Just two weeks after Florida State kicked off its 2016 season with a tough matchup against No. 11 Ole Miss in Orlando, the Seminoles now embark on their first true road game of the 2016 season, going up against No. 10 Louisville in another stiff test. Here’s how the Tomahawk Nation staff sees this one playing out:
I could point to a lot of fun match-ups like FSU's DL vs LOU OL or FSU's front 5/6 vs Lamar Jackson's legs. Or how I expect Louisville’s defense to key on Cook and hope the secondary can handle Francois. But if I take a step back and try to eye-ball this from afar, I'm left with this: I don't know if UL has that killer instinct. I think the Cards can go on big runs, but I don't think they have that finish-him mentality. I think this is the qualitative difference between the two: FSU showed some grit (if a lack of focus at times, too) against a very talented Ole Miss team. Louisville hasn't played anyone yet. It will have as of Saturday afternoon. Wx update: Looks like rain should hold off until after 3pm. So they'll probably play this game underwater. Give me FSU 33 LOU 26
A friend asked me which program was the best addition to the ACC since Florida State joined, and the answer is easy: the Louisville Cardinals. They're an elite basketball school, and they're good at football. Their fans are loud and have the little brother syndrome. And their coaches make it easy - maybe too easy - to dislike them. That's checking a lot of boxes. That's a great addition. FSU is going to roll them, and Florida State fans are going to make fun of their cute-as-a-button little red stadium. But that's fine. They'll probably come into Tallahassee with Rick Pitino in a white suit and give FSU basketball the business. It's all good.
Road game. Top 10 team. Missing best defensive player. Not ideal in the slightest. Before the season I pegged this game as a loss and I am not backing off now. Miscommunications leading to busts in the secondary is a serious concern as is the poor play thus far by the offensive line. FSU will score, I do not doubt that, but in the end, I do not trust the Seminoles to get enough stops.
Louisville 41, Florida State 31
Offensively, Francois needs to be conservative with his throws. The offensive line also needs to stand up and make sure Cook has a lane to run. The threat of Cook breaking off for a long run will be on the defense's mind throughout the game. Utilizing options and play-action will be the keys to exploiting Louisville’s weaknesses in the secondary, making Francois' job much easier.
The loss of Derwin James is critical. He was the difference maker in the secondary. Luckily for Florida State, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson has shown a proclivity for using his legs both on scrambles and designed runs, putting the stress more on Florida State’s defensive line and linebackers. The key to success for the Seminoles on Saturday will be containing Jackson. The defensive line will need to play like it did against Ole Miss in the second half. Winning the time of possession battle will be how FSU wins this in the long run.
They say everyone has a plan before they get punched in the mouth. Louisville has yet to get punched. The Seminole front seven will need to be that fist if they want to come out of Papa John's Stadium with a win.
FSU 24-UL 21
This is definitely the biggest road game of the regular season for the Noles, but if Clemson keeps playing how it has played so far, this may just turn out to be the biggest game of the regular season for FSU, bar none. I don't think anyone would be shocked if Florida State dropped a close game on Saturday on the road and potentially in the rain against a Top 10 Louisville team that has looked very impressive so far. Lamar Jackson appears to be a phenomenal quarterback, and Bobby Petrino is a good coach.
But with all due respect to Charlotte and Syracuse, Louisville hasn't faced a quality opponent yet, especially an elite defense that is designed to stop an offense like UL's. FSU would obviously love to have its freak athlete, Derwin James, on the field this week spying and pressuring Jackson. That being said, FSU's defense is exceptionally talented beyond just one guy. I don't think Louisville's offensive line is prepared for FSU's defensive line. Furthermore, if AJ Westbrook and Nate Andrews can communicate and play assignment football, thus preventing the blatant coverage breakdowns we've seen the last two weeks, I think the secondary will be able to keep Lamar Jackson in check. He'll no doubt still make some plays, but preventing the "big one" will be key.
On offense, having Kareem Are and Wilson Bell back on the offensive line will be huge. Louisville's defense is solid and experienced, but also has some weaknesses that FSU can exploit.
This is clearly a huge game for Louisville's program, but it's advantageous for FSU that the game is at noon and could have some inclement weather. It's also an advantage for FSU that the ‘Noles have played in big games. FSU is 7-2 in College GameDay games under Jimbo, and FSU has already played in a pressure-packed prime time game this year.
FSU is the deeper, more talented team, and I think the 'Noles will win by 10. The one caveat is that if FSU does lose a close road game to a Top 10 Louisville team on Saturday, it's still early enough in the schedule that the Seminoles would remain a playoff contender.
FSU 41, UL 31.
All the talk leading up to this top 10 showdown seems to be revolving around the explosive offenses led by Lamar Jackson and Dalvin Cook. Just about everyone is expecting a high scoring affair...so as college football is wont to do, I believe this one turns out the opposite. They hype--and the weather--causes sloppiness by both teams. Touchdowns come mostly from busted coverage and the Cards and the ‘Noles turn the ball over multiple times each. Ultimately, FSU's defense makes one more mistake than Louisville's and Lamar Jackson puts the game away with a late TD scamper.
Louisville - 28
FSU - 20
I said at the beginning of the year that FSU would go 10-2 with those losses most likely coming from Ole Miss, Louisville or Clemson. I think this is one of the two. I think the offensive line struggles early, which gets the offense off track. Louisville gets up two scores and it becomes a shoot out. Petrino isn't one to step off the gas and that trend continues. Florida State gets close in the 4th but ends up losing 45-35.
I expect a tense close game where both teams score early multiple times. However, FSU's offense and the ‘Noles superior depth will take over in the second half.
Yes, I said offense. The defense will eventually figure it out and shut down the Cards more often than not, but UL will get its fair share of points.
I expect Jimbo to come out throwing to set up the run, and I think Dalvin will be targeted a few times early as a receiver. However, Cook will also have a big second half running and gain over 100 yards rushing on the day. I also think Frenchy will have another good game, but I'm not going to panic if he throws a pick or two.
FSU 41 - UL 31
My concern for Florida State's chances against Louisville have more to do with Florida State than Louisville. I think Louisville is very good but not quite as good as many people claim. FSU certainly has the talent and ability to roll through the Cardinals but they have yet to put it all together on the field in the manner which they'll need to on Saturday. The Seminoles should have their full starting offensive line back but how well will they be able to play? Rick Leonard does not seem to be physically capable of playing RT at this point and will need help. Can the rest of the line hold up under circumstances like that?
There are a host of other questions also. Will Dalvin Cook show up? While he's shown flashes of being last year's best running back he hasn't put it together yet. The season is still young and maybe he just needs more playing time like Fisher says but I'm not convinced he's healthy.
Will the secondary be able to get their communication down? Now without their best player the FSU DBs really need to get their act together and play as a full unit for 60 minutes.
If they do get all of those problems ironed out my final concern probably won't ever be an issue. It feels like Deondre Francois is due for a course correction. He's played extremely well considering the circumstances but now that there's college tape on him what will Louisville throw at him? Chances are they will try and make him drop the ball in to a lot of mid level targets but can he demonstrate the touch needed for that?
Ultimately I think Louisville will get up early and Florida State will come roaring back but it'll be too little too late due to a tired FSU defense.
Louisville 24 Florida State 20
First it was Derwin James. Now, it's Josh Sweat. I assume Jacob Pugh will replace Sweat. He did well against Lamar Jackson and Louisville last season, and I think he'll play well Saturday. However, Florida State is severely lacking for depth now at defensive end. I know people will want to see lots of playing time for Brian Burns after his performance last weekend, but I honestly don't think this is a great game for him (other than 3rd and long), since the ‘Noles will have to be stout against the run and play disciplined defense.
Offensively, FSU needs Dalvin Cook to carve up the Cards as he's done the only two times he's faced them. It'll help having a healthier offensive line. They also need Frenchy to protect the football. I expect Jimbo the use the young quarterback's legs to keep things flowing offensively.
I'll take the road team in a hard-fought, high-scoring affair. After all, Bobby Petrino coaches the home team, right?
Although Florida State was able to stop the ground game of Louisville QB Lamar Jackson in 2015, I think the young quarterback will be too much for Florida State's defense after a full year of improvement, especially without Derwin James. On offense, I think FSU will have a decent showing with Deondre Francois going for over 250 yards and a two touchdowns and Dalvin Cook recording 100+ all-purpose yards, but it won't be enough.
Florida State 28
With the news of Derwin James and Josh Sweat missing from Florida State’s trip to Louisville, the already-trendy Louisville selection picks up even more steam. I don’t deny that I think Lamar Jackson is one heck of a football player who is capable of singlehandedly leading the Cardinals to the win if he has one of those nights. That being said, he has not yet proven that he can serve as a consistent pocket passer against a team of Florida State’s caliber and although his legs are a major aspect of his game, FSU’s defense, even without those two stellar sophomores, matches up well in containing him, having limited him to only 32 rushing yards in 2015.
The bigger deciding factor in my opinion, though, is that I see FSU having little trouble moving the ball on the UL defense. Dalvin Cook has had a pair of special games against Louisville over his career and I expect him to get his groove back on Saturday, rushing for over 130 yards and a pair of touchdowns. UL keeps it close for 2-3 quarters but Florida State’s superior complete roster talent wins out in the end.
I've wavered on this game all week, to be completely honest. FSU without Derwin James and Josh Sweat is a big hit, but you knew that already. UL's Jackson is worlds better than he was last year, when the 'Noles stomped the Cards, but so is Jacob Pugh, who's likely to step in for Sweat, and having LB Matthew Thomas available to spy and chase down Jackson is nice compensation for a Florida State defense without the aforementioned big names.
Offensively, Dalvin Cook has shredded the Louisville offense in previous years, and he showed flashes of returning to his old self against Charleston Southern. Also, the possible returns of Kareem Are, Wilson Bell, and fullback Freddie Stevenson could pay huge dividends. That said, If you're looking to relax and enjoy some early-afternoon Seminole football, this probably won't be the game for you. The 'Noles will hit on some big plays-- but give some up as well. I'll take FSU, 31-30, in a tight contest on the Ohio River.
Feel free to chime in with your predictions in the comments section at the bottom of the page.