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Just the facts: Previewing and predicting Florida State football vs. Louisville
Wayne McGahee III, Tallahassee Democrat
Florida State returns to the friendly confines of Doak Campbell Stadium looking for its first ACC win of the season Saturday.
The Seminoles (1-2, 0-1) take on Louisville (2-1, 0-0) at 3:30 p.m. in FSU’s first ACC home game of the season.
FSU is coming off a 31-24 loss at No. 22 Virginia (3-0, 1-0) last Saturday. The Cardinals defeated Western Kentucky 38-21.
The Seminoles are 15-4 all-time against the Cardinals. FSU won last year’s meeting 28-24 thanks to a 59-yard touchdown catch by former receiver Nyqwan Murray with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
FSU is a 6.5-point favorite.
Why Florida State will win
Florida State may not have picked up the win against UVA last Saturday, but the Seminoles did show improvement on defense through the first three quarters.
FSU’s defense was able to contain UVA quarterback Bryce Perkins and the Cavalier rushing attack and only fell apart late in the passing game.
Louisville doesn’t have a quarterback anywhere near the caliber of player that Perkins is and could be starting backup Malik Cunningham for the second straight game.
Cunningham is much more of a running threat than a passing threat, which should play into FSU’s favor if the Seminoles can build off last week’s success.
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FSU has to make the Cardinals one dimensional by taking away the passing game.
On offense, FSU has been able to run the ball fairly effectively so far this season and Notre Dame gashed the Cardinals in the run game for 230 yards. The Irish averaged 5.5 yards per carry and put the ball in the end zone four times on the ground.
Louisville’s run defense isn’t on the same level as UVA’s so junior Cam Akers should be able to find some success after being slightly bottled up against the Cavaliers.
Why Louisville will win
Louisville has found an identity on offense running the football.
Freshman Javien Hawkins is averaging almost 7 yards per carry and has 338 yards and four rushing touchdowns through three games.
Add in Cunningham and sophomore running back Hassan Hall, and the Cardinals have a very potent rushing attack.
The Seminoles bottled up the run well against UVA last week, but struggled to stop the run the first two weeks of the season.
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The Cardinals are 14th nationally in rushing yards (783) and 24th (5.74) in yards per carry. If Louisville can get the ground game rolling, it will be a long afternoon for the FSU defense.
The Cardinals have been really good at getting stops behind the line so far this season with 23 tackles for loss and nine sacks. Both are in the Top 25 nationally of all FBS teams through the first three weeks of the season.
When FSU gets behind the chains, teams have been able to exploit the weakness of FSU’s offensive line to put pressure on quarterback James Blackman.
If Louisville can do that consistently, it’s going to make the FSU offense even more boom or bust than it has been already this season.
Stat of the Game
FSU is doing a much better job of giving its running backs room to work with this season than in 2018.
But the offense is still one of the worst in college football at allowing tackles for loss. The Seminoles have given up 29 tackles for loss this season, which is 127th (out of 130 teams). It’s the lowest of any Power 5 program in the country.
The FSU defensive coordinator talked about discipline for penalties, the defense’s improvement and learning how to finish. Curt Weiler, Tallahassee Democrat
On the other side of the field, FSU is one of the worst teams at getting stops behind the line. The Seminoles are tied for 88th with 15 tackles for loss so far this season.
No FSU players has more than 2.5 tackles for loss.
Player to watch
All eyes will be on quarterback James Blackman once again.
Blackman struggled at Virginia with some bad misses early and late in the game, but he also made some plays. Overall, Blackman wasn’t terrible, but he certainly wasn’t great.