Murray State (0-0) at (7) Florida State (0-0)|
Saturday, September 1, 6:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The seventh-ranked Florida State Seminoles kick off their 2012
season this weekend, as they welcome the Murray State Racers to Tallahassee for
a showdown at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Jimbo Fisher's Seminoles are the favorite to win the ACC this year and with
good reason. Florida State is loaded on both sides of the football and are
coming off a second straight strong season, posting a 9-4 record, after winning
10 games in 2010,
The Seminoles dropped three straight games at one point last year, but righted
the ship with five consecutive wins after that, finishing in a tie for second-
place in the ACC's Atlantic Division. The team earned a spot in last year's
Champs Sports Bowl, posting an 18-14 win over Notre Dame.
Murray State begins its 88th year of football and was recently picked to finish
third in the FCS's Ohio Valley Conference this year. The Racers went 7-4 in
Chris Hatcher's second season at the helm and he is just the fourth coach in
MSU history to begin his career with back-to-back winning seasons.
"We're very excited about the 2012 campaign. I always say that if your not
optimistic about your team this time of year, you never will be," said Hatcher.
This marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools on the gridiron and
Murray State's first trip to the state of Florida since 1986.
The Racers will go as far as quarterback Casey Brockman will take them. Now a
senior, Brockman is once again on the Walter Payton Award watchlist, given to
the FCS's top offensive player. Last year, the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder finished
11th in the voting, throwing for 3,276 yards and 25 TDs. Brockman, who is the
Preseason OVC Player of the Year and a Preseason All-American, has a chance to
top the school's all-time list in most passing categories this season.
Brockman led a prolific offensive attack that netted a hefty 460.9 yards per
game in 2011, with just over 300 of that coming through the air.
Hatcher knows what he has in Brockman.
"First of all, he's been a tremendous competitor for us the two seasons that
I've been the coach at Murray State. He set a lot of records, but more
importantly, he's just a good fit for our offensive scheme. No doubt about it,
how Casey Brockman performs will be how our offensive unit performs this
Brockman will have some familiar faces to throw too this year, as both senior
Ja-Vonta Trotter (48 receptions, 523 yards, 4 TDs) and junior Walter Powell (45
receptions, 584 yards, 5 TDs) return on the outside.
The team did benefit last year from offensive balance delivered by tailback
Mike Harris (101.8 ypg), but Harris is gone after a terrific 2011 (1,018 yards,
13 TDs), leaving Duane Brady as the top returning rusher. As a backup the last
two seasons, Brady has rushed for 571 yards and 8 TDs.
The Racers have had their problems stopping the run the last few seasons (193.6
yards per game in 2011), but the hope is that experience and depth up front
will help in 2012. Senior defensive end Kevin Robinson headlines the group
after posting 36 tackles, 10.5 TFLs and an OVC-best 7 sacks last year.
The strength of the Murray State defense is the linebacking corps. The unit is
led by junior Qua Huzzie. A Second-Team All-OVC selection last season, Huzzie
posted 80 tackles, with 3 sacks and an OVC-best 14 TFLs. Huzzie will be joined
by junior middle linebacker Blake Salter (33 tackles) and South Carolina
transfer Corey Addison.
Junior safety Brandon Wicks headlines the secondary, after racking up 89
tackles, seven PBUs and two blocked kicks in 2011.
Injuries derailed Florida State last year, but the offense still managed just
over 30 points per game. With senior quarterback EJ Manuel back, that scoring
average could go up. Manuel completed an impressive 65 percent of his passes,
for 2,666 yards and 18 TDs in 2011 despite fighting through his own injuries.
He will have the team's top four pass catchers are back, led by sophomore
Rashad Green. Despite being a freshman and missing four games, the 6-foot Green
led the team in receptions (38), receiving yards (596) and TD catches (7).
Senior wideout Rodney Smith (6-6, 220) is the big target on the other side and
comes into 2012 off a junior year in which he hauled in 36 balls, for 561 yards
and four scores.
Sophomore tailback Devonta Freeman and senior Chris Thompson will provide the
bulk of the production on the ground. Freeman had a strong freshman debut (579
yards, 4.8 ypc, 8 TDs). Thompson suffered through an injury-plagued 2011, but
has averaged just over 5.6 yards per carry for his career in Tallahassee.
The FSU defense was one of the strongest units in the country last year, giving
up just 15.1 ppg last year, while finishing second nationally against the run
Eight starters are back on the defensive side of the ball, highlighted by the
duo of rush ends Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner. Jenkins (6-3, 260) is a
two-time First-Team All-ACC selection and is coming off 2011 in which he racked
up 41 total tackles, 12.0 TFLs and a team-high 8 sacks. Werner (6-4, 275) is
just scratching the surface of his enormous talent and comes in after posting
37 tackles, 11 TFLs and 7 sacks as a sophomore.
Gone is defensive leader Nigel Bradham in the linebacking corps, but junior
Christian Jones (56 tackles) and senior Vince Williams (54 tackles) will
The FSU secondary took a hit with senior Greg Reid's dismissal, but All-
American candidate Xavier Rhodes (43 tackles, one INT) returns at cornerback,
while Lamarcus Joyner (54 tackles, four INTs) comes back after being tabbed a
Second-Team All-ACC pick last year at strong safety.
The decision to dismiss the talented Reid wasn't easy for Fisher.
"I love Greg to death, it was just a situation where rules are rules and it's
what we have to go by and we wish Greg the best. "I don't think it's the end of
his career, he can still play and reach all his goals and I wanted him in here
as bad as anybody, but that's part of being a head coach [making tough
The Racers have a chance to vie for the OVC crown this season, but stand little
chance of keeping this one competitive. It may take a little time for the
Seminoles to hit their stride, but this one should be over relatively early in
the second half, as FSU will get a chance to empty the bench and get youngsters
some playing time.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida State 51, Murray State 10
08/31 10:33:41 ET