BOBBY PETRINO'S OFFENSE SHOULD BE ON FULL DISPLAY
The second year of Bobby Petrino's second stint as head coach started off with two injuries to starting wide receivers as well as uncertainty at quarterback. Those two issues have been solved and Louisville fans will likely see an offense full of players Petrino and his staff brought into the program to run his offense. The return of James Quick and Jamari Staples has immediately turned a young group of receivers into a veteran one. Petrino may not have had success with his JUCO offensive line recruits, but he has settled on three freshmen that are gaining experience each week. Lamar Jackson allows the new (and future) offense to be run the way that the staff wants. It's all there now that everyone is healthy.
Youth is something that a lot of fans have brought up with the rough start to the season. At this point, the staff has decided that youth is better than the JUCO players they've recruited. So, I'm not so sure youth is really a reason this offense should be struggling anymore. Lamar Jackson will be starting his third straight game so the only other freshmen starting will be on the offensive line. Though it's not ideal to play so many freshmen, it has to say something that these guys are playing over players that have been playing and training at the JUCO level. This week should be the week we see this new offense on full display. Youth shouldn't be an issue anymore.
UofL's INTERIOR TARGETS VS. FSU'S INTERIOR PASS DEFENSE
So, last week UofL attacked NC State's safeties throughout the first half and they saw a ton of success. FSU isn't as vulnerable as the Wolfpack, but teams have seen a good amount of success attacking Tyler Hunter and Lamarcus Brutus in man coverage. Nate Andrews and Trey Marshall could completely change that if Andrews can return from a knee injury and Marshall is utilized in the "star" position. James Quick has been able to get open a good amount over the last two games. With Micky Crum being fairly quiet over the last few weeks, I think he could be a key target with FSU likely starting two linebackers who are much better against the run than the pass.
What FSU has struggled with over the middle is size. Though Quick doesn't have that I think that UofL will move guys around to try to get favorable matchups. Jalen Ramsey and Marquez White are much better in coverage so i wouldn't be surprised to see UofL move Jamari Staples and Ja'Quay Savage inside on four-wide sets to try to utilize their size. I also wouldn't be shocked to see FSU utilize some man-zone coverages to help themselves out. Ramsey and White could line up in press coverage outside while the safeties and linebackers drop into zones to confuse Jackson as well as hide their deficiencies at safety.
FSU MIGHT TRY TO CONTAIN LAMAR JACKSON THE WAY HOUSTON DID
Lamar Jackson is a dynamic runner in the open field but Houston found a way to hold him to 16 yards rushing. Sacks impact that number, but Houston got their sacks by bringing pressure from different angles. They blitzed safeties from his right side so that he couldn't easily escape the pocket. They brought backside linebackers through the middle of the line so that he wouldn't see the delayed blitzes. They ran at Jackson with guys that could close on him quickly. FSU has the same type of guys that have the potential to contain Jackson if they're put in the right position to do so. Jalen Ramsey blitzes off the corner pretty often. He also played in the "star" position last year when he had 9.5 tackles for loss. Trey Marshall could be utilized as a blitzer from the right side.
Louisville's weaknesses are running the ball traditionally and pocket passing. Neither of those are an issue if Lamar Jackson gets going. That's why I expect FSU to blitz nonstop on Saturday. Against Miami they even lined up in a very familiar defensive "formation" to us Louisville fans. On a handful of plays all 11 players were standing up and moving around the line of scrimmage in an effort to confuse Brad Kaaya. On some plays guys blitzed from different levels and on others only three players rushed the passer while others dropped into zones. Charles Kelly has shown that he can do some different things on defense that I didn't know he had in him. The blitzing and confusion could very well see FSU containing Jackson's legs.
CAN UofL's OFFENSIVE LINE OPEN HOLES IN THE RUNNING GAME
Louisville's offense has one of the worst rushing attacks in the entire country. Lamar Jackson has has been great on quarterback runs as well as scrambling, but the group of running backs are all having major issues. David Hale posted a lot of good info on the struggles Louisville's running backs are having with basic run plays. Louisville averaging .4 yards per carry before contact when running between the tackles is the most eye-popping number in that post. If you can only barely get to the line of scrimmage before the running back gets hit, you have no chance of having a successful running game. Lamar Jackson is, at this point, the entire UofL running game and that has to change.
With the offensive system changing this year and new offensive linemen playing, I tend to give Brandon Radciff more of a pass. Radcliff looked great late in the season last year showing burst to get to the outside and running through tackles with ease. I do think that if given the space to operate, he will have that big game we all expected this year. Will that happen this weekend? Judging by the season FSU is having on defense, I would doubt it. But the play of Lamar Jackson over the last two weeks has to make him a key for the defense. That could open up opportunities for Radcliff to make a play or two.
DALVIN COOK, DALVIN COOK, DALVIN COOK
Louisville had the lead against FSU early in the second half last season. The offense looked great with DeVante Parker and Michael Dyer both having big nights. Then, with a little over six minutes left in the third quarter Dalvin Cook introduced himself to the nation. Cook took an inside zone run and bounced it outside for an untouched 40 yard touchdown run. Cook later took an power sweep for 38 yards to pay dirt and put the Cards behind late in the game.
This is the opportunity the Louisville defense needs to show that they are what their 2014 rankings said they were. They get a shot to show that they've improved even though they lost guys to the NFL. Cook is the guy that first gashed this run defense. He was the guy that made it look like Louisville didn't have the athletes to compete at the top of the ACC. Saturday is the opportunity for UofL to change that idea.