Why FSU playing Boise State in Jacksonville is a smart risk

Boise State has toppled big-name programs in the past, including Oklahoma. The Broncos will get their shot at Florida State in Jacksonville next year. [ AP FILE ]
Boise State has toppled big-name programs in the past, including Oklahoma. The Broncos will get their shot at Florida State in Jacksonville next year. [ AP FILE ]
Published May 16 2018
Updated May 16 2018

Old, unofficial news is expected to become old, official news today with a formal announcement that Florida State and Boise State are kicking off the 2019 season in Jacksonville.  

A lot has changed since the schools announced the series (FSU plays at Boise in 2020) five years ago. It looks like a risky move for the Seminoles, but I think it's a good one.

Some of the risks are obvious. Boise State is a very successful program. Just ask Virginia Tech (which lost  to the Broncos in 2010), Georgia (which lost to them in 2011) or Washington (which lost to them in 2015). FSU could be the next big-name program Boise slays.

Some of the risks are a little more nuanced, like this one: All 16 College Football Playoff participants have played at least one Power Five non-conference opponent. Boise doesn't fit that bill.

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FSU will still have one marquee Power Five non-conference opponent on its schedule (rival Florida). But the four ACC teams that have made the Playoff all had at least two of those games. If the ACC regresses and Boise is mediocre, FSU risks having a weak schedule that could hurt its ultimate goal of making the Playoff.

The gamble is worth taking, though, because you need to do more than schedule tough opponents to make the final four. You need to beat them.

Of the 16 Playoff participants so far, 15 of them beat their Power Five non-conference opponent (Ohio State losing to Virginia Tech in 2014 is the exception). Playing Oklahoma didn't help the Buckeyes get in last year. Why? Because they lost to the Sooners and got crushed by Iowa. No two-loss team has made the Playoff yet.

Even though Boise State isn't in a Power Five conference, it provides the opportunity for FSU to play, and beat, a tough opponent. The Broncos are a respected program. The selection committee looks at top-25 wins; the Broncos finished 25th last year in its final rankings, ahead of 10 ACC schools and FSU's marquee opponent in 2020 (West Virginia). The committee might undervalue Group of Five programs — right, UCF fans? — but it doesn't completely dismiss them, either. Beat a good Boise team, and you'll get respect from pollsters and the committee.

And despite Boise's history of upsets, FSU should beat Boise. The Seminoles will have more talent. More talent doesn't always win, but it usually does. The talent gap between FSU and Boise is bigger than the gap between, say, FSU and Ole Miss (its 2016 opening opponent) or FSU and LSU (who opens against Miami this year). That means Boise seems more winnable than other big-name opponents, but the Broncos are still a recognized name that would boost FSU's strength of schedule.

I'm not going to make predictions about a game that's more than 15 months away, or about FSU's 2019 season before it plays this fall. But the soon-to-be-official Jacksonville game against Boise State gives the Seminoles a respected non-conference opponent it should be favored to beat in a talent-rich recruiting area full of FSU fans and boosters. Seems like a good idea to me.