Florida State has only played one game, but the Seminoles are showing shades of their 2014 selves. If that's any indication, their 45-34 come-from-behind win over Ole Miss to cap off Week 1 will be a theme throughout the year. Which means a few grey hairs among the FSU faithful along the way.
However, considering a couple of top-10 teams were upset in Week 1, here's betting the Seminoles will take the win. Florida State has a long ways to go if it's going to knock off Clemson and win the ACC Atlantic, ACC and/or get to the College Football Playoff. Still, it showed a lot of resiliency and an ability to improve as the game went on.
It really was a tale of two halves. So how did Florida State look so disheveled for the first 30 minutes before turning on the jets? These were the five keys to the games.
1. The Noles got a lot of takeaways. Surprise! A team's win probability goes up the moment it starts forcing its opponent into turnovers. Florida State actually won the first-half turnover battle 1-0 but really turned it on in the second half by forcing Ole Miss into three consecutive turnovers in the third quarter. Funny how ineffective the Rebels are when their scoring opportunities went away. Additionally, Florida State did its part by taking care of the ball with zero turnovers.
2. Penalties went down, too. Florida State could not stop shooting itself in the foot with 11 first-half penalties. There were false starts, personal fouls ... you name it. Those penalties particularly hurt the offense when Florida State fell behind early.
Also encouraging for Noles: After 11 penalties in first half, only 3 in second half. Lots of improvement across board, including OL.— Travis Haney (@TravHaneyESPN) September 6, 2016
Keep in mind this was an offense that came into the year with a lot to prove -- outside of running back Dalvin Cook, that is. The Noles were breaking in a new quarterback (Deondre Francois) and needed to improve significantly at offensive line and wide receiver. Chemistry, rhythm and execution were hindered by the fact that Florida State often started behind the chains. Though FSU had 15 penalties for the game, it was a much cleaner effort in the second half.
3. The defense stepped it up. Florida State's defense was the subject of plenty of offseason hype. Specifically the secondary, anchored by safety Derwin James, was considered the bright spot. At least early on, that didn't look like the case. Ole Miss scored on the first drive of the game in less than two minutes and racked up 28 first-half points. There were busted assignments, open receivers and Rebels quarterback Chad Kelly had time to throw.
The second half, as is a recurring theme here, was a different story. In addition to forcing turnovers, the Seminoles defense simply stiffened up. In the third quarter alone, FSU held Ole Miss to 12 plays, -7 yards and had three takeaways. For the second half as a whole, the Rebels had one sustained, 75-yard touchdown drive. Defensive end Demarcus Walker had 4.5 sacks.
DeMarcus Walker, who had only one tackle at the half, finishes with 4.5 sacks.— Curt Weiler (@CurtMWeiler) September 6, 2016
4. Jimbo Fisher started moving Francois around. As it turns out, the Seminoles still have startling issues along the offensive line carrying over from 2015. The unit was pretty bad all around, but the outside tackles had a particularly rough night. Guys like Marquis Haynes, Issac Gross and Breeland Speaks for Ole Miss feasted as a result.
However, Fisher is excellent at making second-half adjustments, and one thing he did was move Francois outside the pocket on a number of throws. That got the redshirt freshman directly out of harms way while allowing him to use some of his underrated athleticism to extend plays or pick up yards with his feet.
In a lot of ways, this resembled Florida State's philosophy when it started Everett Golson, a mobile quarterback, last year to offset some of its O-line problems.
5. And, yeah, Francois grew up a lot. Fisher may have put Francois in better positions to make plays -- and to not get drilled into the ground -- but ultimately it was up to the player to execute. Francois struggled in the first half with low throws and poor decisions by tossing a number of balls into heavy traffic. Fisher, who always coaches his players hard (even his star players), wasn't pleased ...
But credit Francois for turning things around in the final 30 minutes. The newcomer has a tremendous arm and he was tossing darts all over the field. Yes, his decision-making still needs work, as does his timing, but we should expect that much from someone making his first career start. When he needed to make big throws -- a 27-yard completion to Travis Rudolph on a 3rd-and-15 in the fourth quarter certainly sufficed -- he did.
Francois did more than enough with 420 yards, especially given that Ole Miss did a nice job containing Cook and the Seminoles rushing attack. It has to be comforting for Florida State to know that Francois can pick up the slack if the team's best offensive player is limited.