LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (2-3, 1-1) At FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (5-0, 3-0)
Game Time: Noon
Location: Doak Campbell Stadium: Tallahassee, Fla.
Announcers: Bob Wischusen (Play-by-Play), Brock Huard (Analyst) and Shannon Spake (Sideline)
Favorite: Florida State by 7
All-Time Series: Florida State leads 13-2
Last Meeting: Florida State won 42-31 last season at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium
About Florida State:
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 Seminolesso 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
Florida State built a reputation of unbelievably talented defenses under Bobby Bowden. Bringing in an offensive-minded coach has seemingly caused that reputation to take a slight hit over the last few years. FSU still recruits at an elite level, but they tend to see a handful of really talented guys on their defenses as opposed to the defenses that featured NFL talent at all three levels back in the day. That's not to say that FSU isn't a good defense or that they don't have talent. But it says what level they're on when a team that is holding FBS rushers to 3.49 yards per carry doesn't impress as much as they used to.
Where I think the Seminole's have been lacking in the last few years is up front on the defensive line. Charles Kelly took over as defensive coordinator last year and in 19 games the Seminole defense has only averaged 1.42 sacks per game. In general, the defense doesn't make a lot of impact plays behind the line of scrimmage. David Hale of ESPN has always pointed out that the FSU defense does a great job of pressuring the quarterback even though it doesn't always get a sack. That's all well and good but creating negative plays has such a big impact on an offense. It shrinks the play call sheet for a coordinator as well as just simply making it harder to pick up a first down. FSU typically had at least one very good pass rusher on the defensive line up until about two seasons ago. They're still looking for that player 19 games into Kelly's tenure.
With all that being said, FSU does have two pass rushers that have shown promise this year. DeMarcus Walker and Josh Sweat have shown flashes this year and Walker has actually had some productive numbers. Walker is a bigger guy at 281 pounds but his motor and strength have been more than enough to get around tackles on the outside. On the other side, Sweat as well as Jacob Pugh have done a solid job of using their speed and length to disrupt plays in the backfield. Sweat is five-star freshman who battled back from a major knee injury to somehow get on the field early in his career. Sweat is the type of player that Louisville has struggled with this year. Carl Lawson and Shaq Lawson are much more experienced and just flat out better players than Sweat but Sweat is in a similar mold. He's physically gifted and he can use his speed to blow by blockers. With Geron Christian struggling with speed rushers and Kenny Thomas being very inexperienced, the ends are an area to keep an eye on.
The interior linemen for the Seminoles has made a handful of nice plays this season, but they haven't been as disruptive as one would like. Nile Lawrence-Stample and Derrick Nnadi start in the middle and both have the size and motor to really cause issues for an interior offensive line for Louisville that has struggled to run block as well as pick up blitzers. Lawrence-Stample lines up at defensive tackle so he will be lined up over either guard in most situations. One of the keys to the game will be how Tobijah Hughleyhandles Nnadi. Nnadi is a 300-pounder but he's also 6-1 so he plays with nice pad level. Hughley has to be able to get some kind of push on run plays or it will lead to long passing situations for the offense. With FSU's speed, the running game will have to be able to run between the tackles with some success. That can't happen if the interior of the line struggles against these two players.
FSU runs a 4-2-5 or a 3-3-5 depending on where Sweat and Pugh line up. Who will man the two linebacker spots Saturday is still up in the air. Stud linebacker, Terrance Smithmissed the Miami game with an ankle injury and he missed some practice this week.Reggie Northrup is the team's leading tackler, but Ro'Derrick Hoskins is right behind him. All three players are somewhat similar in size and playing ability. Smith has been slowed by injuries but he can flat out run. He could be a big factor in the game with Louisville relying so heavily on option runs. Northrup and Hoskins have both made a fair amount of ice plays shooting gaps on run plays. Northrup is a big hitter who plays with a lot of emotion. Hoskins is the youngest player of the three but he has stepped in well and leads the team in tackles for loss. One thing I noticed when watching FSU games this year is that Smith seems to be the vocal leader for the defense. He is constantly moving players around before the snap and calling out instructions ad gesturing to other players. Louisville doesn't audible much, but with all of the motion that Bobby Petrino likes to do, it could be a big help to FSU to have Smith out there directing traffic.
The secondary for Florida State is a mixture of young talent and experienced veterans.Jalen Ramsey is one of the best players in the entire country let alone the best cornerback. Ramsey has played safety and star as well as his normal corner spot and at every spot he has made plays. This year he is third in the ACC with 6 PBUs. Last season he finished the season with 9.5 tackles for loss. He can honestly do it all. What's surprising is that teams haven't avoided him this season. Honestly, Miami and Wake Forest all but targeted him in their last two games. At field corner Marquez White has had a very quiet year. I was impressed by White's technique in the small sample of press coverage I got to see in their games. Both, Ramsey is the type of player that can change a game in an instant. I can't say the same for White, but a four star talent that also plays on the FSU basketball team is an impressive profile that garners a lot of respect.
For the second straight week, Louisville could see some success against the opposing safeties. FSU has had some injury issues at the position with Nate Andrews missing time with a knee injury as well as playing with one of those hilarious looking club wraps on his hand. Trey Marshall was ejected for targeting against Miami, which moved Tyler Hunter back into game action. Hunter was a liability in coverage as he has been for the most part this season. Lamarcus Brutus has an outstanding name, but he also had issues in coverage over the last few weeks. Brutus and Hunter didn't get beat deep or anything like that but they were consistently beaten across their faces. Louisville killed Josh Jones with quick passes in the first half last week and I can see similar success this week if FSU doesn't adjust. However, I wouldn't be surprised if we see a personnel adjustment. Darwin James is a freshmen with outstanding potential. I could see Kelly starting James at strong safety with Marshall at the star position. I don't think Nate Andrews will be able to play and James is the best option in my opinion.
KEY PLAYERS: DE DeMarcus Walker, MLB Terrance Smith, OLB Reggie Northrup, OLBRo'Derrick Hoskins, CB Jalen Ramsey
Excitement Level: 9.2
This will be the first game of the season that I haven't attended, and I'm still insanely jacked. Regardless of what happens, given Louisville's second half schedule, this is the game that the rest of the country is going to remember the Cards for when they see their name scroll across the bottom line in future weeks. Win this one and all the sudden you're staring down six winnable games and thinking crazy thoughts. Plus, it's undefeated Florida State in Tallahassee on an afternoon where the Seminoles are riding a 27-game ACC win streak and an 18-game home winning streak.
This one is worth getting excited about.
Pregame Meal: Coffee, breakfast sandwich, beer
Mike Rutherford fact of the day: I rarely eat lunch. I like to get busy work done for a few hours in the morning, roll with more coffee and a late breakfast around 11 or 11:30, and then I hold out until dinner. Probably not healthy, but I have a system and it's taken me this far ... talking to you people about what I'm going to eat before a football game.
Anyway, this has been a long-winded way of saying I might be taking advantage of the McDonald's all-day breakfast revelation for the first time.
Game Attire: Jeans, red and white U of L pullover with red U of L Titleist hat
"Don't eff with a winning streak." --Kevin Costner in Waterworld
Bold Prediction: Louisville scores a defensive touchdown
Year of the bold prediction is officially off the tracks so I'm rolling with a John Ramsey bold prediction and hoping it rains.
Predicted Star of the Game: James Quick
This would be a good time, James.
Cole Hikutini Touchdown Alert Level: Shadow (I have a strange feeling that it's going to happen, but it still seems unlikely)
There's an actual chart for these. I don't just make them up. This one takes up a lot of space.
Motivational Opposition Tweet:
Its Gameday Fuck Cardinals Fuck Dave Ragone Fuck Papa Johns Fuck horse racing Fuck Bobby Petrino Fuck Louisville Go #Noles— CB (@cblunt58) October 17, 2015
Horse racing? That's the line, man.
--Florida State has won 27 consecutive ACC games.
--The Seminoles are riding an 17-game winning streak at Doak Campbell Stadium.
--Louisville is 24-2 over the last three seasons when attempting at least 35 rushes in a game. The only two losses came last year at Clemson, and in the 2015 season-opener against Auburn.
--Louisville hasn't won in Tallahassee since Oct. 4, 1952, when Johnny Unitas tossed three touchdown passes in a 41-14
victory over the Seminoles.
--FSU has won eight-straight games at home versus the Cardinals, most recently in 2000 when the second-ranked 'Noles scored a 31-0 win.
--Florida State is 34-4 all-time at home under head coach Jimbo Fiscer.
--Louisville is 14-5 all-time under Bobby Petrino in games played in the month of October.
--Louisville has won nine consecutive games when kicking off to begin the game, and has lost six of its last nine when receiving the opening kickoff, including three of four games this season.
--Dating back to 2013, Louisville has forced at least one turnover in 21 consecutive games. The Cardinals are tied with Baylor for the longest such streak in the country.
--Florida State is the only team in the country that has yet to commit an offensive turnover. The Seminoles lone turnover this season came on a muffed punt in week one.
--Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson is 69 yards away from breaking Michael Bush's U of L record for rushing yards in a single season by a true freshman.
--FSU RB Dalvin Cook leads the ACC and ranks second in the nation in rushing yards per game (158.4). He has 792 rushing yards on 88 carries for a 9.0 yards per carry average - the ninth best in the nation. Cook has eight rushing touchdowns and one receiving score, and is just the third Seminole to have multiple 200-yard rushing games in a career.
--Louisville is 3-1 all-time in noon games televised by ESPN.
--At 63-11, FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher's winning percentage (.8514) is the best in FBS football.
--Florida State has not given up a rushing touchdown against an FBS opponent this season.
--Louisville leads the FBS in interceptions with nine.
--FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo is a perfect 35-for-35 on field goal attempts from inside of 40 yards for his career.
--Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 191 games dating back to the 2000 season. The streak ranks as the third longest in the ACC behind only Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.
--Louisville is 166-9 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 5-100 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
--"You watch that film now, you don't see a 2-3 team. You can see a 5-0 team. 4-1 team, all those games. I mean, you see a really good football team. That's my point." --FSU head coach Jimbo Fischer
--"They have been the premier team in our league with the national championship (two years ago) and a trip to the playoffs last year. It's a great challenge for us, and you certainly get excited. Our guys have a lot of energy and a lot of focus all week long." --Bobby Petrino
--"Oh, (Lamar Jackson's) probably the biggest threat of a QB I saw, over Mariota. He's faster than Mariota. He has a pretty good arm, too. I was watching him, like good God ... the kid can fly." --FSU DE DeMarcus Walker
--"It would mean everything to beat Florida State." --James Quick
--"You've got to put last week, even though it was a big win, we've got to put that in the pastWe can't be harping on it, riding that wave over to Louisville because they're a very good front seven and very good defense." --FSU center Ryan Hoefeld
--"We're not getting any love or any respect." --FSU WR Bobo Wilson
--"I've always been impressed with our team on how we've prepared and how hard we've worked. We are in three other games with an opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter and basically came up one possession short, so it was good. Something that we really needed and I think will really help us going into this game." --Bobby Petrino
--"He's real fast. He's a freshman, and he's real fresh. He's real smart. We just have to watch him and can't let him get outside of us. We've got a lot of speed. So we can match his speed. That ain't nothing to us." --FSU LB Jacob Pugh
--"We know we're on the road right now. Our defense is playing with confidence. Our offense is playing with confidence. We're studying a lot of film. We're very confident and doing a good week of preparing. I think we're ready." --James Burgess
--"(Dalvin Cook's) the most explosive back that I've seen in quite a while,. He's a guy that if you give him a seam he can hit it and he can go the distance. He can run through tackles." --Todd Grantham
--"I said this last year, everybody laughed at me. Look, we had 11 guys drafted. How many guys they have drafted? Ten. I can name them right here. One, two, three, I'm looking at defense, four, five, possibly six. On offense, I mean, you're talking about another, could being another six to eight, some of those juniors and stuff. You're talking about another big load. This is a talented, talented football team." --FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher
--"The highest award a punter can really win is the Ray Guy, so maybe we can shoot there." --Josh Appleby