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NCAAF Preview: Florida State Seminoles vs. LSU Tigers odds, prediction and picks

The Action Network’s Michael Arinze thinks the LSU Tigers still have plenty to overcome in Brian Kelly’s first game

Brian Kelly speaks after being introduced as the head football coach of the LSU Tigers during a news conference at Tiger Stadium on December 01, 2021 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Brian Kelly speaks after being introduced as the head football coach of the LSU Tigers during a news conference at Tiger Stadium on December 01, 2021 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)Read moreJONATHAN BACHMAN / Getty Images

After 12 seasons, Brian Kelly left Notre Dame. He finished his tenure at South Bend as the winningest coach in school history with 113 victories.

Kelly guided Notre Dame to 10 bowl games, including the 2013 BCS National Championship Game and two College Football Playoff appearances in 2018 and 2020.

However, Notre Dame went just 4-11 under him against opponents in the top ten, and in his words, he felt he didn’t have the resources to win a national championship.

That shouldn’t be the case for Kelly at LSU, given that the SEC school is only three years removed from winning its fourth national title. His first test with his new team begins on Sunday night when LSU takes on Florida State at the Superdome.

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Florida State Seminoles vs. LSU Tigers

Moneyline: FSU (+142) vs. LSU (-172)

Spread: FSU +3.5 (-118) vs. LSU -3.5 (-104)

Total: Over 51.5 (-105) | Under 51.5 (-115)

Analysis

Like LSU, Florida State is trying to return to the top of the college football pyramid. The Seminoles are on to their third head coach six years after luring Mike Norvell away from Memphis in 2019.

FSU hasn’t been the same since the departure of Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M. The program is still amidst a significant overhaul after finishing with four straight losing seasons since 2018.

Fisher decided to leave FSU after repeated battles with boosters and the athletic department for more resources and facility upgrades. The reality is that no matter how good of a coach you are, your success largely depends on the school’s financial commitment to the program.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t overachieve every once in a while. But to have continuous success and to attract the best players in the country, at some point, you’ll have to start keeping up with the Joneses.

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One of Norvell’s first tasks at FSU was to find himself a quarterback. It’s been somewhat of a merry-go-round at the position with dueling quarterbacks over the past five years. However, it looks like FSU has some stability with Jordan Travis under center.

The Seminoles bookended their season last year with decent performances against Notre Dame and Florida. FSU lost both games by three points but did manage to cover the spread as underdogs.

According to ESPN’s Bill Connelly, the Seminoles rank 13th (77%) in his Returning Production Rankings. The offense should take a step forward after landing four Power Five transfers at the wide receiver position. Defensively, FSU should be able to build from a unit that finished in the top ten inside the red zone. The problem for Florida State is that it can be vulnerable to giving up big plays.

However, facing LSU might not be the worst thing for FSU, as the Tigers began their preseason with an open quarterback competition.

Max Johnson might have had an inside track to winning the job, but he entered the transfer portal shortly after Kelly was hired. Johnson had a 27:6 TD: INT ratio with 2,815 passing yards in 2021 for LSU. The Tigers also lost sixth-year senior Myles Brennan, who opted to retire from football, leaving transfer Jayden Daniels and redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmei to compete for the starting job.

Kelly has yet to announce a starter, so he’s resorting to some trickery in his first LSU game. That decision is a clear red flag for me with a team that ranks 70th (63%) in returning production.

Defensively, the Tigers will have a completely different look under new coordinator Matt House. They return only three starters on that side of the ball, which could lead to some nervy situations early in the season.

Based on Kelly’s reputation, I initially leaned to the Tigers when they first opened as 2.5-point favorites. However, with all the moving parts surrounding LSU’s roster combined and the line now up to -3.5, I think the value lies with the visitors at the current price.

Pick

Lean Florida State +3.5

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