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FSU vs. Louisville: Keys to victory, prediction

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Florida State (2-3, 1-3 ACC) goes on the road to take on Louisville (1-4, 0-4) at noon Saturday in game that will be carried regionally on Fox Sports Florida, Fox Sports South and other regional sports networks including ESPN3.

The Seminoles enter the game as a five-point underdog despite the fact FSU is coming off a win over then No. 5 North Carolina and Louisville is riding a four-game losing streak. FSU has won the last two meetings against the Cardinals and holds a 16-4 advantage in the series that dates back to 1952. A win over the Cardinals would give FSU back-to-back wins in the ACC for the first time since September 2019 when the Seminoles defeated Louisville and NC State at home.

The Osceola staff takes a look at some of the keys to an FSU victory on Saturday afternoon in Louisville:

Sustainability

One of the first comments you hear from virtually everyone who saw FSU’s win over North Carolina last week was that they hadn’t seen the Seminoles play with as much effort and energy as they did in that game in quite some time. They must take that same effort and energy on the road this week. This is more of an eyeball test than it is something you are able to glean from the stats page but you know when you see it and we all saw it last week. Now this young team, which features 24 players on the two-deep roster, gets to see if it has the maturity to put forth that kind of performance two weeks in a row. Doing this would be a huge step for head coach Mike Norvell and his staff as they continue to build the culture and set the standard for their program. The staff had a tremendous amount of teaching tape coming out of the game even though FSU won and this should help Norvell and his coaches in keeping this team focused, on edge and help combat any sense of overconfidence a young team has after a huge win.

FSU also needs to sustain the success it has had in the running game since the Jacksonville State game. Louisville has been more susceptible against the run this season than it has the pass. The Cardinals have given up at least 156 yards on the ground in all four of their ACC games this season, including 192 yards to Georgia Tech and 232 yards to Notre Dame in their last two contests. Jordan Travis’ legs and an offensive line that seems to be improving weekly need to continue to be what drives the Florida State offense and set up big plays in the passing game because it is able to run the ball effectively.

Ground Control

The FSU defense needs to keep the Cardinals’ running game under control and force Louisville to throw to win. Norvell has spoken a couple of times about Louisville’s ability to run the ball effectively, which opens up their vertical passing game. If FSU can limit the success of running back Javian Hawkins, who is one of the best running backs in college football, that will put more pressure on Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham, who has thrown five interceptions this season (7th-most in college football).

Red Zone Success

Norvell mentioned that FSU must improve its red zone efficiency. FSU was 3 of 5 on red-zone opportunities against UNC last week and scoring on either of the two missed opportunities against the Tar Heels, either field goals or touchdowns, would have completely changed the dynamics of the fourth quarter of that game and make a Tar Heel comeback much more difficult. FSU has scored 15 times (11 touchdowns and four field goals) on its 20 red-zone trips, which is just 59th among the 76 FBS teams who have played so far in 2020. Opponents have only scored touchdowns on 40 percent of their red-zone opportunities against the Cardinals, so FSU must be more successful than it was last week in the kicking game when it missed two of its three field-goal attempts. FSU must also not commit penalties in goal-line situations that take touchdown opportunities and turn them into field-goal opportunities.

Staff Predictions

Patrick Burnham – FSU 29 Louisville 25

Bob Ferrante – FSU 34 Louisville 27

Jerry Kutz – FSU 27 Louisville 24

Mark Salva – FSU 27, Louisville 24