How to Watch: Noon kickoff on ESPN
Spread: Florida State -7
Last Time: With College Gameday visiting Louisville for the first time, the Cardinals made the most of their opportunity. Lamar Jackson launched his Heisman campaign into the stratosphere with 362 total yards (216 passing, 146 rushing) and five total touchdowns. #10 Louisville rolled to a 63-20 win over #2 Florida State, the worst loss in FSU history. Brandon Radcliff and James Quick each had 100 yard games, and Jaire Alexander had a 69-yard touchdown on a punt return.
FSU leads the all-time series 14-3.
Meet Florida State:
Since then, it’s been an up-and-down road for both teams. Louisville rolled to a 9-1 start in 2016, but since then has lost five of its last seven to Power Five teams. Florida State finished that season with an Orange Bowl win over Michigan, but lost Deondre Francois for the season and sits at 2-3 entering tomorrow’s game.
The list of accolades for Jimbo Fisher, though, speak for themselves. The eight-year head coach of the Seminoles has finished every season ranked, including a 14-0 national title run in 2014. Winning 80% of his games so far, Fisher’s teams have never lost more than four games since he inherited the position from the retiring Bobby Bowden.
Players to Watch:
- S Derwin James
When James is on the field, the defense is entirely better because of the versatility he offers. Fisher has been blessed with athletes like him and Jalen Ramsey because their ability to play multiple positions takes the pressure off of guys like Josh Sweat and Tarvarus McFadden.
James has great size for the safety position (6’3, 211 lbs.) and has exceptional speed sideline-to-sideline. That combination of size and athleticism makes him a viable candidate to cover any tight end or running back, if they choose to run single-high safety looks. He can play in the box as a nickel linebacker to stuff the run, also.
As of now, I’d say James is a consensus top-ten, if not top-five player in the 2018 NFL Draft.
- RB Cam Akers
Another position that Florida State has typically recruited well is running back. Just in the last five years alone, they’ve had guys like Dalvin Cook, Karlos Williams and Devonta Freeman. It’s really been an embarrassment of riches for Seminoles fans to have quality running backs like they have.
And Cam Akers figures to be the next big thing, at that position. At 215 pounds, he has the perfect blend of speed & power that can make him a star at Florida State. He’ll split carries with Jacques Patrick, who has deceptive speed for a 230+ pound back. Given Louisville’s woes stopping the run recently, those two will be a huge point of emphasis.
- WR Auden Tate
Defensive end Josh Sweat would have normally gotten the nod here, but Tate will be a bigger point of emphasis due to Louisville’s lack of defensive success.
One thing that’s stood out to me is the size that Florida State has nearly across the board (quarterback James Blackman is probably the only exception at 170+ pounds). Tate is another guy that fits that stereotype for them. The 6’5″ receiver is a colossus for even NFL receivers, and offers a red-zone target for the true freshman QB. The size alone will be a tough matchup for guys like Trumaine Washington, who are undersized at 5’10”. What could be difficult for Louisville is that Tate knows how to utilize his body, winning jump balls and using strong hands to make tough catches.
- Tempo, Time of Possession
It’s no exaggeration when I say Jimbo Fisher likes to utilize every bit of the 40-second game clock. But something like that can work for him, especially given Louisville’s tremendous woes on defense.
It’d be wise for Florida State to use their backs (Akers and 235-pounder Jacques Patrick) often and plenty in this game. Running the ball will generally eat the clock, and given Boston College’s success last week, it’d be hard not to see FSU doing much of the same thing. That can parlay into big play-action passes to an Auden Tate or Nyqwan Murray. Sustaining 8-11 play drives with that tempo would shorten the game for Louisville’s dynamic offense.
- FSU OL v. Louisville DL
But how does Florida State try and keep drives going? It will depend on their offensive line, which has struggled at times. The Seminoles have allowed 3.6 sacks per game (126th nationally), and are near the bottom in the country in a couple of advanced stats.
The bottom line is Louisville has to take advantage of this weakness. Stuffing the run and forcing a young quarterback into third-and-long situations could create rare stops and momentum for them. But Louisville has to get better penetration from their front four; the Cards haven’t recorded a sack in two of their last three games. They need to have multiple guys flying to the ball and showing more effort. They also have to find that energy they had last year, especially in a must-win game like tomorrow.
- Lamar Jackson v. Derwin James
Shifting gears to offense v. defense, this is the matchup everyone wants to see. Last year, James missed the Louisville game with a season-ending injury. Without him, Louisville ran the ball at will & dominated a maligned FSU defense for (basically) three quarters in the blowout.
With him, FSU has a guy that can contain Jackson on the perimeter. I’d expect the ‘Noles to use him in the box a few times to stuff his option game. They can also line him up at cornerback against Dez Fitzpatrick, or safety to prevent the chunk plays Louisville is fond of. Expect Petrino & Jackson to key on him at all times & try to find a way to continue their offensive production.
- Josh Sweat v. Geron Christian / Mekhi Becton
- Tarvarus McFadden v. Jaylen Smith
- Jaire Alexander v. Auden Tate
- Louisville LBs v. Cam Akers / Jacques Patrick