in last season’s matchup. He should get into a better rhythm this weekend with more time in the pocket against a lesser opponent.

The Gamecocks defense gave up 371 passing yards versus UAB. It will be fascinating to see who gets the nod, especially after Milton’s late-game heroics in front of a national audience. Expect both to have packages and opportunities throughout the contest, regardless of who takes the first snap.

Defensive line clicking on all cylinders

Jermaine Johnson (seven tackles, two for loss, 1.5 sacks) and Keir Thomas (four tackles, one sack) both lived up to the billing as new difference makers. Johnson’s performance was good enough to earn him ACC Defensive Player of the Week. Quashon Fuller recorded his first career sack, while Fabien Lovett and Robert Cooper shut down the interior. The Irish gained just 65 yards on 35 carries.

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Since Brian Burns left, the Seminoles defense has lacked an alpha pass rusher. From the looks of the Notre Dame game, Johnson has all the makings to fill that void. He should produce another multiple sack outing against the Gamecocks.

Burning Questions

Can the rushing attack duplicate last week's performance?

Entering week one, the Notre Dame defense was projected to keep FSU’s offense in check due to its physical play up front. However, the trio of Jashuan Corbin, Lawrance Toafili, and Treshuan Ward combined for 264 yards, including 144 from Corbin. If there were any questions about Corbin’s explosiveness, those were put to rest on this 89-yard touchdown. Ward, a former walk-on, averaged 6.9 yards per carry for 76 yards on 11 touches.

With Corbin, Toafili, and Ward all in the mix, the ‘Noles have a variety of skill sets to use in the backfield. In this favorable matchup, they should all put up big numbers on Saturday.

How are the defensive backs in pass coverage?

The Seminoles pass defense allowed Notre Dame quarterback Jack Coan to throw for 366 yards and four touchdowns, to the surprise of many. The Irish scored their first touchdown of the game on a busted coverage and converted three more through the air before the night's end. Travis Jay, who is adjusting to his new position at cornerback, will have an opportunity to bounce back after losing a few jump balls to the Irish receivers.

Behind quarterback Zerrick Cooper, Jacksonville State is fully capable of moving the ball through the air. However, in their 31-0 loss to UAB week one, Cooper was held to 88 passing yards. In last year's matchup, the Gamecocks threw for 232 yards. Their offense does not have any serious threats on the outside, but wide receiver PJ Wells is one player to keep an eye on. If the defensive backs suffer from the same mistakes as they did against Notre Dame, the Gamecocks could connect on a few shots downfield and make this one interesting.

Forecast

Following their performance against Notre Dame, the Seminoles have no excuse not to dominate Jacksonville State from the opening kickoff. The talent gap is clear on each side of the ball, with the ‘Noles having an advantage at basically every position. In years past, FSU has let FCS and non-Power-Five programs (UL-Monroe, Samford) stick around well into the second half. In the second year of the Mike Norvell regime, this game should be completely different.

Florida State 41, Jacksonville State 17