March on 2012: FSU vs. Murray State

Looking forward to real, live football, NoleNation takes a run through Florida State’s 2012 schedule, going game-by-game to find the best storylines and matchups of the upcoming season.

Murray State Racers

Saturday, Sept. 1: 6 p.m., Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee

2011 record: 7-4 (5-3 Ohio Valley Conference). Murray State dropped three of its first five games last season, including a 21-9 loss to its lone FBS opponent, Louisville, in Week 1, but rolled off five wins in its final six games.

Coach: Chris Hatcher (13-9, third season).

Series record: First meeting.

Players to watch: Casey Brockman (QB, Sr.) threw for 3,276 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. Walter Powell (WR, Jr.) had 45 catches for 584 yards and five touchdowns. Sam Small (LB, Sr.) finished last season with 115 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss. Qua Huzzie (LB, Jr.) had 14 tackles for a loss.

Potential storylines:

  1. It's the season opener. It doesn't really matter who the opponent is, the first Saturday of football season is always reason to celebrate. And while there's probably not much that fans will learn about FSU's ability to go toe-to-toe with Clemson or Virginia Tech in Week 1, it will be everyone's first chance to see a potentially dominant defense and an improving offense at work.

  2. Emotional start. Murray State's season will begin without defensive end Jeffrey Richard, who was found dead June 5 of unknown causes. The freshman appeared in all 11 of Murray State's games last season, making 21 tackles.

  3. Will Bobby be back? Longtime head coach Bobby Bowden will be among seven new members inducted into the Florida State Athletics Hall of Fame on Aug. 31, along with former QB Danny Kanell. The question, however, is whether Bowden will be front and center for fans to show their appreciation on game day, too.

Fun fact: In the video for her 1993 single "The Heart Won't Lie," Reba McEntire can be seen walking along a beach wearing a Murray State sweatshirt.

Key matchup: The relatively deep Murray State receiving corps against FSU's talented secondary. The Racers led the OVC in passing yards last season, and Brockman doesn't play favorites when it comes to potential downfield targets. Given that Murray State figures to trail early, the FSU secondary should be tested -- and given plenty of chances to pad their 2012 stats with a few early INTs.

Murray State will win if: The FSU roster is decimated by a rare strain of influenza, and 11 fans are chosen at random to suit up instead.

Noles will win if: They show up. And yet, this game isn't without its impact. Hatcher has a knack for ingenuity on offense, so while the talent levels are disparate, the Noles' defense will have its fundamentals tested. Moreover, the weaker opponents on the early part of the schedule will give Jimbo Fisher a chance to test his roster depth. Last year, injuries sunk FSU's ACC title hopes. This year, Fisher and Co. should be better prepared for the inevitable bumps and bruises.