|FSU Run Game vs Louisville Defense
Louisville has a very good defense that is made up of some talented players. S&P+ ranks the Cardinal rush defense as the 21st best in the nation. A large defensive line led by senior Sheldon Rankins, Louisville is giving up 3.76 yards per carry. The Noles have the top rushing attack in the nation according to S&P+ and Dalvin Cook is arguably the top back in the nation, but certainly one of the best 2 or 3. He’s coming off another outstanding performance against Miami rushing for 222 yards on 22 carries. The Nole offensive line has played well in the run game this year, but this will be the toughest challenge to date.
|FSU Passing Game vs Louisville Defense
The FSU passing game took a major step forward against Miami, though Miami does not have a very good defense. The offensive line gave Everett Golson more time and Golson looked much more comfortable in the offense. He threw with purpose, make good decisions, and had some excellent throws. The next step is seeing if he can do it against a good pass defense. The Cardinals secondary is led by two former Georgia Bulldogs in Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons and they’re giving up just 177 yards per game on 6.1 yards per attempt. S&P+ ranks Louisville as the 24th best pass defense and FSU as the 47th best pass offense.
|Louisville Run Game vs FSU Defense
The Cardinals have the 6th rated rush offense in the nation by S&P+. The raw numbers tell a different story, though, as Louisville averages just 4.24 yards per rush and 163 yards per game. They are led on the ground by their athletic quarterback Lamar Jackson. He’s a big time athlete that was recruited by FSU and others at the wide receiver position. He hasn’t proven to be much of a passer yet, but he is very dangerous with the ball in his hands. The Noles have been really good against the run this year and shut down an excellent back in Joseph Yearby last week against Miami. Florida State is ranked as the 9th best rush defense by S&P+ and I think they have the advantage in this one.
|Louisville Pass Game vs FSU Defense
Florida State has the 30th ranked pass defense by S&P+. This is a good group that has seen an improved pass rush from Demarcus Walker and the emergence of Josh Sweat. On the backend, FSU boasts two excellent corners in Jalen Ramsey and Marquez White. Getting Trey Marshall back this week after his ejection in the first quarter against Miami will be big. In his absence, Tyler Hunter was routinely picked on by Brad Kayaa and gave up multiple big plays. If Terrance Smith and Nate Andrews can get back in good shape then the middle of the defense gets much better too. Louisville doesn’t have much of a passing game, but Lamar Jackson can extend plays with his legs and that can always lead to big plays and problems. The Cards have the 83rd ranked pass offense by S&P+, are completing just over 50% of their passes, and have more interceptions thrown than touchdowns.
Traveon Samuel is an electric returner for Louisville and has a kickoff return for a touchdown this year. Outside of that, the Cardinal special teams are very average with a kicker making just 60% of his field goals and nothing else really sticking out. The Noles have been solid, if unspectacular, in special teams this year. They boast one of the best kickers in football, an inconsistent punter that has shined at times this season, and a dangerous return game that can threaten to return a kickoff all the way at any time.
Louisville is a better team their record indicates and many of the advantages shown above for Florida State are not big advantages. This game comes down to two things in my mind. First, can Everett Golson pick up the team if Louisville is able to slow down Dalvin Cook, which they have a good chance of doing. Second, can FSU limit big plays when Lamar Jackson extends plays with his legs. This is going to be an ugly game I think with the Noles playing uninspired ball in noon time game after a big emotional rivalry just one week ago. That said, I think they pull it out.