Louisville has given up 84 points to Jimbo Fisher and his Seminole offense since joining the ACC two years ago. FSU has been led by veteran players like Rashad Greene, Jameis Winston, and Karlos Williams and they've also been led by young guys like Dalvin Cook, Travis Rudolph, and others. This season the Seminoles bring a mix of veteran players at wide receiver and running back with inexperienced players at quarterback and at spots on the offensive line. The quarterback position is always the biggest focal point of any offense, but the experienced skill players and offensive linemen have played in a lot of big games over the last few years.
Jameis WInston and Everett Golson were both experienced and proven commodities when they faced off against the Cards over the last two years, but Deondre Francois will be playing in just his third college game this Saturday. Francois started off this season playing very up-and-down in the first half against a rebuilt Ole Miss defense but he turned it on in the second half leading the Seminoles to a comeback win. Francois was a pretty big time recruit two years ago, but questions about his accuracy followed him into his first game due to his low completion percentage in high school as well as no one being sure how good he really was. This kid has a huge arm and what has been impressive is that he has been on the money, completing 69% of his passes. When he's missed, he's mostly been trying to squeeze the ball in areas where he shouldn't. While that's not a good thing, it highlights that he's been very accurate when throwing in rhythm. Ole Miss blitzed Francois plenty, but they showed their blitzes most of the time. One must wonder if Todd Grantham chooses to disguise his blitzes with guys coming from the secondary. Getting Francois out of rhythm could lead to a turnover or two.
The best running back in the country debate is pretty much impossible to win. What is not debatable, in my opinion, is which running back is the biggest big play threat in their offense. Dalvin Cook is a true gamebreaker and even though he plays in a pro-style offense, he can break big plays in many different ways. Cook can run power runs and "iso" between the tackles as well as power sweeps, shotgun sweeps and counters on the outside. He's been used in the screen game as well as swing routes and throwbacks. What's most important to me is that he does all of this on plays that are in the scope and scheme of the offense. There are not gimmicks or specialty plays that take other players outside of their abilities to execute. They're all pretty normal plays that, even though you know they're coming, you can't stop them. Cook hasn't started off this season on fire like most expected, but that's much more because of the issues along the offensive line than it is about Cook making bad reads or not being explosive. When given the opportunity, Cook has made a handful of nice chunk runs. Louisville will need to stop Cook from getting the big runs he has killed them with over the last two years. Missing a guy like Dee Smith for the first half will make that more difficult.
The FSU receivers are probably the most consistent group of pass catchers in the country. Travis Rudolph, Jesus Wilson, and Kermit Whitfield have been starters or rotation guys at FSU for the past three years and each year, one or more of them have made significant plays against Louisville. Bobo Wilson is due to kill on Saturday, FYI. Rudolph is the top receiver of the group as he is used in many different ways and is the most reliable in crucial spots. Rudolph is the most likely player to run deep post routes or deep drags. Bobo Wilson is the quickest of the group and he's been very good this season with nearly identical numbers to Rudolph. Wilson is an outside receiver even though he is a smaller guy but he is a guy that could have a big day because he is a very good route runner and FSU will likely look to nickel-and-dime the ball down the field with short routes to Wilson being a focus. Whitfield is no stranger to Louisville fans after he went off for 172 yards last year. Whitfield is the guy that gets into the open field and just takes off. He's not going to shake a bunch of guys and make people look silly, but he will make everyone else on the field look extremely slow. Louisville will have to close down on him and be solid in their tackling.
Louisville fans know how big of an impact poor offensive line play can have on the offense so we can all understand how frustrating it has to be for FSU fans to watch their line struggle to block for their talented skill players. FSU's offensive line was downright horrible in the first half against Ole Miss with Rick Leonard being mocked all over Twitter and Roderick Johnson being questioned as the top offensive linemen in the ACC. The line was also penalized multiple times for false starts which killed drives before they could even get started. Johnson will be matched up with Devonte Fields pretty often this weekend so FSU has to hope that he has his head on straight or it could cause havoc with their timing in the passing game.
KEY PLAYERS: QB Deondre Francois, RB Dalvin Cook, WR Travis Rudolph, WR Bobo Wilson, LT Rod Johnson