After consecutive victories over Delaware State and rival Florida, Florida State is one win away from becoming bowl eligible for a 36th straight season. The Seminoles will wrap up their slate on Saturday against a Louisiana Monroe team that they were supposed to play in their home opener.
The contest was originally scheduled for Sept. 9 at Doak Campbell Stadium, but Hurricane Irma canceled a slew of games, including this one. The two schools decided this one would be made up in mid-November. FSU correctly saw it necessary toward becoming bowl eligible.
Last week, FSU defeated Florida 38-22 in Gainesville in a contest where both teams had fewer than 300 yards of offense. ULM lost 67-50 to Arkansas State in a game that saw plenty of offense. Saturday’s contest in Tallahassee will be just the second between the schools. FSU won the first meeting to open the 2011 season, 34-0.
ULM at Florida State
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 2 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC Network Extra
Spread: Florida State -27
Three Things to Watch
1. FSU freshman backfield
For a pair of true freshmen starting in the backfield for Florida State, Saturday could be a big day. Quarterback James Blackman has played very well the last couple weeks, although his numbers didn’t reflect it last week as a result of drops. Blackman will be facing a ULM defense that ranks 127th in the FBS in pass defense, yielding more than 308 yards per game through the air. This should offer Blackman the opportunity to have a nice day, build confidence and get FSU to a bowl game.
For running back Cam Akers, the task also seems far from tall. Akers will be facing a rush defense for the Warhawks that ranks 119th and gives up more than 226 yards per game on the ground. Akers has become the feature back in FSU’s offense, although Jacques Patrick gets plenty of carries. Akers is 187 yards away from joining Dalvin Cook as just the second FSU freshman to run for 1,000 yards in a season. If the touches are plentiful, he could get there on Saturday.
2. Caleb Evans vs. the FSU defense
ULM may be a healthy underdog on Saturday, but it has a quarterback that can entertain if nothing else. Evans is a sophomore dual-threat quarterback with more than 3,100 total yards to his name this season and 29 total touchdowns. Evans is coming off a performance against Arkansas State where he tossed for a career-high 454 yards and four touchdowns, although three of his six interceptions for the year came in that contest. Evans also is the team’s second-leading rusher and has a nice trio of receivers in Marcus Green, RJ Turner and Brian Williams.
Evans will be facing an FSU defense that seems to be getting better by the week. That unit has played inspired over the last two weeks, scoring three defensive touchdowns with what should have been another. That side of the ball is led by All-ACC safety Derwin James (above, right), who could be used as a spy in certain situations against Evans. Levonta Taylor, a sophomore cornerback, has had an outstanding season and is coming off a contest where he recorded two interceptions and returned one for a score. The Seminoles' defensive end trio of Josh Sweat, Brian Burns and Joshua Kaindoh also has been relentless in recent weeks.
3. ULM's Marcus Green
Florida State may be loaded with talented skill players, but ULM also has one that should not be ignored in Green. Green, a speedster, not only leads the Warhawks in receiving with 723 yards and five touchdowns, but he's also explosive as a rusher and a returner. Green is averaging 15.1 yards per rush on 12 touches this season and is tied for the FBS lead with four kickoff returns for a touchdown. If the Warhawks are able to keep this one interesting on Saturday, Green will be a big reason why.
With Florida State looking to become bowl eligible and ULM playing its final game, there are questions about how motivated the Warhawks will be as already healthy underdogs. The latest rumors regarding FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher potentially leaving for Texas A&M could be a distraction as well. When all is said and done however, there is a talent gap between the schools that should be significant enough to offset anything else.