Uncertainty surrounds No. 10 Florida State's home game
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The outlook for Florida State's season changed quickly.
The Seminoles started No. 3 in the preseason poll, but lost to top-ranked Alabama last Saturday night in Atlanta, also losing starting quarterback Deondre Francois for the season because of a torn patellar tendon in his knee cap.
Florida State fell to No. 10 this week in advance of a home game against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday night in Tallahassee, Fla.
In addition, the approach of Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm barreling toward Florida with an expected landfall Saturday or Sunday, has forced the scheduled Saturday night game at Doak Campbell Stadium to move up to noon, the school announced.
"We have moved the game time after consulting with a number of state agencies and based on the information we have on the potential impact on the state," FSU president John Thrasher said in a statement Wednesday. "The earlier start will give ULM the opportunity to travel safely after the game, and provide many of our fans a chance to come to the game and return home in time to make any necessary preparations."
The University of Central Florida, which had a Saturday game scheduled in Orlando against Memphis, announced Tuesday afternoon it was moving its game to Friday as it aimed to avoid Hurricane Irma.
As for the football part of this week, coach Jimbo Fisher now turns to true freshman James Blackman at quarterback. He is a 6-foot-5, 185-pounder from Belle Glades, Fla.
"(James is) very easy, very strong-willed, very independent and confident -- not arrogant, but confident," Fisher said. "Has a great presence to him."
Blackman, who was the No. 7-rated pro-style quarterback in the nation in last year's high school class, appears to already have the confidence of his teammates.
"He's going up against the best defense in the country in practice," star Florida State defensive back Derwin James said. "So I feel like he'll be ready for the game."
Fisher said Blackman showed him early in spring practice that -- if ever called on -- he would be ready for this moment.
"I think overall just the knowledge of the game (has been his biggest improvement) -- and his ability to want to learn. He studies the game and works at it," Fisher said of Blackman.
Louisiana-Monroe lost at Memphis 37-29 last week in its opener as a late comeback fell short.
Fisher said the Warhawks are athletic and aren't an opponent to be taken lightly.
"(Louisiana-Monroe is a) very good team as far as different looks on defense," Fisher said. "(Their) offense spreads the field, (and their) quarterback is athletic. I know the defensive coordinator Mike Collins, he was with us at LSU when I was there."
The Warhawks certainly aren't afraid to mix up their looks on defense or offense. They played two quarterbacks against Memphis, and coach Matt Viator said after the loss he won't commit to sophomore Caleb Evans or junior Garrett Smith against Florida State. He might play both of them again.
"We haven't had that conversation," Viator said in the Monroe News-Star on Monday.
"I know everyone wants to know, but it's more important that we take our time and make the decision for Saturday. In terms of practice, I've never been a believer that one guy should get 70 percent of the reps. Who starts has nothing to with what we're doing today or tomorrow, so I don't think that's pressing."
When asked what advice Fisher has given Blackman ahead of Saturday's start, Fisher said it was similar advice he's given all his quarterbacks over the years.
"Prepare. Put your time in. Play one play at a time. Trust your eyes. Process the information. Make great decisions," Fisher said.
"You get a chance to be accurate with the ball, make it. If you make a check (down), make a check and believe in what you're doing. Do it with conviction."
Florida State junior running back Jacques Patrick was ineffective against Alabama -- rushing for just 17 yards on six carries -- while true freshman Cam Akers, a five-star recruit, rushed for 30 yards on 10 carries. Patrick was still listed as the starter on Monday's depth chart, but look for Fisher to get the ball to Akers plenty on Saturday to see more of what his freshman running back can do.
Updated September 6, 2017