Photo courtesy of wlpearce.com/Florida State athletics

One key to a successful rebuild is winning games you should win. Florida State football’s upcoming contest against the Louisville Cardinals is as befitting of that mantra as any.

The Cardinals are reeling, dropping four straight games after winning their season opener against Western Kentucky. Meanwhile, the Seminoles are riding the momentum of knocking off a top-five opponent for the first time in six years. Both programs are fighting to pull off a winning season, and each sees this game as a must-win.

FSU leads the all-time series at 16-4 and is currently on a two-game win streak against the Cardinals.

FLORIDA STATE AT LOUISVILLE

  • Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, KY
  • Saturday, Oct. 24 at 12 p.m. ET (Raycom Sports Network)
  • Louisville -4, O/U 60.5
  • Last Game:
    • FSU: W, 31-28, North Carolina
    • Louisville: L, 7-12, Notre Dame

WHEN FSU’S ON OFFENSE

In regards to Florida State, the question isn’t whether or not it can field a capable offense. The question is whether or not the Seminoles can field a capable offense for four quarters.

FSU’s offense was solid for the entirety of the first half against North Carolina, scoring 24 total points on six drives. In the second half, a mixture of drops, missed field goals, penalties, and conservative play-calling led to zero points scored on six drives. This second-half meltdown caused the Seminole offense to drop four spots to 56th in ESPN’s SP+ rankings.

The Noles should have no issue scoring on Louisville. The Cardinals are currently 48th of 77 teams in defensive efficiency rankings and are allowing 379.4 yards of offense per game. This defense has not shown it can consistently get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and have been especially weak against the run. Opposing teams have averaged just over 170 yards rushing when playing Louisville.

The Cardinal defense has been equally disappointing in the red zone, allowing 80% of opponents’ red zone possessions to convert for scores.

If Florida State can stay ahead of the chains and get out of its own way, this should be a busy game offensively.

WHEN FSU’S ON DEFENSE

Fans finally got a taste of Florida State’s defensive potential last week against North Carolina. The highly-touted but underdelivered defensive line was able to consistently get pressure for the first time this season, and the unit was able to keep a top-five offense to 28 points.

This improvement is partly due to defensive coordinator Adam Fuller primarily running a 4-2-5 scheme. The five-man secondary allowed the athletes to simply make plays, and helped Fuller to disguise pressure.

At the end of the day, North Carolina still put up 558 total yards of offense, but the Seminole defense was able to get the Tar Heels off of the field when they needed to. North Carolina converted just 2 of 11 third down attempts on the night, and went 0-for-3 on fourth down conversions.

If the Noles play with the same intensity as the previous weekend, they should consistently be able to get pressure on the Louisville offense. Pressure will be key to winning this game, as Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham has been downright awful on pressured downs.

On his 115 dropbacks with no pressure, he has completed nearly 74% of his passes for 941 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions. On 64 drop backs under pressure, Cunningham has completed only 29% of throws for 177 yards, a touchdown, and three picks. His passer rating when under pressure is 22.4, as opposed to 120.8 when not pressured.

Louisville’s offense is ranked 15th, per ESPN’s SP+ rankings. The Cardinals have the athletes to be explosive in the run game and passing game, so the Noles are going to have to limit big plays and remain consistent to have a chance to win this game.

PREDICTIONS

John and Cory: FSU, 31-27. The Noles continue to have momentum all the way up to Louisville. The Cardinal defense isn’t able to contain Jordan Travis, and the spread option keeps on rolling for another week.

James: FSU, 35-22.

Mike: FSU, 31-28. Although FSU gave up 558 yards last week to North Carolina, the defensive line finally showed signs of life. Controlling the line of scrimmage will be key this week. The FSU offense should be able to score. Although Louisville held Notre Dame to 12 points last week, it has allowed at least 45 points in two of its four ACC contests.

Jake: FSU, 35-24. Coach Fuller was able to dial up some exotic blitzes last week, and Louisville’s offensive line has shown they cannot consistently block against complicated blitz packages. Cunningham is horrid when under pressure. The Noles put up over 200 yards of offense on the ground and it heads into the bye at .500.