Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) – The second-ranked Florida State Seminoles
put the nation’s longest win streak on the line Thursday night, as they take
on the dangerous Louisville Cardinals in an ACC showdown at Papa John’s
Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles took a 23-game win streak into last weekend’s bye,
keeping it alive and moving to 7-0 on the season with a thrilling 31-27
victory over Notre Dame back on Oct. 18. At 4-0 in ACC play, FSU is in the
driver’s seat in the Atlantic Division standings and is sitting in prime
position for one of the coveted playoff spots, should the team run the table.
The Seminoles were second in the first college playoff rankings released this
Bobby Petrino’s second stint with Louisville has pretty much gone according to
plan. The Cardinals are in their first season in the ACC and have played well
with a 6-2 overall mark, including a 4-2 league ledger. The team got a big
weapon back on offense last time out and made NC State pay the price in a
Florida State has dominated this series, winning 12 of the 14 all-time
meetings, although Louisville won the last matchup, a 26-20 decision in 2002.
The Seminoles did some nice things against a strong Notre Dame squad last time
out, but needed a arguable penalty against the Irish in the waning moments to
stave off defeat and remain undefeated on the year. Most of FSU’s success came
via the pass, as reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston threw for 273
yards in the victory.
Winston has been the key all season long, as the rushing attack for Florida
State has struggled to produce much. Winston isn’t on his Heisman pace, but
has still played well, completing just over 70 percent of his passes, for
1,878 yards and 13 TDs.
A good portion of that production has gone the way of All-America candidate
Rashad Greene. The senior wideout has hauled in 52 balls this season, for 791
yards and four TDs, all team-highs.
The ground game, which was so affective a year ago, is generating a modest
125.9 yards per game, headlined by tailback Karlos Williams (378 yards, 7
TDs). Despite being investigated for a domestic battery incident, Williams is
slated to play on Thursday.
A similar theme has befallen the FSU defense, which is not quite the dominant
force it was in 2013. The Seminoles are giving up 374.4 yards per game and
have been vulnerable to the run and the pass at times. In addition, big plays
haven’t come in bunches, with just 11 sacks and 13 takeaways in the first
Linebackers Terrance Smith (61 tackles, 4.0 TFL, 1 sack, 2 FF) and Reggie
Northrup (55 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FR, 1 FF) lead the way in the middle
of the defense. Defensive backs Jalen Ramsey (46 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 1 INT, 1
FF) and P.J. Williams (25 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR) lead in the secondary, while
Eddie Goldman (24 tackles, 3 sacks) and Mario Edwards Jr. (20 tackles, 5.0
TFL, 2 sacks) pace the way up front.
After missing the first half of the season due to a foot injury, All-America
candidate DeVante Parker made an emphatic return against NC State last time
out for Louisville, catching nine balls, for 132 yards in the win.
Having him back on the field opens up the offense for Louisville going
forward. It will certainly benefit the play of sophomore quarterback Will
Gardner, who has completed 57.3 percent of his passes this season, for 1,151
yards and 11 TDs.
Parker will add to an already deep receiving corps, as wideouts James Quick
(30 rec, 450 yds, 3 TDS) and Eli Rogers (30 rec, 316 yds, 2 TDs) and tight end
Gerald Christian (22 rec, 256 yds, 3 TDs) have held down the fort in Parker’s
Fisher knows what kind of difference maker Parker can be.
“He’s a big, strong, athletic guy and I’ve known about him before,” Fisher
said. “He’s the real deal. That guy’s a heck of player.”
Despite allowing a season-high 351 yards of offense to the Wolfpack last time
out, Louisville still owns the top defensive unit in the country. The
Cardinals are allowing a mere 14.6 ppg (fourth in the nation) and giving up
just 245.8 yards of total offense (leads the nation), including a mere 68.8 on
the ground (leads the nation). In addition, the team has recorded 28 sacks and
Playmakers abound on this defense, including linebacker Keith Kelsey (team-
high 51 tackles, 4 sacks), rusher Lorenzo Mauldin (35 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 8.0
sacks) and cornerback Gerod Holliman (24 tackles, 8 INTs).
Petrino wants his team to stay poised under pressure this weekend.
“We have to understand that when you’re in games like this, the momentum
swings back and forth. They’ve got great players, they’re going to make plays.
We’re going to make plays. The most important play is the next one. (It’s
important) to be able to focus and to be able to concentrate on doing your job
on the next play.”