Florida State has spent the last few years relying on an offense that always seemed to be able to make the big play when needed. Jameis Winston, a veteran offensive line, and a handful of reliable receivers made play after play at the most unbelievable moments possible. In 2015, Jimbo has had to revamp his offense a bit with the reliance on some young players and a new quarterback. What he does have from 2014 is running back Dalvin Cook and he's been an absolute stud for the Seminoles so far this year.
Last year when I wrote about Everett Golson before Louisville's game against Notre Dame, I pointed out that Golson seemed to lack a true value of the football. Going into that game, Golson had turned the ball over more than 20 times. He was notorious for trying to make the spectacular play instead of living to play another day. That has all chaged with Golson's move to Tallahassee. He is one of only two full time starting quarterbacks in the country that have not turned the ball over this year. Jimbo Fisher has done a great job of leaning on stud running back Dalvin Cook to be the feature of the offense. He's also done a great job of keeping things simple for Golson. With Jameis Winston, Fisher had no issues pushing the ball downfield regularly but he has toned things down this year with a passing game that focuses on short out routes and passes that typically travel to the end of the sticks. Even though Golson has the arm strength and the weapons to create big plays, the gameplan so far this season has been to protect the ball and move the chains.
With Golson being more efficient as a quarterback one has to wonder how Louisville approaches this game. I would imagine that Todd Grantham will try his hardest to put FSU in 2nd and 3rd down and medium to long. Those are the situations where it might be harder for Fisher to run the ball. Putting the game in Everett Golson's hands is a positive for Louisville. No matter how well he has played this year, he's still a quarterback that doesn't handle pressure defenses well. With a young offensive line in front of him, the pressure Louisville can bring could be a big issue.
Dalvin Cook is the best running back Louisville will face since Nick Chubb went crazy in the bowl game last season. The best back before that? Dalvin Cook. Cook is everything you could want in a running back. He runs through arm tackles. He has great speed to the corner and in the open field. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. His best attribute, however, might be his ability to to take punishment over the course of a game. Cook is the type of back that's going to fall forward the vast majority of the time. He doesn't shy away from contact and after a while that gets old for a defense. As important as he is to the offense, Cook is only averaging 17 carries per game. He's pretty fresh in all honesty. That could be a big issue for Louisville.
Cook's coming out party in the second half last year was the beginning of the end for the idea that Louisville's run defense was elite. A weakness was exposed and since that game, Louisville has allowed an opposing running back to run for 100 yards seven times since Cook got going. A ten game period where you allow that kind of production is a big issue, obviously. Dalvin injured his hamstring a few weeks back and looked to have some issues against Miami last week, but he still ran for 222 yards and tacked on another 47 in receiving yards. If Cook can stay healthy for the entire game, I'm not quite sure how Louisville contains him.
The Florida State wide receivers are among the most talented Louisville has seen this year. They just haven't been very explosive this season. I think a big part of that is the reliance on a short passing game, but a lack of proven depth might be a factor also. FSU's three starting receivers account for 60% of their team's targets. That isn't a huge deal when you have three talented guys, but the next receiver being a tight end that is only targeted 6.3% of the time is. Travis Rudolph is an really good talent as we saw last year. Kermit Whitfield and Jesus Wilson have really stepped their game up this year. All three receivers average four catches a game and around fifty receiving yards. None of the three have the size to really be redzone threats or deep threats down the sideline but they all use their quickness very well to be intermediate targets. Louisville has had plenty of issues getting off the field on third downs. With the focus likely being getting FSU into third and longs, it's important that these receivers are not left open to keep the chains moving.
The offensive line for the Seminoles has been a group that has frustrated some fans this year. They're a young group that had to replace all but one starter. Even with that young group the line would probably be perfectly fine by most fans standards but FSU has had a good group of linemen for the last few years and they've had some struggles this year. Golson has been sacked 11 times this season (some of which have been because he's held onto the ball too long) but, Cook has had some nice holes to run through. The stretch runs that Jimbo loves have been working very well and the play action passes off of those runs have been blocked long enough for Golson to make some nice throws on deep crosses. The group isn't great, but I don't see them as a group that Louisville's front seven will dominate. What will be interesting to see is if Louisville's performance against NC State will is a sign for things to come. The Cardinals amassed 10 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. A performance like that Saturday would really help this team bring home a win.
KEY PLAYERS: QB Everett Golson, RB Dalvin Cook, WR Travis Rudolph, LT Rod Johnson