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Florida State vs. Louisville Prediction: Atlantic Division Foes Eye First ACC Win

Seminoles look to maintain hot start on the road against the Cardinals.

Off a thrilling one-point win over LSU and an open date, Florida State will look to start 3-0 and win its ACC opener for the first time since 2015 on Friday night when it travels to take on Louisville. The Cardinals have won the last two meetings in the series and four of the last six.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 3

Following an embarrassing loss to Syracuse to open the 2022 season, Louisville (1-1) bounced back nicely with a 20-14 road win last week at UCF. A defense that struggled to contain the Orange in the opener held UCF scoreless in the second half.

Louisville will be at home for the first time this season. Since the Cardinals joined the ACC in 2014, the teams have split eight meetings. The Seminoles hold the series edge all-time, 16-6.

Florida State at Louisville

Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. ET
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Spread: Florida State -2
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When Florida State Has the Ball

It's become clear during head coach Mike Norvell's tenure in Tallahassee that quarterback Jordan Travis is the heart and soul of the FSU offense. Travis, a Louisville transfer, continues to develop as a passer and has played mistake-free through two games. In his last 11 starts, FSU is 8-3. A dual-threat quarterback, Travis won't have to do it all by himself in the running game. Treshaun Ward, Trey Benson, and Lawrance Toafili make for a talented trio of backs. Despite losing 31-23 to Louisville at home last season, the Seminoles finished with more than 200 yards on the ground on 5.7 yards per carry.

Up front, the Seminoles have looked as good as they have in a long time. FSU, however, is battling injuries, so that's something to keep an eye on Friday night. Elsewhere on offense, Ontaria Wilson, last season's leading receiver, is coming off a big game against LSU. Transfers Johnny Wilson and Mycah Pittman have each been nice additions out wide. On third down, tight end Camren McDonald is a difference-maker. FSU ranks third in the ACC in yards per game.

After a rough start to the season at home, the Louisville defense settled in nicely against UCF last week. The Cardinals held the Knights under 350 total yards and just 4-for-16 on third down. YaYa Diaby is off to a solid start up front, as is Ashton Gillotte, who leads the team with two sacks. Despite the strong overall showing last week, Louisville did surrender more than 200 rushing yards for the second game in a row. The Cardinals rank last in the ACC against the run (208 ypg) and in yards per carry (5.3).

The secondary may turn out to be a strength for Louisville. Safety Kenderick Duncan is a tackling machine. The top returning tackler from last season, Duncan already leads the Cardinals with 17 through two games. Kei'Trel Clark is the top cover man and hasn't been targeted much this season. The only interception of the young season belongs to Jarvis Brownlee, a Florida State transfer.

When Louisville Has the Ball

While the Louisville defense had a nice bounce-back week in Orlando, the offense has surprisingly struggled through two contests. The Cardinals did put up yards against UCF but rank last in the ACC with 13.5 points per game. Quarterback Malik Cunningham was quietly one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country last season, accounting for 39 total touchdowns. That included four in last season's 320-yard effort against the Seminoles. Cunningham has struggled so far as a passer this season but eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in last week's win over UCF. Cunningham's mobility will be key to this game considering that LSU's Jayden Daniels gave FSU fits with his running ability in the opener.

Even though Louisville returned 700-yard rusher Jalen Mitchell, Tennessee transfer Tiyon Evans has been the workhorse thus far. He leads the team with 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns and has seen more carries (32) than Cunningham (30). Tight end Marshon Ford was the leading receiver for the Cardinals last season, but he's been quiet through two games. Tyler Hudson has been the top target thus far, and Ahmari Huggins-Bruce profiles as a big-play receiver with his ability to stretch a defense.

For the second year in a row, Florida State appears to have struck gold along the defensive line via the transfer portal. Jared Verse, a UAlbany transfer from the FCS ranks, has three sacks and 3.5 tackles for a loss through two contests. He's been a force off the edge while Fabien Lovett and Robert Cooper have been stout on the interior. Although leading linebacker Amari Gainer is banged up, FSU has talent at the position with the likes of Kalen DeLoach and UCF transfer Tatum Bethune. Bethune is tied for the team lead with 11 total tackles.

Safety Jammie Robinson headlines a secondary that has been pretty good thus far, apart from LSU's final, 99-yard final drive that could have tied the game if not for the blocked PAT to secure the season-opening win. The Seminoles are still looking for their first interception of the season, but Renardo Green and Akeem Dent have been solid in coverage. While Louisville has a familiar face in its secondary in Brownlee, the same is true for FSU with Greedy Vance. One surprising bright spot for the Noles early this season has been special teams play. The unit blocked a pair of kicks, including the game-sealing PAT, against LSU. Both punters — Alex Mastromanno for FSU and Louisville's Mark Vassett — are off to solid starts.

Final Analysis

Friday night's contest appears to be a critically important game for both teams. Midweek road games are never easy, but the Seminoles have had an extra week to prepare. At 2-0 for the first time since 2016, it will be interesting to see how Florida State handles success. For that to happen, the Seminoles will need to contain Cunningham and make him beat them as a passer. Louisville has struggled to stop the run this season. FSU has the weapons to beat the Cardinals on the ground.

Prediction: Florida State 26, Louisville 20

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— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.

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