Louisville takes on undefeated Florida State on Saturday for a nooner in Doak Campbell Stadium. As a preview for the game, Dylan Kidd, a contributor for Tomahawk Nation, answered some questions about the 'Noles and gave us a prediction for how he thinks the game will go on Saturday.
CC: In Louisville we know all too well how hard it is to replace a special quarterback. How has Everett Golson handled being FSU's quarterback and following in Jameis Winston's footsteps?
TN: After a decent start against Texas State, Golson was bad against USF and very bad against Boston College. Not only was he missing primary reads on FSU’s basic passing plays, but he was also missing checks in the running game and failing to make high school freshman-level zone reads, making his mobility largely a non-factor. However, Golson did take major steps forward during FSU’s bye week, playing a better game against Wake Forest, followed by his best game yet against Miami. Somehow, FSU hasn’t turned the ball over on offense yet this season. On the flip side, the ‘Noles are also in the mid-110’s in passing explosiveness on the year. He’s not going to be a game-breaker for FSU at quarterback this season, and anyone who expected him to be wasn’t being realistic. But if he continues to improve as he has of late, he’s capable of helping the ‘Noles to a lot of wins this season.
CC: As a follow up to that, what is FSU doing differently scheme wise with Golson under center vs. Winston?
TN: This is really the first Jimbo Fisher team at FSU to feature a run-first offense. His offense is typically quarterback-centric, and we were concerned that he would continue that into this season, one in which his personnel isn’t particularly conducive to it. Thankfully, he has tailored his offense to the running game so far, and has simplified things for Golson. The Miami game was a great example of this. Florida State brought out a lot of stuff they’d held back in the previous games, such as simple, single-read throws with orbit motion as an added layer. The ‘Noles’ offense still features a whole lot of inside zone plays, and they’ll throw plenty of screens (particularly against Todd Grantham’s pressure) and other high percentage passes. This is another game in which the Seminoles need to stay patient in the running game and avoid giving Louisville short points, making the Cards drive the field consistently against the FSU defense, which is the strength of this year’s team.
CC: Louisville folks remember well just how difficult it is to defend Dalvin Cook. How is Cook's injured hamstring that didn't appear to bother him too much against Miami? Do you expect him to be full speed against Louisville and what are FSU's options if he isn't?
TN: Cook pulled up lame on one run against Miami, but overall you’re right, it didn’t seem to be much of a problem. He’s one of the most explosive guys in a FSU uniform I’ve ever seen, and may ultimately go down as the best in program history at the running back position. He didn’t practice early this week but finally did today, following the same track he did against Miami last week. That kind of injury (a strain, we think) can be a lingering one, so there’s definitely a concern it could be an issue at any given moment in a game. We didn’t see anything on Saturday night or hear anything this week to make me believe that he won’t play against Louisville, and I expect him to be just as capable as he was against Miami. If he’s out or limited, FSU’s backup is Johnathan Vickers, with usual #2 Mario Pender still out with a collapsed lung and subsequent infection. We’re still waiting on the true introduction of five-star freshman Jacques Patrick, but I have no reason to think we’ll see it Saturday.
CC: Which match-up do you think is most important to FSU’s success on offense against the Louisville defense?
TN: My inclination is to say Sheldon Rankins vs. whomever he’s lined up opposite, but more important to me than any single match-up is the ‘Noles’ ability to stay on schedule. This FSU offense is not well-suited to play in long down and distance situations, particularly against a defense like Louisville’s. Florida State’s offense has to have success running on early downs, or alternatively, successfully breaking tendency by throwing early. Fisher has frequently gone to this strategy of throwing on early downs to stay on schedule and open up running lanes, and I wouldn’t be particularly surprised to see it on Saturday, as I expect Louisville to dare the ‘Noles to throw. I think FSU will use a lot of screens to combat UL’s pressure, as well as some jet action and other wrinkles, since I don’t believe the Seminoles will be able to just line up and run inside zone at the Cardinals’ defense consistently. The other key for Louisville is to limit FSU's explosive plays. The Seminoles haven’t been great at consistently driving the ball on the whole this year, but have been very explosive, with Dalvin Cook ripping off a bunch of long runs. So, force FSU into obvious passing downs and don’t let Cook run for 70-yard TDs, and the Cards will certainly have a chance.
CC: In which match-ups do you expect the FSU defense to have success against the Louisville offense, and which concern you?
TN: I think Florida State’s defensive front will give Louisville’s offensive line some problems. The ‘Noles are deep and talented up front. Derrick Nnadi and Nile Lawrence-Stample are a formidable defensive tackle tandem, and DeMarcus Walker is coming off of a phenomenal game against Miami, while freshman Josh Sweat is improving every week. This group and the multitude of blitzers Charles Kelly will bring should give a UL offensive line that has struggled to date a difficult challenge. My concerns mainly center around Lamar Jackson’s dynamic playmaking ability. He is electric as a runner and has a huge arm, making him a threat to break a huge play on any given snap. Yes, he’s still a freshman, but I have to think he’s growing every week, and Bobby Petrino has had a bye week to work with him on the plan for FSU’s defense. I’m also not at all sure how the ‘Noles are going to cover Micky Crum. I don’t trust any of the linebackers to do it. The most likely candidate is Trey Marshall, but that still doesn’t inspire too much confidence. So while FSU’s defense is quite good this season, I think Petrino will devise plenty of ways to give his guys a chance against it.
CC: Is there any fear of this being a trap game for FSU with it being a noon kickoff the week following the wild night atmosphere for Miami and the week before the 'Noles have to prepare for Georgia Tech's unique offense?
TN: Absolutely. It felt like the whole season had been a preparation for the Miami game last week, and the environment reflected it. The Seminoles seemed to finally show their hand on offense, and the whole team played a really nice game, generally dominating the ‘Canes to a tune the final score didn’t reflect. Now, the team comes off of that game to play at noon against a Louisville team that is much better than its record reflects. I’m quite comfortable in saying that the Cardinals are better than Miami, though this will likely go unrecognized by most. While the Georgia Tech game isn’t quite the showdown we expected it to be looming on deck, it’s still pretty high profile and, as you said, a unique challenge. So yes, I think this is absolutely a letdown situation, and FSU will need to play a high-quality game in circumstances that may not be particularly conducive to doing so.
CC: Louisville played FSU toe to toe last year before faltering late. How do you seeing this one going?
TN: I’ve gone back and forth on this one. On one hand, I expect FSU’s defensive front to give Louisville’s offensive line problems, as it’s kind of a strength-on-weakness match-up there, from what I’ve seen. I think Cook will get loose a couple of times and that FSU will be able to kick reliably with Aguayo. But on the other hand, UL boasts a very good defense, and one I think is more athletically talented than Boston College. The Cards are coming off of a bye week after FSU put a lot on film against Miami, and obviously Petrino is an offensive wizard. Add in the general letdown factor and that the ‘Noles are going to turn the ball over eventually, and I think there’s plenty to worry about as a FSU fan in this one. I’m going to go out on a limb, and for the first time in a long time, I’ll predict Florida State to be upset at home in this one, 17-16. /hides from internet for 48 hours at least.
You can read the Q&A I did with Tomawhawk Nation here.