WHO: Florida State (6-6) vs. Southern Mississippi (8-4)
WHAT: The 42nd Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
THE SKINNY: To say the 2017 season did not go according to plan for Florida State would be a massive understatement. Among the preseason favorites to reach the College Football Playoff, the Seminoles had to reschedule a game against Louisiana-Monroe just to reach the six-win minimum to become bowl eligible.
Now, Florida State is heading to the Independence Bowl after losing head coach Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M prior to the last game of the season and taking on a Southern Mississippi team that may be more dangerous than expected. Florida State will also be playing the game without one of their best players because Derwin James has decided to pass on the bowl game to focus on preparing for the NFL Draft circuit.
Florida State’s season took a nasty wrong turn right out of the gates of the season when they lost to Alabama in the Atlanta in the most-hyped season opener in years. Not only did they lose, but starting quarterback Deondre Francois was lost for the season, meaning Florida State had to play the season with James Blackman. Blackman has had his ups and downs this season, as most freshmen would. But the experience could pay off in the long run, and extra practices to prepare for the bowl game could come in handy during a time of transition.
Florida State is still a heavy favorite against the Golden Eagles in this bowl matchup. If Southern Mississippi is to score a wild upset, quarterback Kwadra Griggs must avoid making mistakes against the Florida State defense. Griggs has thrown 15 touchdowns with just two interceptions all season. Running back Ito Smith has rushed for 150 yards or more in each of the last three games, but doing so against Florida State may be difficult.
Southern Mississippi has faced two power conference opponents this season. The Golden Eagles opened the season at home against Kentucky, losing 24-17. Later in the year, Southern Miss visited Tennessee and returned home with a 24-10 loss. Southern Miss may have the talent to do some damage against most of the teams on the schedule this season, but the evidence suggests they could be in for a struggle against Florida State, even though the Seminoles have had their own struggles this season.
THE PICK: Florida State 33, Southern Mississippi 17
Chip Kelly revolutionized college football back when he was at Oregon, becoming so successful that not one but three NFL teams tried or succeeded in hiring him.
Kelly’s return to the sidelines in the college game however… could be going better. UCLA was blown out of the water on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl by No. 5 Oklahoma and the Bruins offense is actually among the worst in all of FBS.
They’re dead last in yards per play, second to last in total offense and No. 127 in scoring offense. Oh and sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is No. 99 nationally in passer rating.
Despite those numbers, it appears Kelly isn’t contemplating a new face behind center as the team moves into Pac-12 play.
“We didn’t,” Kelly said when asked by the LA Times whether he thought of making a change at quarterback on Saturday. “…we felt confident in Dorian.”
To be fair, Thompson-Robinson did seem a little improved against the Sooners than he did in his first two starts of 2019 against Cincinnati and San Diego State. But those numbers speak for themselves with road trips to Washington State and Arizona coming up for the 0-3 side from Westwood.
TCU may have moved into the top 25 of the AP Poll this week after dispatching Purdue on Saturday but upcoming opponent SMU is off to an equally hot start coming into Week 4 after topping Texas State.
In fact, it’s a historic one down in Dallas.
As the school noted recently, the 3-0 start to the 2019 campaign is the Mustangs’ best since… 1984. That’s just after the Pony Express days on the Hilltop and right before the program got hammered by the NCAA for major violations.
Sonny Dykes’ tenure got off to a rough start after going 5-7 last season but the team looks much improved thanks in part to the play of Texas transfer QB Shane Buechele.
We’ll see if the two can keep things rolling against the rival Horned Frogs but the AAC might just have another intriguing team in the mix after such a hot start by SMU.
College football coaches love controlling every element that they can in the lead up to a game in order to minimize distractions. As a result, it’s become common place for nearly every football team in the country to spend the night at a hotel before home games.
Now most folks might think it’s strange to have teams shack up in rooms when they can spend the hours before a game at home but that’s not what schools do. And those hotel bills add up to quite a pretty penny in most cases as an investigation into the practice by Gatehouse Media shows.
In 2018 alone, public schools spend a median of $44,000 on hotels and nearly $5 million total across some 109 programs according to the report. That included low spenders like Coastal Carolina (just $2,800 per game) to those rolling in cash like Texas A&M ($278,000 total, or nearly $40k per home game).
Remarkably the Aggies spent so much because the hotel they stay at requires a two-night minimum and they leave the rooms unoccupied for one of those nights.
“We believe we would be breaking sleep routine if we did not stay in a hotel before a football game,” said OSU Associate Athletics Director Jerry Emig told the site after the Buckeyes spent nearly six figures on hotels for home games. “Ohio State has stayed in a hotel the night before every road game and every home game for more than 50 years.”
There’s some interesting sortable data in the full report, which includes noting that the SEC spends the most rooms on average and the Big Ten the least.
So next time you see the buses pull up to your favorite team’s stadium on a Saturday in college football, just remember it cost a decent chunk of change for the school to house those kids in a hotel prior to the game.
Uncertainty over Florida’s future without starting quarterback Feliepe Franks is already causing voters to drop the Gators in national polls following the team’s escape at Kentucky over the weekend.
Dan Mullen’s squad dropped two spots to 11th despite winning to move to 3-0 on the season, a good indication that a forthcoming slide might happen in the AP and Coaches Polls as well. They weren’t the only ones to drop however, as Michigan slid from No. 10 to No. 12, Texas A&M dropped out altogether and Oregon moved down a spot to No. 16.
The SEC once again occupies slots 2-4 in the poll and have five of the top 16 teams overall. There was a slight change however as some voters apparently forgot about LSU’s win over new No. 9 Texas and flipped the Tigers with Georgia in the 3/4 spots. That makes the upcoming battle in Athens between the Bulldogs and No. 7 Notre Dame a top seven affair with huge College Football Playoff implications.
It should be noted that three writers (Kevin McGuire, Zach Barnett and Bryan Fischer) here at CFTalk have weekly votes in the Super 16 poll. Without further ado, here’s the full rankings heading into Week 4:
- Clemson (34 first place votes)
- Alabama (8)
- Georgia (1)
- LSU (3)
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
- Penn State
Also notable were the debut of UCF in the poll, the highest ranked Group of Five team as a result of their thumping of Stanford down in Orlando.