NoleGameday

Game Preview: Florida State at Louisville

Louisville (2-0) Bio Flash:

Head Coach: Bobby Petrino

Last year’s record: 8-5, 5-3 in ACC

Key players: QB Lamar Jackson, WR Jamari Staples, WR James Quick, DB Josh Harvey-Clemons

Game Introduction:

Saturday brings yet another early test for the ‘Noles as they travel north to face the Louisville Cardinals. Louisville comes into the game ranked 10th thanks to the dynamic play of quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson has quickly surged to the top of Heisman polls because of his fantastic play in the first two games. On the flip side, Florida State is looking to grab their second win over a top-15 team in just three games. Star running back Dalvin Cook has had an up and down season so far, but is looking to return to form against the Cardinals. College Gameday will be live from Louisville starting at 9, so make sure to set your alarm. The actual game kicks off at noon on ABC.

Headlines:

Dalvin looks to torch Cardinals’ defense for third straight year

Dalvin Cook has to be excited to put on the pads for this game. In 2014, he had 13 touches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Although he had only nine rushes that game, he still amassed 110 yards for an average of 12.2 yards per carry. A year later, Cook ran all over the Cards’ defense for 163 yards and two touchdowns. The good news for Cook? Louisville’s defense still seems to struggle with open field tackling, as evidenced by the Syracuse game. Look for Cook to have another big game against the Cards, and maybe pull off a run like this:

Lamar Jackson is legit

If you haven’t seen Lamar Jackson in action yet, you’re in for a treat Saturday. He has incredible explosiveness coupled with a cannon for an arm. He deserves all the praise he’s currently getting, and the Heisman hype isn’t without credibility. Jackson certainly knows how to light up a scoreboard too. In 2016 alone (including Louisville’s spring game), Jackson has scored at least 5 touchdowns in only the first half of every game. Against Syracuse, the Louisville offense gained 845 yards. Jackson had 610 of those yards, or 72% of the total yards. Slowing down Lamar Jackson will be priority number one for the ‘Noles defense. After all, he’s capable of this:

DeMarcus Walker is poised for another big game

After a 4.5 sack performance in week one, DeMarcus Walker needs to come up big once again for the ‘Noles Saturday. Notice how I said “needs” and not “should”. While the injury to Derwin James certainly shakes up the secondary, it also hurts Florida State’s pass rush. FSU defensive coordinator Charles Kelly can no longer utilize one of the best pass rushing defensive backs in the country, and must rely on his defensive line. That starts with DeMarcus Walker. An unquestioned leader, Walker must be able to consistently make Lamar Jackson uncomfortable on Saturday. Walker has a ferocious swim move, and that will be on full display against Louisville. Defensive end Josh Sweat will look to apply pressure opposite of Walker. In addition, expect Charles Kelly to dial up some creative blitzes using outside linebacker Jacob Pugh. Pugh quietly had a good game against Ole Miss, and should find himself in an increased role Saturday.

Perfect conditions for a shootout

Louisville scored five touchdowns in the first half against Syracuse. Four of those touchdown drives took three plays or less, and two of them were just one play. Florida State and head coach Jimbo Fisher on the other hand love to play the possession game and control the clock. The Cardinals only interest Saturday is to see that scoreboard light up. If Louisville gets off to a quick start like Ole Miss did against FSU, the Seminoles will certainly pick up the pace on offense. After all, Florida State erased Ole Miss’ double digit lead just six minutes into the third quarter. Louisville’s offense only knows one speed (fast), and if Florida State is forced to keep up the scoreboard operator is in for a busy day.

Burning Questions:

Who replaces 3?

As aforementioned, Derwin James went down with an injury against Charleston Southern Saturday and probably won’t be back until the Clemson game. You really can’t replace all the things James does on the field, but Florida State is going to have to try. Most likely, versatile cornerback Marcus Lewis will slide back to safety and true freshman Levonta Taylor will take over the vacant Star role. In this scenario, the starting five DB’s will be: Marquez White, Tarvarus McFadden, Levonta Taylor, Trey Marshall, and Marcus Lewis. Senior safety Nate Andrews returns from injury this week, and will provide key depth for the ‘Noles. Sophomore AJ Westbrook will also be utilized, and will likely see his role increased Saturday.

Will fatigue be a factor?

For those who haven’t been counting, Saturday will be Florida State’s third game in just 12 days. A tune-up game was necessary for the ‘Noles to offset the short week last week, but now they go on the road to take on a top-10 team at noon. I know the fans love how much ‘Noles football they’re getting, but fatigue could play a huge factor on Saturday. Louisville even got an extra day of rest because their game was Friday night last week. Florida State almost got lucky to play Louisville in week three, because their quick-strike offense means more rest for the ‘Noles defense. It’s supposed to be a pretty hot day in Kentucky on Saturday, so we’ll have to see just how much stamina this Seminoles team has.

Can Florida State contain Lamar Jackson?

Last year, Derwin James had a phenomenal game against Louisville and made Lamar Jackson’s life miserable. This year, there is no Derwin James and Lamar Jackson has been playing lights out. Jackson can score with his arm or legs, and completely dominated Syracuses’ defense last week. FSU will have to figure out who to spy on Jackson, and coach Fisher may have a lot of halftime adjustments to make. It will be very interesting to see how the ‘Noles defense fares against Jackson without Derwin James, especially early in the game.

Will the ‘Noles special teams continue to be special?

Florida State’s special teams have been nearly perfect the first two games of the season. With two true freshmen handling kicking and punting duties, I for one was very skeptical of the ‘Noles special teams coming into 2016. However, they have done more than just prove themselves. Ricky “ice in my viens” Aguayo has been perfect kicking the ball so far, going 7 for 7 on field goals and 10 for 10 on extra points. Punter Logan Tyler has a scary strong leg, and seems to boot the ball out of the stadium on every kick off. He has also punted extremely well, averaging 46.8 yards on five punts. Even wide receiver Bobo Wilson got in on the special teams fun, returning a punt 89 yards for six against Charleston Southern. The unit as a whole has certainly exceeded expectations so far this year. With Ricky Aguayo and Logan Tyler kicking the ball, the future certainly looks bright for the ‘Noles on special teams.

Forecast:

I’ve been going back and forth on my pick for this game all week. On one hand, Louisville has an explosive offense led by one of the best quarterbacks in college football. On the other hand, Florida State is one of the best all-around teams in the country led by one of the best running backs in college football. Originally I had Louisville winning this game, especially after Derwin James got hurt. But as I watched more film on Louisville, I realized they have a huge Achilles’s heel: open field tackling. Dalvin Cook has exploited this poor tackling two years in a row, and I expect more of the same come Saturday. When Dalvin Cook gets to the second level against Louisville, watch out. I think Cook will have over 175 total yards and at least two scores. In addition, Travis Rudolph should have a big game on deep routes against the Cards. Syracuse was able to exploit holes in the Cardinals’ defense, and the ‘Noles should take advantage. The biggest X-factor for FSU will be Dalvin Cook, but not just when he touches the ball. #DalvinTheDecoy should be a thing, because QB Deondre Francois is 17 for 22 for 208 yards and a score off play action this year. That includes four completions of over 20 yards, and no interceptions. Defenses are so keyed in on 4 that he can effect the game without even touching the ball. While I do think Louisville will take the early lead, Florida State will claw back like they always do and (barely) pull this one out. I’ll take Florida State 45-38 in a shootout, although I can see this game going either way. Make sure to set your alarms early so you don’t miss College Gameday, which starts at 9 AM live from Louisville.

Ben Brewton
Writer at Nole Gameday covering football and basketball. FSU alum. Follow me on twitter (@Ben_Brewton) and we can talk sports. On the 8th day, God created college football.

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