The recruiting dead period is finally over and we are now less than 100 days away from kickoff! In my last post I went through the biggest offseason stories for Louisville’s first three opponents: Ole Miss, Eastern Kentucky, and Central Florida. If you missed it you can check it out here. This week we’ll be going through the offseason headlines for Louisville’s next three opponents on the schedule this fall.
Let’s get into it:
Florida State Seminoles
Ever since Jameis Winston left it seems like FSU hasn’t been able to find its next star signal caller. I really thought Deondre Francois would be the next guy but he ultimately fell far short of expectations. Then the attention in Tallahassee turned to the likes of James Blackmon and Alex Hornibrook. After some back and forth, Blackmon appeared as the leader heading into 2020. But as we’ve become accustomed to in the last few years, FSU still wasn’t able to settle on a definitive QB.
As the 2020 season went on FSU transfer from Louisville Jordan Travis got some opportunities and appeared to bring the offense a few steps forward under the guidance of Mike Norvell. But any progress that was made quickly fell apart after Louisville throttled the ‘Noles at home by a score of 48-16. FSU would go on to get blown out by two mediocre programs in Pitt and NCST and win just one more game against an abysmal Duke team to finish the season 3-6.
The debate now is whether or not FSU has the offensive line to allow a quarterback to be successful, or a quarterback good enough to hide the shortcomings of a mediocre offensive line. My theory is that FSU has plenty of talent at QB to be successful, but that their offensive lines have held them back ever since 2016 when the likes of Todd Grantham’s Louisville defense and others wreaked havoc on their front line. I think if FSU can produce a mediocre offensive line then I think they’ll be fine on offense.
Good news is that almost the entire o-line returns and I believe former Louisville QB Jordan Travis is the real deal. In 2020 FSU averaged 32 points a game when Travis was the primary QB, and only 15 points when he wasn’t. That’s a pretty obvious sign for FSU moving forward, and with the addition of Central Florida Golden Knight’s transfer McKenzie Milton they shouldn’t have too much to worry about QB. Only thing that makes me nervous about Milton is that he suffered a horrendous injury at Central Florida and I worry about anyone coming back from such a horrific injury and being able to stay healthy.
One last thing about the quarterback position, former Louisville commit Chubba Purdy was listed fourth on the depth chart last season and heading into this season he looks to remain QB4 behind Travis, Milton, and redshirt freshman Tate Rodemaker. This is obviously not where he thought he’d be heading into year two and it’s been a popular fan topic the last few days, especially with the sudden transfer of Luke McCaffery, that Satterfield and Purdy should make amends and reunite. This, of course, is pure speculation at this point, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for both parties moving forward.
I’ve already written way too about FSU, but they’re just a fascinating team and the best measuring stick for Louisville in the ACC Atlantic, so let me say one more thing about them: FSU’s defense needs to improve if they want to move forward. Even with the Noles’ offense struggling the last 4 seasons, they’ve almost always been able to produce a top flight defense with strong recruiting. However, they really struggled last season under first-year defensive coordinator Adam Fuller and finished 85th overall in SP+. They lost some big talent with the losses of Marvin Wilson and Hamsah Nasirildeen, but they’ve done a decent job recruiting again so if they can get their defense to match with the level that Norvell wants to take their offense then they should be able to be a solid team as whole.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Ahh, our archrivals. What a strange team in 2020. Love him or hate him (I hate him), Dave Clawson has done a tremendous job extracting the most out of young athletes and developing talent at Wake Forest. 2020 was not his best work, however. The Deacons finished 4-5 with a 45-21 rout by Louisville to finish the season. The biggest story was just how young Wake was, particularly in the defensive secondary. The question is whether or not they can improve with the latest youth movement. I’m leaning towards yes, especially considering Clawson’s track record.
Wake Forest has a fascinating schedule this year in that they’ve all but guaranteed 4 wins against Norfolk State, Old Dominion, Duke, and Syracuse. On the other hand they only have near-guaranteed losses against North Carolina and Clemson. This is where things get really interesting. They other six games on their schedule are relative toss-ups and the margin between a good season and disappointing season is small. Currently, Wake is projected by Vegas to win 6 games. It’s not hard to see Wake winning two or more games out of competitions against FSU, Army, Louisville, NCST, Boston College, and Virginia, but it’s also not hard to see them losing all of those games.
Whether or not their defense can develop their young talent they saw last year will go a long ways. Wake returns star QB Sam Hartman and their always great receiving unit, so with a full and uninterrupted offseason for their defense and youngsters to improve, it’s hard to bet against the Deacs improving this year.
Ah, our other archrivals. Except other than the school itself, the football program is pretty likable. Bronco Mendenhall has done an outstanding job in Charlottesville since leaving BYU and he’s received praise from other coaches for just how well-coached and precise his teams are. For the foreseeable future I think Louisville fans should be warned that Virginia will always be a tough out regardless of talent level.
Virginia is projected by Bill Connelly’s SP+ to field a Top 50 offense and a Top 65 defense in 2021, which aren’t earth shattering, but combined with a favorable schedule and good coaching could lead them to 6 or more wins. Translation: I fully expect them to be a pain in the ass for the millionth time in a row.
If you were to name the single biggest stories of the offseason for the Hoos it would likely be whether or not QB Brennan Armstrong can continue to improve after doing a solid job replacing Bryce Perkins. The other is out-of-conference game in Provo, Utah against Bronco’s former team, BYU. With the loss of first-round draft pick Zach Wilson, BYU will likely take step back from their 11-1 2020 performance in which they finished 11th in the final AP Poll, but they’ll be a tough out regardless. It’s a fun matchup for two programs who aren’t sure how to gauge 2021 and each will have plenty of time to get things in order before meeting on Halloween Weekend.
We’ll be back next week with storylines from Boston College, NC State, and Clemson.
Spoiler Alert: NC State are frauds and Clemson is very good at the football.
Until then, Go Cards and Red Rage.