We're less than two weeks from the kickoff of the 2015 college football season, and one week from the first game week of the year. Soak it in.
Last week, we got started on the second annual monthly preview of the Louisville football schedule, and by some inexact calculations figured that Louisville will come out of the month of September 3-1. Really, one guy sitting at a Starbucks figured that Louisville will come out of September 3-1.
Today, we'll tackle October, where one game in particular figures to be the runaway favorite for most intriguing matchup of the month. It's Florida State. Florida State is the most intriguing game of the month.
N.C. State Wolfpack — Road — Oct. 3, TBA, TV TBA
The gist: Louisville's road-heavy month starts in Raleigh against an N.C. State team that continues to improve under Dave Doeren. Perhaps most importantly, quarterback Jacoby Brissett returns as a senior after he threw for 23 touchdowns and just 5 picks last season. A full company of running backs return as well, with upperclassmen Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes leading the way. The only question mark is the receiving corps after two key contributors left this offseason, but the cupboard isn't totally bare there, either. N.C. State's O-line returns three seniors.
The only place the Wolfpack isn't fairly green on defense is in the secondary, where nearly the entire unit returns. While that means that the defensive backfield could cover up for some issues with youth up front, it likely won't spell great things for a defense that was nothing special last season.
The verdict: Brissett and co. may be able to put up some points with a year of experience under their belts, but Louisville will prove to be too much for the N.C. State defense, particularly by this point in the season. You have to figure that Todd Grantham's defense will be getting better every week as well, making this a solid road win for the Cards to start October.
Florida State Seminoles — Road — Oct. 17, TBA, TV TBA
The gist: Jimbo Fisher has lots of holes to fill this season after the departure of an impressive class, but the 'Noles will still enter the season ranked in the top 10. Offensively, Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson steps right into Jameis Winston's place at quarterback, which may be fine, not so fine or indifferent. Leading running back Dalvin Cook returns, and while a couple of major pass-catchers have moved on, a slew of 4- and 5-star options await the opportunity to take their places. If there's an offensive weakness, it may be the offensive line, which has a combined nine career starts among the entire group.
Defensively, the line will be re-tooling, but FSU's top three linebackers return behind it. In the secondary, star corner Jalen Ramsey is back for his junior season and has plenty of company despite the loss of fellow corners P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby. While there's talent on this unit, it still lost some key players from a group that seemed to under-perform at times last year.
The verdict: It's impossible to say with certainty that Louisville will win in its first trip to Tallahassee since a drubbing in 2000, but they'll have a shot. The Seminole defense likely won't be leaps and bounds better than it was last season when the Cards scored 31 points, and while there's plenty of firepower left on offense, regression could strike there as well. Is this the Notre Dame moment of the 2015 season? We'll see.
Boston College Eagles — Home — Oct. 24, TBA, TV TBA
The gist: Boston College has made strides under head coach Steve Addazio, but they've got holes aplenty to fill this season. The Eagles will be replacing Tyler Murphy behind center and also lose three of their top four receivers. Running back John Hilliman returns, but with a line that has 15 career starts between the whole group (14 of those belong to one person). The B.C. offense could struggle to find its tune this season with that much turnover.
The Eagles' secondary will be young this season outside of senior safety Justin Simmons, but other than that, a good chunk of the front seven returns. Connelly's numbers point out an interesting phenomenon with the B.C. defense from a year ago: it ranked as a top-50 defense for each of the first three quarters, but fell to 112th once the fourth quarter rolled around. For what it's worth, Louisville put up 14 points in the fourth quarter of last season's game against B.C.
The verdict: Boston College was better on the road than at home last season, but Louisville could be coming off a frustrating loss at Florida State. Either that, or they'll be riding a high after a marquee road victory. The latter scenario always opens up the possibility of a head-scratching let down, but it's unlikely. The Cards should have success on both sides of the ball in this one and come out on top.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons — Road — Oct. 30, TBA, TV TBA
The gist: Last year's 20-10 victory over the Deacs at home was no indication of the strength of Wake Forest. They were bad last year, finishing 3-9 and losing all but one of their ACC tilts. Wake's one conference win came in an absolutely horrendous double overtime game against Virginia Tech. Yes, the famous picture of Frank Beamer celebrating a 0-0 trip to OT came from that game.
Quarterback John Wolford returns to the offense, and he'll have a pair of running backs coming back with him, but Wake Forest scored 178 points over the entire season last year. There are still plenty of young pieces on the offensive side of the ball, but they have so far to go that this season likely won't be much better.
On defense, the only unit that will suffer some losses is the secondary, where three major contributors are gone. Still, three juniors return to the defensive backfield in a defense that was Wake Forest's bright spot last season. The Deacons' D ranked 37th in S&P+ (explanation here) in 2014, and could come close to that number again in 2015. Virtually all of the front seven is back, and while the defense will likely be asked to do too much again, they may come close.
The verdict: Like last season, this could be a strangely close game, but Louisville shouldn't stumble here barring some extreme circumstances. An undefeated month of October may be a stretch with Florida State and three road games, but it could happen. If it does, Halloween will be even better this year.