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Florida State football opponent preview: Louisville

Right off the heels of their showdown with rival Miami, FSU will host the Louisville Cardinals on October 17th for a game that will likely be very significant for both teams in their pursuit of the ACC Atlantic crown.

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With Miami in the rear view mirror, the Florida State football team will have almost no time to recover as the Louisville Cardinals travel to Tallahassee to take on the Seminoles just seven days after FSU's ACC home opener against Miami, leaving them little time to prepare for a Louisville team that lost a lot to the NFL Draft  (10 players drafted, 2nd only to FSU) but returns a lot as well and took a chance on a few talented transfer players who may or may not work out. Here is a look at how FSU matches up with Louisville in history, a look back at the most recent matchup, and what factors for the Cardinals could influence the game one way or the other.

All-time matchup

Louisville won the first-ever matchup against Florida State 41-14 in 1952 but since that point, it has been dominated by the 'Noles, who won 12 straight against the Cards after that and currently hold a 13-2 record against UL all-time. Jimbo Fisher holds a 1-0 record all time against Louisville with his Thursday night win at Papa John's Stadium last season.

Most recent matchup

The Seminoles got off to a very slow start offensively in their 2014 matchup against Louisville. The Cardinals were kept off the board by FSU's defense in the first quarter but exploded for 21 points in the second quarter, countered only by an incredibly lucky fumble recovery touchdown by Nick O'Leary in the final minute of the first half to cut the lead to 21-7 at halftime.

With all Florida State fans expecting him to lead a comeback just like he did nearly every week, Jameis Winston came out of the tunnel after the half and threw an interception on FSU's opening drive of the second half but redeemed himself by running downfield and forcing the interceptor to fumble, which was recovered by the Seminoles. Louisville scored first in the second half, adding a field goal to make it 24-7 but from that point, it was all Florida State, who ended the game on a 35-7 run to pull off the 42-31 win.

Despite a error-laden game by Winston that saw him throw three interceptions and complete 25 of 48 passes (52.1%,the 2nd-lowest completion percentage of his career), he threw for 401 yards (his season-high, and the 2nd-most in his career behind 2013 Clemson) and three touchdowns. Dalvin Cook also played a large part in the comeback, carrying the ball nine times for 110 yards. This game also showcased Cook's clutch ability as he had a pair of lengthy touchdowns at big moments in the game. His 40-yard touchdown cut the UL lead to 24-21 with 6:17 to go in the third quarter and his 38-yard touchdown run gave Florida State the lead for good with 3:46 left in the game.

When all was said and done, Florida State put up 574 yards, the most they accumulated in a single game all season, against the Louisville defense that had led the nation entering their slugfest with FSU. The win moved the Seminoles to 8-0 on the season.

Louisville season preview

Bill Connelly released his season preview for Louisville today and although the whole thing is worth a read, here are a few important highlights.

Offensive line has the potential to be a substantial problem

Even if Louisville doesn't get much from former Northwestern superback Malin Jones or a youngster like freshman James Allen, the Cardinals should be fine at running back. Brandon Radcliff was a steady option in 2014, and sophomore L.J. Scott showed serious open-field jets when he got the opportunity.

But that's not to say the run game won't be a problem. A line that struggled with leakiness -- 113th in stuff rate, 119th in passing downs sack rate -- must now replace four players who had combined for 158 career starts, more than 12 years' worth. And while there are instant-upgrade transfers in other units, the line has been left to its own devices, two JUCO signees aside.

Even with uncertainty at QB, the line is easily the biggest question mark for the Louisville offense.

The front seven could be downright nasty

Louisville was active and strong: 20th in Adj. Sack Rate and 21st in stuff rate, but also fourth in power success rate. DeAngelo Brown took to life as a 3-4 nose tackle, and Sheldon Rankins was one of the most terrifying combinations in college football: huge (303 pounds) with pass-rushing quickness (eight sacks). Yikes.

Brown and Rankins return, as does end Pio Vautvei and two excellent linebackers, Keith Kelsey and James Burgess (combined: 17 TFLs, 9 sacks, 11 passes defensed). Despite some losses here and there, there's more than enough returning talent to make this a stiff front seven once again.

Oh yeah, and Louisville added the 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as well. Troubled junior Devonte Fields recorded 18.5 tackles for loss that season before missing most of 2013 with injury and suspension, then getting kicked off of the team last summer. He spent last fall at JUCO, and Petrino took a chance.

If Fields is acting the part of a decent citizen and staying on the field, this front seven could be unbelievable. Three 300-pounders up front (with one more than capable of not only occupying blockers but shedding them in the backfield), with Fields, Kelsey, Burgess, and any of three former four-star recruits (Keith Brown, Nick Dawson-Brents, or James Hearns) swarming behind them? My goodness.

As is always the case with teams that have a lot of turnover on either side of the ball, no one knows exactly how good they will be until the season gets underway. That being said, this Louisville team strikes me as one that would have to have a few things go their way to reach the 9-4 record that they accomplished last season. Replacing Michael Dyer at running back and DeVante Parker at receiver, among others, will be a challenge. This paired with Will Gardner, the junior quarterback who is expected to have fully recovered from knee surgery by the start of the season, who has demonstrated some aptitude at the position but is relatively untested, having made only 7 career starts, makes me wary of predicting a 10-win season for the Cardinals.