LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (2-2, 0-1) vs. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (2-2, 0-2)
Game Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: Cardinal Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Announcers: Beth Mowins (play-by-play), Anthony Becht (color), and Rocky Boiman (sideline)
Favorite: Florida State by 6.5
All-Time Series: Florida State leads, 14-4
Streak: Louisville has won two straight
Last Meeting: Louisville won 31-28 on Oct. 21, 2017 in Tallahassee
Louisville Depth Chart:
Game Day Schedule:
About Florida State:
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.
Willie Taggart brought in a great staff when he took over at FSU this spring. One of the better hires on that staff was Harlon Barnett as the defensive coordinator. Barnett’s defenses weren’t overwhelmingly great at Michigan State, but most attributed that to the lack of talent in East Lansing. So far, the defense hasn’t been the issue for Florida State but they also haven’t been as consistent as you’d like them to be.
The defensive front for the Noles had some questions in the middle but the ends were very good at the top of the depth chart. Brian Burns is one of the best defensive ends in the conference and his pass rushing abilities are key for this defense that likes to rush four as much as they can. He’s gotten off to a slow start so far, but he will be a good test for Louisville’s tackles who have held up pretty well so far. Burns has the length and speed to get around UofL’s big tackles.
The interior of the FSU line has played pretty well this year outside of the Syracuse game. They have forced offenses to work the edges more and they haven’t really been bad at eating up blocks on the inside. The issue is that they don’t get enough penetration. They need for these guys to make more plays than they have so far. Demarcus Christmas was the lone returner here but he hasn’t been able to do much of anything so far. The depth is solid, but they need a consistent play maker to push the pocket and to stuff some run plays. Marvin Wilson is starting to live up to his five star billing. If they can get these guys to start getting some numbers on the stat sheet, the defense as a whole will improve.
Just as the offensive line doesn’t have much talent, the linebackers for the Noles leave a lot to be desired. They just flat out missed on a lot of guys at this spot and now they’re trying to move guys around and try different combinations to find some consistency. Dontavious Jackson is the only linebacker on the roster that has recorded a stat outside of tackles. No one else has made a single impact play. You’d at least expect someone to stumble into a tackle for loss.
The secondary was supposed to be a strong group this year but they have been unbelievably inconsistent on the year. They have made a lot more impact plays than the front seven, but they have also given up seven touchdown passes so far and almost all of them have been one on one coverage where they just got beat. What’s more surprising is that Levonta Taylor has given up the most touchdowns out of anyone. He was supposed to be one of the top corners in the country but that just hasn’t been the case so far. Kyle Meyers has actually been the top corner on the team so far and he’s actually had a very impressive season.
True freshman Jaiden Woodbey starts at the “star” position and he’s will play a big role in this game. I don’t know who Louisville will start at quarterback but Woodbey will factor in against either of them. He would be used to set the edge against the option if they start Malik Cunningham and he would be used in underneath zones against Jawon Pass. Woodbey is a very smart player that understands coverage schemes well but he is also a high level athlete that can play downhill and close down space well. We’ve seen how the lack of speed on offense has hurt UofL and Woodbey is the next defender that can exploit that and make plays in the open field.
The safety spot for FSU has played pretty well so far this year. A.J. Westbrook returned for his fifteenth season at strong safety and Stanford Samuels has switched to free safety from corner. Both have made some nice plays getting up the field in coverage and in run support. They haven’t had a lot of opportunities to play deep center field but Westrook has done well when that opportunity has presented itself. The leading tackler on the team is actually Hamsah Nasirildeenwho is a reserve safety. He is the type of guy you want at that spot. He plays fast and he plays like his body is a weapon. They’ve worked to get him in the game more and I think he compliments the starters well as they are more coverage guys.
Excitement Level: 6.1
It’s Florida State and the weather’s finally going to be stellar, if we had shown any signs of life last week then this would probably be a full point higher.
Game Attire: Block L Louisville hoodie shirt, new red Louisville hat, khaki shorts
The ever-rare early fall long sleeves/shorts combo is my favorite.
Pregame Meal: BBQ chicken sandwiches, beer
I’m rolling from the Petrino Family Foundation tailgate (790 pregame show, 12:30-2) all the way back to the heart of the green lot to meet friends and drink quickly. Gotta get those steps in.
Bold Prediction: Louisville scores a first half touchdown
To the outside world, this may seem like a pathetic streak-breaker prediction by a guy desperate to hit one of these. Anyone who’s watched Louisville the last four weeks, however, knows how bold this is.
Rodjay Burns Kick/Punt Touchdown Return Alert Level: Venetian Red (good)
We have a history of stellar special teams play against these guys.
Predicted Star of the Game: Blanton Creque
Last week I said that I couldn’t get any worse with these predictions, so I flipped the script and went with freshman linebacker Robert Hicks ... who wound up not even dressing for the game because of an injury. If Blanton shanks a game-winner then I’m not picking anyone next week.
—Louisville is 2-2 in ACC home openers, with both losses coming to Clemson (2015, 2017). The Cardinals defeated Florida State 63-20 in their 2016 conference home opener.
—Louisville is 12-4 in ACC home games since joining the league in 2014.
—Florida State is looking to avoid starting 0-3 for the first time since 2009.
—Louisville has never started 0-2 in the ACC, and hasn’t lost its first two conference games in a season since 2009.
—This game will be FSU head coach Willie Taggart’s first in the state of Kentucky since his time as the head coach at his alma mater, Western Kentucky (2010-12). Taggart’s 16 wins in those three seasons marked the best three-year stretch for WKU since the Hilltoppers joined the FBS.
—A week ago, Louisville was held without a touchdown for just the second time ever under Bobby Petrino. The Cardinals were held without an offensive touchdown in a regular season game since a 20-3 loss to Pittsburgh in 2011.
—Louisville currently ranks 125th out of 130 teams in total offense (284.3 yards per game), 124th in scoring offense (17.0 PPG) and 109th in average time of possession.
—Florida State QB Deondre Francois has thrown for an ACC-best 1,083 yards and ranks second in yards per game at 270.8. He threw for a season-high 352 yards last week against Northern Illinois.
—Opposing teams are 0-for-5 on 4th down attempts against Florida State so far this season.
—Last week, Florida State held Northern Illinois to six rushing yards, the fewest allowed by an ACC defense this season and tied for the 6th-lowest single-game total in FBS this year.
—Louisville has scored a combined 93 points in its last two games against Florida State.
—Louisville has failed to cover the spread in all four of its games this season.
—Florida State has failed to cover the spread in its last 10 ACC games.
—Louisville has not scored an offensive touchdown in the first half of a game this season. Its lone opening half touchdown was a Rodjay Burns punt return for a score against Indiana State.
—Only three of the 18 games in this series have been decided by a touchdown or less, and all three of those games have been Louisville wins (1970, 2002 and 2017).
—Nineteen players on Louisville’s roster hail from the state of Florida.
—At halftime of Saturday’s game, Louisville will honor the 1958 team that defeated Drake, 34-20, in the Sun Bowl.
—Louisville is off to a 2-2 start for the first time since 2011.
—Louisville is 20-3 under Bobby Petrino when scoring on its first drive, and just 16-17 when failing to do so.
—Louisville is 54-1 all-time and 18-0 under Bobby Petrino when rushing for at least 300 yards.
—Louisville is currently riding a consecutive game scoring streak that spans 229 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 183-12 all-time when scoring 35 or more points in a game. The Cards are also 5-107 all-time when allowing opponents to score 40 or more points.
—“We’re hoping that we can build off what we did last week and put together a complete ballgame, something we hadn’t done yet, and we’re eager to do it. And it will be a perfect time to go on the road and to do that up in Louisville, a team that’s beat us two years in a row.” —Florida State head coach Willie Taggart
—“We have players that are competitors and certain things aren’t happening the way we expected, (or) they expected. The way you make confidence is you make plays, you have success.” —Bobby Petrino
—“It’s a conference game. So any conference game we’re going to take personal. We’re just trying to use it as a stepping stone to keep this momentum that we got from Northern Illinois going and keep winning. That’s the goal.” —Florida State linebacker Dontavious Jackson
—“I feel great. It’s just good to be back out there with my team.” —Dorian Etheridge
—“(2016) is something I always think about because it was when I first got out there and felt very embarrassed. Just embarrassed. I always think back to that. Just try to capitalize on the things I can do [better].” —Florida State DB A.J. Westbrook
—“I’ve grown a lot (since 2016). It is like I told them, it is just the way I walk around, the way I carry myself, the confidence I have on the field. It is just different, totally different. I’m definitely looking forward to getting up there.” —Florida State DB A.J. Westbrook
—”We have an understanding who’s going to start (at QB) and how we’re going to play him. It doesn’t do us any good to tell everybody that. But we do need to improve and get better there, and obviously everybody understands that.” —Bobby Petrino
—“To say a combined almost 100 points, wow. They’ll go up there fired up. We’ll be ready to go.” —Florida State defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett
—“We’re trying to avoid pointing fingers … that’s been the message from coach (Bobby) Petrino, from all of the coaches and the players. No one is more disappointed than the guys in the locker room. All of us are pulling hard together to get that fixed.” —Mike Summers
—”We’ve got a great challenge coming up this weekend. We’ll be excited for it. I know our guys will get ready to play. A lot of guys on our team know the players on their team, and we’ve always got a lot of energy going into this week. We have a lot of things to fix.” —Bobby Petrino
Card Chronicle Prediction: Florida State 27, Louisville 14
Here’s hoping to look stupid.