This Thursday, No. 2 Florida State will make the journey into Louisville, Kentucky to face the Louisville Cardinals. The Seminoles bring in the longest win streak in the nation at an astounding 24 games. Understandably so, being lead by a Heisman trophy winner, oddshark.com has FSU favored by 8.5 points against the Cards, but that spread is quickly dropping, with some experts placing it as low as four points. There is no reason to count the No. 25 Cardinals out of this game by any mee dans. There are a few X-Factors for the game on Thursday, and if all goes well for the Cards, they could pull of the upset, and perhaps the biggest regular season win in program history.
1. The defense – Louisville currently ranks best in the nation in total defense and opposing QBR. They have an unmatched ability to play faster and harder than every team they have faced. When Louisville’s defense is on the field, it sometimes feels like they will have a better chance to score than the offense. However, this week will undoubtedly be their biggest test yet. When Jameis Winston is on the field, Louisville’s D will need to be at the top of its game. They will no longer be able to simply run free, they will need to lock down receivers and contain the edges to frustrate Jameis Winston and keep running back Karlos Williams in check. Louisville will need an exceptional performance from OLB Lorenzo Mauldin. He has been able to be all over the field on D for the Cards this season, and they will need him and the rest of the squad to step up and make some plays for them to win this game.
2. Michael Dyer and the rest of the running backs – Last week, Michael Dyer became the fourth Louisville running back to rush for 100 yards in a single game against NC State. As a result, it felt as though Louisville had finally shaken whatever bug had plagued them all season. With the running game opened up, Will Gardner was able to develop a higher comfort level in the pocket. This week, the offense will need to develop a comfort level early so that they’re able to avoid the frustrations that can come from playing against a tough defense. Michael Dyer will need to continue his high level of performance this week and conduct himself like a senior to help lead the youthful Louisville offense.
3. Davonte Parker – Being a top receiving prospect in the nation places a high level of emphasis on you. Davonte Parker is that player for Louisville. Last week, in Parker’s first game back, he set a new personal best for catches in a single game. Having him on the field will help Louisville find space in the field, and finally allow them to have a big play threat, something they’ve lacked all season. When Parker is on the field, the defense has no choice but to place their best cover man, perhaps even a double team on him at all times, something he proved last week. This will open up opportunities for speedy wideouts James Quick and Eli Rodgers and tight end Gerald Christian to get their catches and move the chains as well.
4. Bobby Petrino – So far this season, the Cards have struggled to be completely into the game mentally (dropped balls, botched punts, etc.) and have also struggled finding rhythm. These issues, whether he is to blame or not, are immediately attributed to the head coach. If Louisville is going to beat Florida State, they will need to be completely focused on the task at hand. Though his preparation is not in question, Petrino will need to call a phenomenal game as well as keep his team mentally upbeat to pull off this upset. He will need to be the leader of the young Cardinals and push them to achieve their potential.
5. Everything off the field – Louisville fans proved they are entirely capable of creating a hostile environment for marquee matchups earlier this season during the Miami game. If Louisville is going to have a chance this week, they will need all 55,000 plus fans to be going absolutely crazy for their Cardinals. Louisville set a new attendance record against Miami, and it will very likely be broken on Thursday. Additionally, if you’re Louisville, you’ve got to hope that the off the field issues for the ‘Noles catch up to them this week. For a team under constant scrutiny, they always seem to pull it together when it matters most. For Louisville to win, this needs to be the week where they’re able to take away FSU’s mental edge. If you do that, they’re very beatable.
Everything will need to go well for the Cards to pull of the upset this week. However, everything seems to be falling in line nicely for that to become a very distinct possibility. Will they be able to crack Jameis Winston, handing him his first loss at Florida State? Find out Thursday night.
Prediction: Louisville Cardinals 24 – Florida State 17