Oct. 30 Florida State 42, Louisville 31
And You Care Because … Florida State got down 21-0, and Jameis Winston was picked off three times, but it didn’t matter. The Seminoles wore down the Louisville defense as Winston threw three touchdown passes starting out with a 68-yard Travis Rudolph pass and threw a perfect strike to Ermon Lane for a 47-yard score for a 28-24 lead. Louisville answered right back with a 65-yard drive finishing up with Michael Dyer’s third touchdown run, but that was it for the Cardinals as Dalvin Cook took off for his second touchdown run of the game, scoring from 38 yards out, and the Noles put it away with a 35-yard Freddie Stevenson touchdown catch. The Cardinals got out fast thanks to a huge game from WR DeVante Parker and Dyer runs from four and 12 yards out.
What Else? Florida State QB Jameis Winston completed 25-of-48 passes for 401 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions
– Third down conversions: Florida State 9-of-16 – Louisville 1-of-11 (that one coming in garbage time)
– Louisville WR DeVante Parker caught eight passes for 214 yards
– Louisville RB Michael Dyer ran 28 times for 134 yards and three scores
Game Rating: B+
Florida State (7-0) at Louisville (6-2) Oct. 30, 7:30, ESPNU
Here’s The Deal: Defending national champ Florida State opened at No. 2 in the initial College Football Playoff ranking. But it faces arguably its toughest remaining regular season test this Thursday at Papa John’s.
The ‘Noles are unbeaten, winners of 23 straight games. But they’ve also attracted swarms of critics this fall with close calls against Oklahoma State, Clemson, NC State and Notre Dame. Especially Notre Dame. The Irish were poised for the upset, when Florida State got a reprieve on an offensive pass interference call. A win’s a win, particularly against a ranked opponent, but the final minute of the ND escape fed the reality that FSU is a far cry from the 2013 team.
All things considered, such as injuries and a new coach and quarterback, 6-2 Louisville has pretty fared well so far in its ACC debut. A visit from Florida State, though, affords Bobby Petrino’s Cardinals an opportunity to capture the attention of the college football world this week. The building that the coach and his staff are currently doing goes into hyperdrive if Louisville becomes the first team in almost two years to beat the Seminoles.
Why Florida State Might Win: Its edge under center is substantial.
The Seminoles captured the crown in 2013, and keep finding ways to win this year for many different reasons. The biggest one, though, is the presence of QB Jameis Winston. Forgetting for a moment his off-field behavior, he’s a rock after the opening kickoff. And he won’t be unnerved by the atmosphere in enemy territory this week. Louisville, to the contrary, employs first-time starter Will Gardner, who’s been more steady than spectacular in his debut. It’s hard to imagine him winning the battle of the sophomores, particularly since his line struggles in pass protection, and the Florida State secondary is loaded with next-level corners P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby and safeties Jalen Ramsey and Tyler Hunter.
Why Louisville Might Win: The team is as healthy as it’s been all year. And the defense is playing better than everyone in the ACC but Clemson right now.
The Card offense, which has stumbled this year, isn’t the same unit it was a month ago. Star WR DeVante Parker is back from injury, and RB Michael Dyer is coming off his best game since the Auburn days. Gardner, too, is healthy again, and he has access to more weapons than at any point this season. And Florida State has been unexpectedly soft at times on D this year. Louisville has not. The Cards lead the country in run defense, and led by ball-hawking S Gerod Holliman ranked No. 2 in interceptions.
Who To Watch Out For: Can Florida State mount a pass rush against a Louisville front wall that’s already allowed 27 sacks this season? The ‘Noles have only gotten to the quarterback 11 times in seven games. And while DT Eddie Goldman is a force from inside, Florida State needs to generate more outside pressure from Mario Edwards and Lorenzo Featherston. Gardner is sneaky-athletic, but the Seminoles can hunt him on coverage sacks.
A talented, yet underachieving, Seminole O-line will have its hands full this week. Todd Grantham’s defense has bagged 28 sacks, with 11 coming from DE Sheldon Rankins and OLB Lorenzo Mauldin. The Cardinals will attack from all levels and angles, aided by the coverage skills of Holliman and corners Charles Gaines and Terell Floyd. Winston, though, is outstanding under pressure, and one of the coolest pocket operators in the country.
To avoid an upset, Florida State has to get skill position production from someone other than WR Rashad Greene and TE Nick O’Leary. Greene is revelatory, but it’s incumbent upon rookie receivers Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane to keep evolving. Oh, and the Seminoles’ problems on the ground figure to continue. Not only is the team 13th in ACC rushing, but top back Karlos Williams will likely give way to Mario Pender and Dalvin Cook as he works through legal problems.
Everything hinges on Gardner, plain and simple. If he makes a couple of downfield connections to Parker and James Quick, while continuing to limit turnovers, the Cardinals can go toe-to-toe with Florida State for all 60 minutes. If, however, he’s even the least bit flustered by the atmosphere and the magnitude of the game, Louisville will have a tough time scoring. Gardner doesn’t have to be Winston, but he does have to deliver strikes at key points in the game.
What’s Going To Happen: Streaks will fall Thursday night in front of an electrified Papa John’s Stadium crowd.
Is it risky picking against Winston? No doubt. He’s a special athlete. But he’s not getting the support he did a year ago, and a one-note offense will be a major problem against this Louisville D. While Gardner will not outplay Winston, he’ll perform well enough, aided by a cast of backs and receivers that’s deeper than at any point in the season so far. Fueled by the atmosphere, the Cards will play at a high level for all four quarters, avoiding the late penalties that cost Notre Dame a shot at upsetting the ‘Noles two weeks ago.
Prediction: Louisville 28 … Florida State 27
Line: Florida State -4.5 o/u: 50.5
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