Florida State at Louisville: Five Things to Know
The last time FSU and Louisville met, it was a Thursday night. The Seminoles traveled to Louisville and the Cardinals won the contest, having a direct bearing on FSU and its national title hopes.
That was 12 years ago. Certainly, a lot has changed in that time period, but the importance of the game is just as great. FSU is fighting for a berth in the national title playoff.
Louisville has been hot and cold in its first season in the ACC and is looking to play spoiler. Can the ‘Noles avoid the bite of playing to a national crowd on ESPN and come through with a huge win on the road? This should be the Seminoles toughest challenge of the remaining schedule.
Here are five things to know.
THE CARDINALS DEFENSE IS LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS ONE
The Cardinals have probably the nation’s top defense. Just look at the numbers: No. 1 in total defense (245.8 ypg), No. 1 in raw and adjusted Total QBR (12.5/14.7), No. 1 against the run (2.31 ypc), No. 1 in first downs (13 pg) and No. 1 in red zone efficiency (30 percent).
They are also No. 2 in yards per play (3.91), No. 2 in third-down conversion rate (24 percent), No. 4 in scoring average (14.6) and No. 5 in sacks (28). Lorenzo Mauldin (six sacks) and Sheldon Rankins (five) are among the ACC’s sack leaders. Three other Louisville players have at least three sacks. Gerod Holliman is tied for the nation’s lead in interceptions (eight).
This defense is flat-out lethal, and moving the ball against Louisville will be no easy chore for Jameis Winston & Co.
FSU WILL SCORE IN BUNCHES
Louisville has the conference’s best defense and very well might have the best unit in the country. This is probably the best defense the Seminoles will face before the playoff. That doesn’t mean the Cardinals will be able to stop them, though.
Winston has never been held to below 30 points, and the Seminoles should make a run at 30 again at Louisville. Although the offense has looked out of sync at times, the passing offense has been able to pick up yards in chunks and make the big plays when needed. The rushing attack can be best described as anemic, but it can push the ball into the end zone near the goal line. If Louisville is going to win, history suggests it will need to score in the 30s.
THE DISADVANTAGED CARDINALS OFFENSE
At least not without the help of an opportunistic defense that can give the Cards’ offense short fields with which to work. Gardner has been reinserted into the starting lineup, but the sophomore quarterback has taken his lumps this season. He is completing only 57 percent of his passes, and, while he’s thrown 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions, he’s had turnover issues.
That’s thanks in large part to an offensive line that can’t protect its quarterback. Both teams are among the best in the country at scoring touchdowns in the red zone, but both are among the best at preventing teams from doing the same.
Even though it looks now like Winston could've lost four of his last seven games, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner has pulled out the win each time. Until a team actually beats him, it’s not a smart move betting against him. He made all the right plays in the national championship, had a remarkable touchdown run and throw against Oklahoma State, and operated second-half comebacks against NC State and Notre Dame.
When tied or trailing, Winston is 144-of-199 passing (72 percent) for 1,860 yards (9.3 yards per attempt), 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. The 2013 Florida State team was among the most dominant in college football history, but in 2014 it has often been the Jameis Winston Show. And every new installment always ends the same.
IN THE END, FSU WINS
There is no other way to say this than FSU is better than Louisville. Jameis Winston will be able to pick apart the Cardinals defense and FSU will use more of the running game with Dalvin Cook. This is a game that should be over by the third quarter.
FSU 41 LOUISVILLE 20