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Opponent Breakdown: Florida State Offense

Willie Taggart brings his struggling offense to Cardinal Stadium.

Louisville v Florida State Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

Jimbo Fisher has moved on from FSU to a big payday at Texas A&M and Willie Taggart took over in Tallahassee. The results haven’t been what most people expected, but I don’t think most people realized how bad the Seminoles were last season. Taggart’s offense looked improved last week against Northern Illinois and they will look to continue that improvement against a struggling Louisville defense.

The quarterback battle for the Noles was interesting because they had Deondre Francois back from injury, but James Blackman had played very well as a true freshman in his absence. Taggart decided to go with Francois and he has been pretty inconsistent so far. He hasn’t done very well running the read option aspects of the offense. He isn’t a big runner, so he ends up handing the ball off even when he has the edge. He also doesn’t always do too well with their RPO (run-pass option) plays. I think that most of this is due to him not being experienced in this type of offense.

Francois has been pretty good throwing the football this season. He’s completing 63.5% of his passes and he has still shown a great ability to throw the deep ball. His arm strength is his best attribute so the offense has adjusted some to mix in more throws in the middle of the field to their tight end, Tre McKitty. This has helped open some of the other things that they want to do on offense. The quick throws outside have worked much better than they did at the start of the season.

Florida State recruited very well at the running back spot under Jimbo and Taggart was gifted one of the deepest backfields in the country when he took over. Cam Akers was a five star prospect that played very well as a true freshman last year while splitting carries with Jacques Patrick. He’s getting a little bit more of the split this year but yards have been hard to come by. It seems like FSU has looked to get the ball on the edges more in the last two games and Akers has found a little more room on those carries.

The offense will likely use the three key backs that they have available against Louisville. Amir Rasul had a very strong drive at the end of the NIU game where his burst and quickness really helped him get to the second level of the defense. We could also see Anthony Grant get some carries to utilize his speed.

The receiver group for the Noles has been very hit or miss so far. They have struggled at that spot for a couple of years now after having really good production back when Jameis Winston was at quarterback. Last year was especially bad and they are still trying to get the core group settled after four games this year. Keith Gavin is the best of the group so far and he is their all around guy who can do a little of everything. Nyquan Murray is still really reliable for this offense and is used on jet sweeps and quick screens often.

Tamorrion Terry is the guy that worries me most with FSU. He’s their deep threat and the guy can take the top off of a defense. Louisville hasn’t surrendered very many big plays on defense but they have been beaten in man coverage a few times. Terry can really do some damage if Louisville has to bring their safeties up to support the run.

I decided to highlight some of the things I’ve seen with the other positions that have stood out without mentioning the offensive line. It’s the worst line in the country and it makes it really hard for the guys above to do much of anything. When they do hit on their assignments, this offense can really do some good things with their speed at running back and receiver. They don’t do anything particularly well and they compound their issues with bad penalties and bad snaps. I’d compare it to Louisville’s 2016 line but they’ve been bad against everyone as opposed to a handful of games like that Cards team. Louisville’s defense absolutely has to take advantage of their poor play and how they play against this front will tell us a lot about how good or bad the defense is this year.