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There hasn’t been buzz like this in Louisville, Ky. since The Colonel announced his plans for Extra Crispy. The Cardinals are legit and ranked in the Top 10 for the first time as a member of a Power 5 conference – giving Saturday’s game the opportunity to be a program-altering win.
Florida State D vs. Louisville O
In a classic “something has to give” game, we’ll see the nation’s top offense square off against one of the nation’s most talented defenses. The Cardinals lead the country in yards per game (754), yards per play (9.99) and offensive touchdowns (18). Lamar Jackson’s unreal first two games have led Louisville thus far, but the big question will be whether he can continue to play at an elite level against equally elite competition.
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher says his team is preparing the same way as every week. He’s made sure his guys don’t forget that Louisville has a number of big playmakers on offense, but he knows that it all starts with Jackson.
“He is definitely the key to the ship that makes them run. There’s no doubt about that,” Fisher said Wednesday. “He’s much better in the passing game, much more relaxed, much more poised. He’s so dynamic as an athlete.”
On the other side of the ball, Florida State is going to need a big performance from its defense, led by the nation’s sack leader DeMarcus Walker. The pressure intensified early this week when the Seminoles announced star safety Derwin James will miss five to seven weeks with a torn meniscus in his left knee.
The loss of James certainly hurts, but Florida State has an exceptionally deep secondary and can substitute a number of players into pretty much every position. The Seminoles must come up with a handful of timely stops, but the ability for the offense to sustain drives and keep the defense off the field may prove to be just as important.
Yes, it’s only Week 3, but this game has huge postseason implications for both the ACC and College Football Playoff races. A win would put either team in the driver’s seat of the loaded ACC Atlantic, with a loss being equally as devastating.
That holds true for both teams, but especially Florida State. Including Saturday’s game, the Seminoles have the toughest remaining strength of schedule in the country. They still host North Carolina, Clemson and Florida, and travel to Miami.
Louisville has a considerably easier schedule going forward, ranking 44th in remaining strength of schedule. The Cardinals may have only two tough games left on the schedule, but they come at Clemson and at Houston.
Everything that transpires in the ACC snowballs into the CFP race, with the losing team almost certainly needing to win out (including the ACC Championship game) to have a shot at getting in. It’s far too early to consider Saturday a CFP elimination game, but we have yet to see a two-loss team get in, meaning a loss on Saturday makes the road to Tampa significantly tougher.
Time to Start Thinking Hardware
Individual awards are said to be won in November, but the resume starts being built in September and October. A big game Saturday would certainly be a strong bullet point on that resume, with the potential ACC Offensive Player of the Year, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, ACC Rookie of the Year and the Heisman Trophy winner all on the field.
Jackson certainly leads the way for ACC Offensive Player of the Year, but Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and Deondre Francois are serious threats. There’s potential for Saturday to be a high-scoring shootout, and if that’s the case you can guarantee these three guys will have a lot to do with it.
Florida State's Walker is out in front of the ACC Defensive Player of the Year race and could separate himself from the rest of the field even more on Saturday. Facing the nation’s best offense and nation’s most dynamic quarterback gives Walker a huge chance to really make a name for himself.
Francois may have the most to gain from Saturday’s game. He’s already the frontrunner for ACC Rookie of the Year, and his name is in the early mix for Offensive Player of the Year and a possible Heisman run. A repeat of his Week 1 performance against Ole Miss could launch Francois into serious superstar status and set the scene for one of the best freshman seasons of all-time.
Then there’s the big bronze trophy. Jackson, Francois and Cook all have serious shots at attending the Heisman trophy ceremony in December. The Heisman is notorious for being won late in the season, and all three of these players will have plenty of chances for their “Heisman moment” down the road, but it’s games like this that really get the Heisman train moving.
Louisville Welcomes College GameDay to Town
For the first time in football program history, ESPN’s College GameDay will broadcast live from Louisville. The GameDay crew will set up shop outside of the northeast corner of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium in front of a raucous sea of red.
When asked about the increased anticipation and energy that comes with a visit from GameDay, Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said his team is plenty motivated without the added hype.
“I don’t think we really need that. This is a big game for us against Florida State – the No. 2 ranked team in the country. We’ve been trying to battle to get where they’ve been,” Petrino said. “I think it’s exciting for our city, for our students and for our University.”
It will be an interesting mix of emotions for analyst and pencil-pointer Lee Corso, in what could be one of his most anticipated headgear selections in recent memory. Corso, a Florida State graduate and former Seminole defensive back, returns to Louisville, where he got his first head coaching job in 1969.
The reception from the Louisville faithful will be fun to watch. Will they cheer a former coach that won them two conference championships and took them to their second-ever bowl game? Or will they boo a guy that proudly donned the garnet and gold and set a then school-record with 14 interceptions in a season? The broadcast will roll right into the noon kickoff, so you don't want to miss any of the action starting Saturday morning on ESPN at 9 a.m.