There are plenty of new faces in new places this year, but Brian Kelly's debut at LSU may be the most anticipated in all of college football. Kelly's new family takes center stage on Sunday night in New Orleans against the Florida State Seminoles, who enter a pivotal year in Mike Norvell's third season. The Seminoles got their season off to a strong start with a 47-7 win over Duquesne in Week 0. They racked up 638 total yards and an eye-popping 8.39 yards per play, but there isn't much insight for bettors to take away from a glorified scrimmage with an FCS opponent. Nevertheless, the several question marks on both teams make this a fascinating matchup. It certainly wasn't my strongest edge on the board, but I know after Saturday's massive slate, this game will be too good to pass up on getting in on the action.
LSU (-3) vs. Florida State
My initial reaction to this game opening at -3.5 was to wait until kickoff and see how many points would come the Seminoles' way. After all, a general rule of thumb is to grab the points against a favorite with a few unknowns. Florida State's win last weekend didn't tell us much, but it gave hope to Seminoles backers who believe this offense can reach new heights under returning QB Jordan Travis. And even though I think that can be the case throughout the season, they aren't ready to do it against a defensive front like LSU's.
Key injuries have made the Seminoles' offensive line vulnerable up the middle, and LSU DT Maason Smith will be a nightmare for Travis all night. I don't expect Florida State to have consistent success running the ball, allowing defensive coordinator Matt House to unleash mayhem with the Tigers' pass rush. Team captain B.J. Ojulari is coming off a seven-sack season and anchors a front seven with the depth and talent to take over this game. LSU has had a lot of turnover in the secondary, but I doubt Travis will have the time to exploit its biggest defensive weakness.
LSU's pressure will force Florida State to methodically move the ball down the field, rather than take advantage of a defensive backfield that ranked 116th in explosive pass plays allowed. Having to beat LSU's defense 10 yards at a time will put Travis' consistency to the test. I don't think he can get the job done in a likely loud environment that makes this neutral site feel like an LSU home game.
LSU is going to have its own offensive line challenges, but it helps when you can get the ball into the hands of a top three wideout in the country. Kayshon Boutte's 14 TDs in only 16 career games demonstrate his home-run ability as a playmaker, and he will serve as a cheat code against an experienced Seminoles secondary. Despite QB Jayden Daniels having so much to prove this season, he has enough surrounding talent for me to back him against a team that will be fighting for bowl eligibility for the entire season. After going back and forth all week, let's lock up LSU before it moves past the key number of 3. Kelly hasn't lost an opener since 2016, so I'm betting he keeps the streak alive with a more talented team on Sunday night.
Stats provided by Althon Sports and cfbstats.com.