63-20. 63-20. 63-20. That was the score of last year’s highly anticipated matchup between Florida State and Louisville. The two teams faced each other in week three of the 2016 season and FSU was ranked number two in the country, while Louisville was ranked number 10. College Gameday was there. It was supposed to a be a highly contested matchup between top 10 programs.
It was anything but.
Louisville controlled the game from the opening drive and never looked back. It was quarterback Lamar Jackson’s coming out party en route to a Heisman trophy. Jackson himself scored five touchdowns, four of them rushing in an absolute thrashing of the Seminoles, one of the worst in FSU history. The Seminoles will look to get revenge on the Cardinals this Saturday at 12 p.m. in Tallahassee, Fla.
Florida State is coming off a nail-biter of a win on the road over conference foe Duke 17-10, while Louisville is coming off a loss at home against Boston College, 45-42. Head Coach Jimbo Fisher is 2-1 against Louisville in his career since Louisville came into the ACC in 2014. The Cardinals are currently 4-3, and look to notch their second conference win, while the Seminoles are currently 2-3, and look to get to .500 on the season.
Let’s take a look at three storylines to watch in this one:
1. Keep running the ball:
In order to win football games, this Seminoles team needs to run and run often. That has been the key to success for Florida State this year. In its two wins this season, the running game for the Seminoles has averaged 188.5 yards, while in its two losses, the average dropped to 115.6. When the Seminoles have a great running game, it allows pressure to be taken off quarterback James Blackman, who has done a pretty decent job in running this offense since being rushed into play during the Alabama game. For the Seminoles to get revenge on the Cardinals for that dismantling last year, they need to hand the ball off to running backs Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick. Patrick and Akers can rip off long runs, but need to get the ball early and often, especially against a below average defense in Louisville. This is their time to shine.
2. Can the defense stop Lamar Jackson this time?
As mentioned earlier, Lamar Jackson took off last year while playing the Seminoles and did not look back. The young quarterback accounted for five touchdowns, four of them on the ground. Jackson made big play after big play last year and became a star. The Seminoles had no answer for Jackson that Saturday afternoon in 2016. The key for the Florida State defense is to try to contain Jackson and force him to make mistakes. Louisville has not really tried to run the ball as much with Jackson this year, and want to become a pass-first offense. Jackson and the Cardinals offense will want to make quick throws to move down the field quickly. A key thing to watch for is the amount of slants and crossing routes that the receivers will do to confuse the Florida State secondary. If the secondary can play positions correctly and prevent easy throws, it could spell success for the Seminoles on Saturday afternoon. The defense returns almost every starter from last year, and the players will need to play angry and show emotion. That anger could lead to success for the defense.
3. How will the crowd energy be?
It’s yet another noon kickoff for the Seminoles. The results this season have not been what Florida State fans expected. The Seminoles are a struggling team, and have lost the two games they have had at home this season, losing to NC State and Miami. The fans are clearly frustrated, and one has to wonder how the fan energy will be this Saturday. Tickets for the matchup have dropped to a low of $6 per ticket on StubHub. Noon kickoffs are a hard thing to sell to fans outside of Tallahassee, as many fans live two-plus hours away from Tallahassee. Not many fans want to drive as early as 5 a.m. for an early day kickoff. Another thing to note is how filled the student section will be. Students would much rather be tailgating than to deal with the heat in the stadium at noon. The energy level of the crowd will definitely be something to monitor.
The Seminoles need to find a way to get some emotion back into their players and their fans. This is the perfect opportunity. The Seminoles need to win at home. and get revenge from last year’s embarrassment. The Cardinals need to get back on track after losing at home to Boston College, where they blew a 21-7 lead. Expect the Noles to get a winning streak going as the running game for Florida State takes advantage of a weak Cardinals defense, and look for the Seminoles defense to make multiple plays against Lamar Jackson and company.
Florida State 27, Louisville 21