This Saturday, Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium will host perhaps what will be its most anticipated game in history, as two top-ten teams face off in a match-up that could change the look of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and the entire college football playoff picture.
The visitor is No. 2 Florida State, who looks to continue its dominance along the road to the Fiesta or Peach Bowl, or what many experts are predicting them to do- win a national title. The home team, is of course the No. 10 Louisville Cardinals, looking to pull an upset and get their name into the playoff conversation, behind an explosive offense that has put up 132 points in the first two weeks of 2016. This game is of course so highly touted, ESPN had chosen it as the location for College GameDay, as well as ABC’s Game of the Week.
An even match-up Both teams have had an incredible amount of success in the first two weeks of 2016, behind great offensive performances with respectable defense.
Florida State played in what was one of the biggest games to start 2016. It looked shaky during the first half against Ole Miss, but won due to a 32-6 second half point differential. That was behind a great performance by freshman QB Deondre Francois, who settled in quite well and looked more and more like Jameis Winston as the game progressed. In the second game, Francois led the Seminoles to a 52-8 win over Charleston Southern. Aside from the quarterback, FSU saw great production from the air, especially from wide receiver Travis Rudolph, already with 179 yards and 3 TD's on the season. However, no one could forget Dalvin Cook, which many CFB experts are projecting to win the Heisman Trophy, and rightly so. Cook is the kind of back that keeps opponents guessing, and looks to do damage against Louisville.
Louisville, of course, has its own Heisman Candidate in sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson looks like a character created in an NCAA Football game with some of the stuff that he’s done.
He’s the definition of a dual-threat QB, and has set some school records along the way. In the first game, Jackson set the school record for the most touchdowns in a game, all with six minutes left in the 2nd quarter. In the 2nd game, he did exactly the same thing: Scoring five touchdowns before being taken out in the 3rd. He’s the kind of player that Card fans love to watch, and the kind of player that everyone else hates to play against. Jackson leads the Cards in both passing yards and rushing, which is impressive considering that Brandon Radcliff is in at tailback, and is a great play-maker himself.
How Louisville can win This match-up will be a close game, and is winnable for the Cards. But there are a few things that have to happen in order for Louisville to win.
The first is to cut down on penalty yards. U of L allowed 100 yards on ten penalties last week at Syracuse, which FSU would love to happen. Syracuse may not have been able to capitalize entirely on those penalties, but FSU won’t be as forgiving. Most of those penalties also came at the wrong time, on third-and-long, giving Syracuse the 1st down.
Florida State is a good enough team that it won’t need any help to score points, and the defense will have to do everything it can to stop both Cook and Francois.
Second, Louisville must protect the pocket. The reason that Jackson has more rushing yards than Radcliff is due to the fact that he is ALWAYS under pressure. The offensive line collapses and doesn’t give him enough time to survey the field and throw to a receiver, but instead take the ball out himself and make a play. Most of the time, it works, and will get the first down, but FSU is better than most other defenses, and won’t be as forgiving. The offensive line MUST do a better job at blocking and give Jackson a chance to throw the ball.
Lastly, Louisville has to contain Dalvin Cook. Francois can take it out himself, but doesn’t have to because of Cook. Like Jackson, Cook is a play-make, a guy that will find a hole and bulldoze right through it for a big gain. The good thing for the Cards is that they have one of the most experienced defenses in the nation, along with a coordinator who is second-to-none, Todd Grantham. If you take Cook out of the equation, that’s one less weapon that Francois can use.
Final verdict This game will go down as one of the biggest of 2016, as it will have possible playoff implications and could solidify either team as a legitimate playoff threat. Historically, Florida State holds a 14-2 record against Louisville, and is undefeated since Louisville joined the ACC. But the good thing for the Cards is that Bobby Petrino also has his best teams in the third year at a school, including leading Louisville to the 2005 Orange Bowl. This year hasn’t been different than the trend, and he has arguably his best QB at his disposal.
As for my prediction, I believe that Louisville will ultimately give the sold-out crowd at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium a game for the ages, and a game that will propel Louisville into the national spotlight, and well into the top 10, maybe top 5. Final score: Louisville 35, Florida State 33