Ole Miss Rebels at Florida State Seminoles, Monday Sept. 5, 8 p.m. ET
Monday Night Football takes on a very different feel than usual when Ole Miss and Florida State kick off a battle of the titans in Orlando in the absence of the NFL. Both are Top-12 squads heading into the season, and both have their eyes on a playoff bid - more realistically in one case than the other, I would argue. Ole Miss has a much tougher schedule this year than Florida State, so while this game is important for them it is just one of several huge games - the face Alabama and Georgia in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively, play at Arkansas and LSU in consecutive weeks, and so on. Florida State, meanwhile, essentially plays a two-game season - two and a half if I'm feeling generous - with this and Clemson, and maybe a Week 3 trip to Louisville the only things standing between them and a perfect season. You can decide for yourself if that schedule imbalance matters here and who it favors.
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This game takes place in Orlando, which provides perhaps a slight advantage to the Seminoles - their campus is a third of the distance away, so travel is easier for players and fans, though both schools will be well represented in the stands.
Ole Miss at Florida State Betting Storylines
The first thing that stands out in this matchup is the contrast in the starting quarterbacks. Ole Miss has Chad Kelly, peripherally a part of the spectacular "Last Chance U" on Netflix, a legitimate Heisman contender currently eighth in the futures odds at BetOnline, and the best QB in the SEC entering the season by a wide margin. He's a major force, even with favorite receiver Laquon Treadwell in the NFL. Florida State, in stark contrast, is starting redshirt freshman Deondre Francois, a heavily-recruited, four-star, dual-threat QB who will obviously be seeing his first live action at the college level. It's a mismatch, but it's also not nearly as much of a concern as it could be. For starters, an average sized dog would be an improvement on the mess the Seminoles had at QB last year, so Francois doesn't have particularly large shoes to fill. More significantly, he also has Dalvin Cook, a Heisman favorite and all-World running back, to carry the load and ease the pressure on him. Kelly has a big edge on paper, but he also faces a tougher defense. It would be easy to get carried away evaluating the edge Ole Miss has here.
The most interesting aspect of the game is also one that is very tough to evaluate. I feel like Florida State is going to have a strong mental edge coming into this one. Watching bitter rival Clemson not only make the playoff but win a game had to leave a very sour taste in their mouths. They feel like a very determined team this year, focused on getting to Clemson unscathed and then beating them up. This is the most ready vibe I have gotten out of Tallahassee in August in awhile - and that's even with the uncertainty at QB. I'm very less confident in the mindset of the Rebels. Hugh Freeze hasn't always excelled at having his boys ready at the best of times, and I suspect that the uncertainty caused by the NCAA's investigation into the team and the coaching staff isn't going to help their focus. When the more talented overall team is also the one that is likely to be more mentally prepared and focused then that is worth noting in my book.
Ole Miss at Florida State Odds and Betting Trends
We've seen some interesting line movement here. About 70 percent of all bets have been on the Seminoles, yet the line has dropped - it opened as high as 6.5, was widely opened at 5, and now sits at 4.5. That movement is contrary to what the action would suggest, and it's a good sign that sharp money hit the Rebels early on in a significant way. The total has been fairly stable at 57 in early action, with perhaps slight pressure on the under.
Ole Miss in a force in nonconference games - they are 25-8-1 ATS in their last 34. They are also an impressive 7-1-1 ATS in their last nine neutral-site games and 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven in September. Florida State isn't as well suited to this challenge - they have failed to cover in their last five neutral-site games, are a dismal 3-8 ATS in their last 11 nonconference games, and 2-5 ATS in their last seven in September. Florida State has gone "under" the total in 17 of their last 22 against the SEC. Ole Miss has gone under in 22 of 28 overall.
Ole Miss at Florida State Predictions and Picks
This is a tough one to pick a side in. Florida State is the better team, and I like their mental game better, but the freshman QB is a concern. The number is right where I think it should be - and that's a problem as a bettor. The total is more playable, though, and I like the under. One QB is raw, the running games should slow things down, and Ole Miss has some new personnel to work in. There is plenty of room for comfort under 57.
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