The Time is Now: Louisville v. Florida State Preview

Louisville Florida State

Last Time: After Louisville held a 7-6 halftime lead, Florida State responded with 35 second-half points to overpower Louisville in a 41-21 win in Tallahassee. Everett Golson led the way with 372 yards and three touchdowns, while Dalvin Cook ended up with 163 yards and two touchdowns. Lamar Jackson led the way for Louisville with a season-high 307 yards and three touchdowns, all to James Quick.

Florida State leads the overall series 14-2, with Louisville’s last win in 2002.

About the Florida State Seminoles

One of the top programs in college football, Florida State has been at or near the top of the ACC for what seems like forever.

Now 2-0 and ranked #2 in the country behind Alabama, Florida State was tabbed as one of the preseason favorites to win the ACC, and potentially adding another national championship. As usual with Florida State, this team has a lot of impressive talent and great speed on both sides of the ball. Deondre Francois inherits the starting quarterback position after Everett Golson graduated last season. Francois’s main criticism was that he was not accurate enough in high school, but he showed a lot of poise and accuracy after throwing for 419 yards and two touchdowns against a strong Ole Miss pass rush. But while it is one thing to start your first two games on a neutral field and at home, it’s another to go on your first true road game in a situation like tomorrow’s. Luckily for Francois, he will have a bevy of talented skill players around him, including Heisman candidate Dalvin Cook and a trio of superb receivers.

Charles Kelly returns as Florida State’s defensive coordinator, after turning down the same position at Auburn. Since he began his tenure, Kelly has had some impressive players on defense that allow him to explore his creativity calling plays. Even though guys like Mario Edwards Jr. and Jalen Ramsey have left Florida State for the NFL, he and Fisher consistently find guys like Derwin James and Demarcus Walker to replace them and wreak havoc on many teams. However, Kelly’s creativity will be tested without star safety James and defensive end Josh Sweat, who was the number five prospect on the 2014 ESPN 300.

Key Players for Florida State

  • RB Dalvin Cook: One of the top running backs in the country, Cook has been the bane of Louisville’s existence the last two seasons. Cook led the Seminoles rally from a 21-0 deficit in 2014, and scored the touchdown that sparked their 20-point win in 2015. Cook is a back who can really do it all, but Cook especially has a knack for hitting home-run rushes seemingly every time he touches the ball. Whether it’s being Francois’s check down option or taking a sweep outside, Cook will be Florida State’s biggest asset.
  • WR Travis Rudolph: Rudolph leads a trio of fantastic wide receivers that include speedsters Kermit Whitefield and Jesus “Bobo” Wilson. Rudolph can be used in a lot of ways as a deep threat, or as a receiver who can run underneath and provide Francois with a safe throw underneath. Any of the three receivers could be due for a monster game, and that will challenge Louisville’s secondary in nickel packages, especially with safety Dee Smith out for the first half.
  • S Marcus Lewis/Trey Marshall: Although you could easily say that Francois or Demarcus Walker will be key for Florida State to get the win on the road, most eyes should be on whoever will replace Derwin James tomorrow. James is Florida State’s best defensive asset, a safety like Jalen Ramsey who can either drop back in coverage and blanket a receiver, or come to the line and contain an explosive quarterback like Lamar Jackson. Without a safety like James to roam the field, Florida State will have to improvise and communicate well to contain the star Louisville QB. That could mean Marshall may roam the field similar to James, or players move around to try to keep Jackson from getting big chunks on broken plays.

Keys to the Game

  1. Win the battle up front. It goes without saying that as Dalvin Cook goes, so does Florida State. Louisville’s front seven must take advantage of a Florida State offensive line that was beaten multiple times by Ole Miss’s defense packages. Similarly, Louisville has to keep guys like Walker and Derrick Nnadi from clogging running lanes or disrupting pass protection. Protecting Lamar Jackson should be priority number one for Louisville in scoring an upset victory tomorrow.
  2. Shore up mental errors. Even though Louisville scored 62 and blew out Syracuse in last week’s game, that did not come without mental errors like dropped passes and attention lapses in tackling. Whereas the margin for error against Syracuse was arguably high, Florida State’s will be very slim. Louisville doesn’t necessarily have to play the perfect game to beat Florida State, but it will have to play a good one. That means avoiding these mistakes and capitalizing on a vulnerable secondary without James.
  3. Lead the way, Lamar. Last year’s game at Florida State was Lamar Jackson’s best passing performance, but FSU kept his running lanes contained and forced them to beat the defense vertically. Louisville should look to prioritize getting Lamar Jackson into situations where he can run the ball for good chunks, but also attack a secondary that has (A) been tested by Ole Miss, and (B) missing Derwin James. James Quick may not have another monster outing like last year, but guys like Cole Hikutini and possibly Jamari Staples could make the difference in stretching the field through the air.

Staff Predictions

Justin Krueger: 31-28 Louisville. This will ultimately be the game that defines both Louisville’s season and Lamar Jackson’s meteoric rise to a Heisman contender. Expect a record crowd on Gameday, and after a tough four quarters, Lamar Jackson leads a late drive to secure a win tomorrow, catapulting him to the front of everyone Heisman’s ballots.

Jeremy Wahman: 35-30 Louisville.

Mitch Motley: 41-31 Louisville.

Paige Sherrard: 42-38 Louisville.

LJ The Fiasco: 38-35 Louisville.

Jacob Pratt: 42-25 Louisville.

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