FSU vs. Louisville Game Preview

Game Introduction:

Through a quarter of the season, the Seminoles are 1-2 for the third straight year. FSU will look to get back to .500 against the Louisville Cardinals in Doak Campbell on Saturday afternoon. So far this season, the Cards lost to Notre Dame on Labor Day Monday before taking down both Eastern and Western Kentucky. The Cardinals are coming off their worst season since 1991, so like the ‘Noles, they’re in rebuild mode. Louisville replaced HC Bobby Petrino with former App. St. head coach, Scott Satterfield in the offseason. Both programs need this win to show their fanbases that their programs are going in the right direction. FSU beat Louisville last year thanks to a 14-0 4th quarter and a last minute TD by Noonie Murray. All time, Florida State holds the series lead 15 wins to 4.

The ‘Noles and Cards will kickoff at 3:30 PM on ESPN.


Louisville’s 12th ranked rushing offense vs. FSU’s 92nd ranked rushing defense

The Cardinals have quite a deep backfield, with the nation’s 11th leading rusher, Javian Hawkins leading the charge. This unit of Hawkins, reliable backup RB Hassan Hill, and the dual-threat ability of QB’s Jawon Pass and Malik Cunningham will present another hefty challenge for the FSU front 7. FSU’s interior D-line has actually played quite well, with Marvin Wilson grading out as the top interior defender so far this season by PFF, but the linebackers continue to struggle in their roles. So far this season, Louisville has posted 222 more yards on the ground than in the air, so FSU has no reason to sell out on the run. I’d expect, or at least hope, for Hamsah Nasirildeen to play down in the box and help the linebackers take away the run. FSU’s rush defense actually took a large step forward at Virginia, allowing just 3.8 yards per carry and kept Bryce Perkins in the pocket for most of the night, limiting him to just 46 yards on the ground. I’d expect FSU’s defensive game plan to be similar on Saturday afternoon.

James Blackman looking to make it 5 straight games with 3+ passing TD’s

After a slow start in Charlottesville, James Blackman put together another decent performance threw the air. In the end, 2 missed throws likely cost Blackman the result he wanted, but he has still consistently put up points threw the air. Blackman made it 4 straight games with 3+ passing TD’s in the 4th quarter on a strike to Keyshawn Helton. Blackman’s Pass EPA (Expected points added on plays with pass attempts) of 17. 5 is good for 20th in the nation so far this season, as JB1 already has 9 TD’s to just 2 INT’s, but he still hasn’t looked completely sharp. There are still some throws to be had, but Blackman basically sat for all of last year, so some of that can account to rust. If James can start to hit those late-game passes more often, FSU will be a successful team. But the good thing is, not everything falls on his shoulders. With all the playmakers in this offense, if QB1 can just manage the game and hit the open receivers, more wins will come.

Burning Questions:

Will LB changes make the ‘Noles defense more effective?

With all the coaches that come out of the FSU fan base, I thought these changes were made immediately after game one, but later is better than never. It looks like FSU will switch LB’s Leonard Warner III and Jaiden Lars-Woodbey, with Warner now playing the inside and Woodbey the outside. Multiple times in Charlottesville, Warner was burnt on coverage of WR’s and RB’s, especially on a wheel route to WR Joe Reed which resulted in a TD. The former 5-star safety Woodbey has looked a little uncomfortable in the MLB position from time-to-time so far this season, and often out of place to stop the run. With a hint of Jim Leavitt here, Warner will now be clogging up the running lanes while the former safety will likely be in coverage more often and with space to make plays. The thing about this move is nothing negative can really come out of it, it can’t be worse than what it was.

How will UL utilize their 3 QB’s?

On Wednesday, Harlon Barnett pointed out how the ‘Noles were preparing for not 1, not 2, but 3 QB’s this week. Pass was the starter for most of last season and the first 2 games this season, but an injury kept him out of last week’s game vs. Western Kentucky. The dual-threat QB was replaced by another DT in Malik Cunningham, who put up 119 yards passing and 43 yards rushing last week. Barnett also expects the Cards to throw out true-freshman Evan Conley, who threw for a 62-yard passing TD last week. With lots of changes already going on for the defense, it can’t be easy to prepare for 3 separate QB’s, but the ‘Noles may have an advantage in Jordan Travis, who spent last season in the UL QB room. My guess is Travis simulated both Pass and Cunningham in practice this week to give the defense a good feel for the offense. Last season, Pass threw for 306 yards on 45 attempts, but was held to negative yards on the ground. It will be interesting to see the availability of Pass and how the Cards use their 2 backups on Saturday.


A loss is never fun and is never really a step forward, but FSU showed lots of progress in Charlottesville. Last year on the road, FSU was 1-4 and lost by an average of 14.4 points. In the first road game this year, vs. the 2nd best team in the ACC (not saying much this year but they were ranked), FSU took the game all the way down to the last play. As I said, a loss is never good, but FSU is starting to show fight, and the bottom line is FSU has lost by one score to 2 teams that could very well be playing in a NY6 bowl this year.

Now, the ‘Noles gets a chance to take down back-to-back ACC teams at home heading into a bye week. FSU will not face as good as a team as they did this past week, but they will face another good rushing attack and a mobile QB. The Seminoles have to produce the same effort and execution as they did for the first 45 minutes in Charlottesville, for 60 minutes in Tallahassee this Saturday. I’ll take Cam Akers and Khalan Laborn to dominate on offense with Marvin Wilson continuing to create havoc on defense leading to a 38-28 FSU win.

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