12:00 PM EST, ABC – Line: Florida State -1, Over/Under: 68
The first meeting of Top-10 Teams this season takes place at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky, as the tenth-ranked Louisville Cardinals host the second-ranked Florida State Seminoles in a highly anticipated matchup. Question marks loomed in Tallahassee over the Summer as Head Coach Jimbo Fisher had a problem at Quarterback; Senior signal-caller Sean Maguire succumbed to a broken foot in Training Camp, leaving Redshirt Freshman Deondre Francois to take the reins of the offense a lot earlier than Fisher intended him to. In the Season Opener, the Seminoles took on the eleventh-ranked Mississippi Rebels in what turned to be a Coming-Out Party, for the Orlando native. Despite a slow start, Francois gradually got his legs under him and it wasn’t long before he took control of the game, terrorizing a solid Ole Miss defense with his arm and his legs. Though the pass-rush got to him early, the youngster competed a healthy 33-of-52 passes (63.5%) for 419 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while rushing for another fifty-nine yards on nine carries. However, the most important statistic of the night was the victory, as Florida State erased a fifteen-point halftime deficit, outscoring the Mississippi 32-6 the rest of the way en route to a thrilling 45-34 triumph. Much has been said in regards to comparisons with former Heisman Quarterback Jameis Winston, who of course led Florida State to a National Title in his first season as the starter; while he’s got a long way to go before he starts knocking on that door, it’s easy to see why Fisher and his Staff were so high on Francois in the first place. Playing just as large a role in the win was the defense, which too after slow start really began to suffocate Chad Kelly and the Rebels’ offensive attack; the defacto home team relegated the opposition to a scant sixty-seven rushing yards on twenty-five carries, while forcing four turnovers, intercepting Kelly three times. Pressure was the name of the game, folks, as the Seminoles attacked the versatile Quarterback throughout the night, sacking him five times, 4.5 of which were attributed to Defensive End Demarcus Walker, who had nine all of last season alone. This unit will once again have to bring their A-Game to the gridiron, as they face the electrifying Lamar Jackson, who has been absolutely dynamic through the first two games of the campaign. While the ‘Noles’ have plenty of speed and athleticism to spare on that particular side of the ball, they must maintain the requisite discipline not to overrun plays and take themselves out of position, otherwise this kid will make them pay. Unfortunately, they will be without the services of Safety Derwin James, who suffered a torn meniscus in last weekend’s 52-8 obliteration of Charleston Southern, sidelining him for at least five to seven weeks. This is a rather significant blow to Florida State’s Secondary, and defense in general, as James roams around the field in a variety of positions. It was impossible not to notice the Sophomore in the showdown with Mississippi, as he racked up eight total tackles (six solo) and an interception in the victory.
Meanwhile, few teams have been as impressive through the first two weeks of play as Louisville, who has absolutely dominated the opposition. Against the likes of Charlotte and Syracuse, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents by a resounding 132-42. At the forefront has been the aforementioned Jackson, who has emerged as dark horse candidate for the Heisman, courtesy of some seriously supreme athleticism. In his first two games, the Sophomore has completed 59.7% of his passes for 697 yards seven touchdowns and just one interception, while scampering for another 318 yards and six more scores on thirty-two carries. The early returns have been overwhelmingly positive for a kid that was very raw in 2015; Jackson accounted for twenty-three touchdowns last season, yet with two games in the books has surpassed half that figure already. Furthermore, don’t take your eye off of this kid when he has the ball in his hands, for his eighteen plays of twenty yards or more ranks first in the FBS. Not that we’re hero worshipping for anything but his performance last week against Syracuse was simply breathtaking. Jackson looked like the Michael Vick and Vince Young’s love child on steroids in the pounding of the Orange, racking up a ridiculous 610 total yards (411 through the air, 199 on the ground) and five touchdowns. It should be very interesting to see how he continues to develop as a passer under the tutelage of Head Coach Bobby Petrino, who has long been renowned as one of the brightest offensive masterminds in the game. However, the Cardinals are much more than the proverbial One Man Band. Brandon Radcliff provides much needed balance in the Backfield, rushing for 178 yards and a score on thirteen carries, while Jamari staples has been the recipient of many of Jackson’s big pass plays, hauling in a team-high nine receptions for 219 yards, translating to whopping 24.3 yards per catch. And if you think that’s it, then take a look at James Quick, who true to his name has caught a pair of touchdown passes thus far, averaging a staggering 28.0 yards per reception. Defensively, Louisville has snuffed out opposing rushing attacks, permitting a paltry 84.5 yards on the ground on 2.4 yards per carry. However, after feasting on weaker competition and forcing them to abandon the run early do huge leads, the Cardinals will be in for a different kind of challenge in the form of Florida State Tailback Dalvin Cook. The Junior was tipped by many as a Heisman candidate before the season, but hasn’t quite met said expectations at this juncture, rushing for 174 yards and two touchdowns on thirty-four carries. Despite the emergence of Francois, you had better believe that Petrino’s defense will be focused on stopping Cook, as forcing the youngster into long down and distance situations will be an ideal component of this potential upset.
Predicted Outcome: Florida State 35, Louisville 32