Perhaps the two most disappointing teams in the ACC will meet Saturday in Tallahassee as Florida State plays host to Louisville. FSU entered the season with a No. 3 national ranking while the Cardinals were ranked 16th. Neither will be ranked on Saturday as both programs have already matched their loss totals from the 2016 regular season.
Florida State is off to a 2-3 start this season, but coming off a win over Duke. Each of FSU's three losses have come to teams currently ranked in the AP top 16. Louisville is off to a 4-3 start, but is just 1-3 in conference play after losing at home to Boston College, which was previously without an ACC win. Going back to last season, the Cardinals have lost six of their last 10 games.
In last year's contest between Florida State and Louisville, the Cardinals handed the Seminoles their worst loss under head coach Jimbo Fisher and scored more points than any FSU opponent ever in a 63-20 victory. Bobby Petrino's team will look to join Oklahoma and Clemson as the only teams to beat FSU in consecutive seasons during Fisher's tenure.
Louisville at Florida State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 21 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Florida State -6.5
Three Things to Watch For
1. Heisman winner vs. the rookie
This week's quarterback matchup features reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson for Louisville and James Blackman, the first true freshman quarterback to start for Florida State in 32 years. Jackson has picked right up where he left off last season, averaging more than 331 passing yards to go with nearly 100 more per game on the ground. Jackson also has 26 total touchdowns to his name in seven games while FSU has just eight as a team.
The good news for Blackman is he'll be facing a Louisville defense that is giving up 41.5 points per game in ACC play. Blackman has played well for the most part this season, but the problem for the FSU offense has been finishing drives. The Seminoles have not scored more than 26 points in any game and more than 21 just once. If there is a contest where Blackman will need to light up the scoreboard, it's this one.
2. Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick
Dalvin Cook may be off to the NFL, but there is no shortage of talent in the FSU backfield. After a slow start to the season, the combination of Patrick, a junior, and the true freshman Akers has been nothing short of outstanding, combining for more than 200 rushing yards in each of the last two weeks. Akers has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in each of those contests.
This duo will need a big day on Saturday as FSU faces a run defense that ranks just 63rd nationally. In last week's loss to Boston College, the Cardinals gave up 272 yards on the ground to freshman running back AJ Dillon and 364 total as a team. The 45 points allowed was the most scored by Boston College against an FBS team since 2013 and the most against an ACC foe since 2009.
3. Derwin James
Many have pointed out that during last year's massacre in Louisville in which the Cardinals put up 63 points that FSU was without James, its star safety. James, who was named the nation's No. 1 player heading into 2017 by Sports Illustrated, certainly brings an added dimension to the Seminoles with his athleticism and ability to do so many things. Some have suggested that James could be used as a spy for Louisville's Jackson on Saturday.
In last year's contest, Jackson accounted for 362 yards and five total touchdowns, including four on the ground. James may be one of the best defensive backs in the nation, but it's questionable how much difference he could have made in a 63-20 loss. James forced a Jackson fumble in the last meeting between the teams in Tallahassee, which FSU won, 41-21, in 2015. After suffering an embarrassing road loss last season, we'll know on Saturday how much of a difference one year and a healthy James can make for the FSU defense.
Florida State currently ranks last in the ACC in total and scoring offense, but the opportunities to put points on the board should be there against Louisville. Lighting up the scoreboard will be a necessity for FSU against Lamar Jackson and the Louisville offense. Defensively, FSU has faced three top-25 offenses this year and in each case, held the opponent to its lowest point total of the season. The Cardinals however, are a different animal and should be more focused defensively after an embarrassing display at home against Boston College. FSU has been conservative with offensive play-calling early in games. It cannot afford to be this week.