TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Home, road or on neutral turf, Boise State has shown a willingness to play anyone anywhere.
And the Broncos don't just show up, they win. They have knocked off five teams from Power 5 conferences dating back to 2014.
Boise State now has Florida State in its sights. Coach Bryan Harsin is not only looking forward to Saturday's matchup against the Seminoles, he embraces it. The coach also believes it's part of Boise State's DNA.
"We're not going there to play these teams to say that we played them and we have them on the schedule," said Harsin, who has won 52 games in five seasons at Boise. "That's not the mentality. These are not those money games. These are games to go out there to compete to win.
"If someone ever comes up and says, 'Hey, this is awesome you're playing a money game,' I would want to punch them.' "
Boise State has been delivering the knockouts more often than not. The Broncos have taken down Arizona (2014), Virginia (2015), Washington State and Oregon State (2016), and Oregon (2017) in recent years. Harsin and Boise State also have scheduled Power 5 opponents years in advance as they will play host to Florida State in 2020, Oklahoma State in 2021 and Michigan State in 2022.
Florida State, which is a touchdown favorite in a game that has been moved from Jacksonville to Tallahassee due to Hurricane Dorian, looks to avoid becoming the latest team upset at the hands of the Broncos. The Seminoles want to build momentum in year 2 under coach Willie Taggart, who went 5-7 in 2018 and but have hired three new offensive assistant coaches and are looking to bounce back.
"If you come out and win that game, you are going to set the tone for the season," Florida State defensive tackle Marvin Wilson said.
Taggart and new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles chose redshirt sophomore James Blackman as the starting quarterback on Sunday. Blackman edged out Wisconsin graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook and Louisville transfer Jordan Travis.
"James being here longer was probably more of the deciding factor," Briles said. "Just because he had a little bit better chemistry with the guys and had run the offense a little bit longer."
Blackman is surrounded by what Briles thinks is the most talented group of running backs, receivers and tight ends he has had in his career. Briles exudes confidence and said the Seminoles' fast-paced offense would be "all gas, no brakes." A year after Florida State managed just 21.9 points per game, dramatic improvement may not be evident in week 1 but coaches expect the Seminoles to take a step forward.
Some other things to watch when Boise State plays Florida State:
Boise State's bowl game was stopped short due to severe weather in December. And now the site of Saturday's game was changed on Thursday due to Hurricane Dorian. Florida State had to reschedule two games in 2017 due to Hurricane Irma. And last October, Hurricane Michael made landfall near Panama City, about two hours south of Tallahassee, but the storm forced the Florida State campus to close during what was the Seminoles' bye week.
EYES ON QUARTERBACKS
Boise State and Florida State both made decisions on starting quarterbacks last weekend. Harsin selected true freshman Hank Bachmeier, who enrolled at the school in January. Taggart chose Blackman, who started 12 games in 2017 as a true freshman and one game last fall. Blackman threw for 421 yards, four touchdowns and an interception in the Seminoles' road loss to NC State in 2018.
ESTABLISHING THE RUN
Boise State has an impressive streak: the Broncos have had a 1,000-yard rusher in 10 straight seasons. But the Broncos are replacing Alexander Mattison, who ran for 1,415 yards as a junior in 2018 and entered the NFL Draft early (he was picked in the third round by the Minnesota Vikings).
Florida State averaged just 91 rushing yards per game in 2018, ranking 127th among the 130 FBS programs. But Briles places an emphasis on the run, calling offenses that averaged 217 rushing yards per game at Houston in 2018 and 285 rushing yards per game at Florida Atlantic in 2017. The Seminoles have the backs to carry the load, led by junior Cam Akers (a 1,000-yard rusher as a freshman) and Khalan Laborn.
EXPERIENCE UP FRONT
Boise State is one of only three schools in the country that returns its starting five offensive linemen, a list that also includes Auburn and Iowa State. LT Ezra Cleveland, LG John Molchon, C Garrett Larson, RG Eric Quevedo and RT John Ojukwu have combined for 107 starts entering 2019.
RARE FRESHMAN START
Florida State will start true freshman Dontae Lucas at right guard, the first time a true freshman offensive lineman has started a season opener at the school in more than a decade. Zebrie Sanders and David Spurlock started for the Seminoles in 2008 against Western Carolina.