WINNERS AND WINNERS – The Louisiana Monroe Warhawks will head on the road to Tallahassee, Florida on Saturday afternoon for a tough non-conference battle versus the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Florida State is coming off a heartbreaking loss after blowing an 18-point second half lead versus the Boise State Broncos in the team’s season-opener last weekend. Meanwhile, the Warhawks are trying to become bowl eligible after narrowly missing out on the postseason in 2018. Can Florida State bounce back and cover the spread against Louisiana Monroe on Saturday afternoon?
Louisiana Monroe saw their defense improve in 2018, but they had a disappointing offense, which kept them from competing in a bowl game despite compiling a 6-6 overall record. They were one of four bowl-eligible teams to miss out on bowl season after a late rivalry loss in its season finale. They might have a small margin for error once again in 2019, as a likely 1-3 non-conference start would mean that the Warhawks will have to go 6-2 in conference play to be assured a bid.
Most of Louisiana Monroe’s playmakers returned on the defensive side of the ball and they have more depth on the roster than in recent seasons. Senior quarterback Caleb Evans is back under center after a lackluster 2018 season. He threw for 2,869 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year after putting up a 2,868-yard, 16-TD, 12-INT season as a sophomore.
Evans was serviceable in the team’s season-opener versus Grambling last week, completing 19 of 25 passes for 183 yards, one touchdown and one interception. However, it was the Warhawks’ run game that stole the show, as Josh Johnson needed just 10 rushing attempts to rack up 173 yards and two touchdowns. In total, UL-Monroe ran for 315 yards and racked up 501 yards of total offense in the win 31-9 victory over Grambling.
The Warhawks will need to show some improvement on defense though, as they gave up 407 yards of total offense to a lackluster Grambling program.
The Seminoles are no longer the blue bloods of old and they received a rude awakening in their opening week loss to Boise State last week. Things looked good for Florida State early, as they jumped out to a 21-6 lead and lead by as many as 18 in the second quarter before Boise State riled off 23 unanswered points to escape with a 36-31 victory behind a true freshman quarterback. Seminoles sophomore James Blackman put up strong numbers in a losing effort, completing 23 of 33 passes for 327 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on the day. Most of that production came in the first half though, as Blackman was 14 of 17 for 278 yards and three scores before halftime. However, Florida State went scoreless on their final nine drives, in part because the run game stalled in the second half. They will also have to clean up their run-pass options, which routinely ended up with incomplete passes down the field.
Conditioning may have also been an issue heading into the first week of the season, as several players reportedly starting cramping up after the team built an 18-point lead. That sounds plausible for the defense, as Florida State only had the ball for 19:57. Earlier in the week Seminoles’ offensive lineman Baveon Johnson questioned the team’s conditioning level, saying it “wasn’t [their] strong suit”. Meanwhile, Florida State coach Willie Taggart blamed the cramping up on dehydration. No matter the case, the Seminoles will have to find a way to be more in-sync this week against Louisiana Monroe.
The Warhawks’ passing game seemed to miss the presence of Marcus Green, who had established himself as one of the Sun Belt’s top receivers. Evans was far from spectacular in Week 1 versus Grambling and he’s undoubtedly going to have a tougher time against what should be a hungry Florida State defense. Expect James Blackman and the FSU offense to look more like they did in the first half against Boise State, moving the ball downfield with relative ease. Blackman was 14 of 17 for 287 yards and three scores before halftime. Take Florida State to cover the spread at home in this non-conference battle on Saturday. Prediction: Florida State Seminoles -21 Click here to bet this pick RISK FREE for up to $1,000 with PointsBet®!