Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#393 Louisville 59 vs.
#394 Florida State -6.5
Saturday, September 21, 2019 at 3:30pm EDT
Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee
Written by Nick Raffoul

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#393 University of Louisville
#394 Florida State University
2-1
1-2
3-0
-2-1
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32
33
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The Louisville Cardinals will travel on the road to Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday afternoon for their first conference game of the season versus the Florida State Seminoles.

Some would argue that FSU’s current demise started with a heartbreaking loss to Louisville in 2017 and head coach Willie Taggart is officially on the hot seat after another tough loss on the road last week. Florida State enters with a disappointing 1-2 record through the first three weeks and the team appears desperate for some improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Florida State added senior defensive analyst Jim Leavitt, who was most recently the defensive coordinator at Oregon. Due to his late arrival last week, he was not heavily involved in the game plan versus Virginia, but is expected to have a bigger role moving forward. Can Florida State get back on the winning track versus Louisville in their ACC home opener on Saturday afternoon?

Blackman, Florida State struggling to close out games

Florida State’s lone victory was a one-point overtime win in which they were bailed out on a missed point-after attempt by Louisiana Monroe. Former head ball coach Steve Spurrier took a jab at Taggart during an interaction with a fan earlier this week, but he isn’t the only Florida State fan that is ready to move on from Taggart. Grayson Grant, 4, set up a “Free Willie” lemonade stand in Tallahassee on Sunday that charged $20 per cup to raise funds toward Taggart’s $17-million buyout. The stand reportedly raised $241 dollars — a number that will be matched by Grayson’s father, who is a Florida State booster.

Florida State suffered another tough defeat last week, losing on the road to Virginia 31-24. Virginia scored the final 14 points of the game to steal a win at home despite trailing for most of the game. The Cavaliers stopped running back Cam Akers on a final-play run from the 4-yard-line to hang on for the win. Taggart made an interesting decision to keep the ball out of his quarterback’s hands on the game’s final play, despite the fact that the Seminoles averaged just 3.3 yards per carry on the evening. Florida State has been outscored 52-21 in the fourth quarter this season, which has been a major reason for their 1-2 start.

After lackluster second-half performances from quarterback James Blackmon in back-to-back weeks, some Florida State fans have started to call for graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook, who was within one game of leading his former school (Wisconsin) to the College Football Playoff. Blackman’s numbers this season look good on paper, but most of his damage has been done in the first half, leading to a season-long QBR of only 57.5. He comes in with 843 passing yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions for the season while completing a healthy 68.7 percent of his passes.

Hornibrook might not start, but he should see some time.

“Alex has been doing a good job for us,” Taggart said.

“We have some plays and things where we want to be able to get Alex in and let him run some of those plays. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to do that.”

To make matters worse, the Seminoles will also have to shuffle their defensive line after losing defensive end Josh Kaindoh for the season. Kaindoh’s absence will leave Florida State very thin on the edge. The 6-foot-7 defensive end had a team-high 2.5 tackles for a loss and a sack before getting hurt.

Louisville mum on starting QB as Pass returns to practice

The Cardinals improved to 2-1 with a 38-21 victory over Western Kentucky last week despite playing without starting quarterback Javon Pass. Pass was a late scratch due to a foot injury, but redshirt sophomore Malik Cunningham directed four first-half scoring drives to help Louisville cruise to a 31-7 halftime lead. Cunningham left the game in the third quarter after getting his helmet knocked off on a hit by Western Kentucky’sJeremy Darvin, but head coach Steve Shatterfield said he could have returned had the game been closer. True freshman Evan Conley came in and threw a 62-yard touchdown pass on his second throw of the game, leaving the Cardinals feeling confident that they can move the ball no matter who is under center. Tutu Atwell stole the spotlight, showcasing his big-play ability with four catches for 141 yards and three touchdowns on the day and the Cardinals also ran for 210 rushing yards in a balanced offensive effort.

Pass returned to practice earlier this week, but is not 100 percent and the coaching staff has yet to name a starting quarterback this week. He injured his foot in the season-opener versus Notre Dame, but played through the pain to lead Louisville to victory in Week 2.

The biggest takeaway from last week’s win was the performance of sophomore wide receiver Tutu Atwell, who continues to make a case for more touches. He’s already doubled his touchdown total (4) from last year, while racking up 241 yards on 11 catches (21.9 yards per catch) so far this year. Atwell made the All-ACC team last week and the defense has been playing better as well. Louisville has surrendered 294.3 yards of total offense per game so far this season, including only 160 per game through the air.

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Let me preface by saying that by all accounts, the Seminoles should win this game. But all three of Florida State’s contests this season have been decided by a touchdown or less and Saturday’s 6.5-point spread has me nervous. The defense has left a lot to be desired late in games and it is hard to trust the Seminoles to cover the number in this spot after being outscored 45-21 in the fourth quarter through their first three games. Florida State is a made PAT away from potentially starting the season with an 0-3 record and they haven’t been able to pull away from teams, despite big numbers from Blackman at quarterback. Louisville showed resolve last week and they have the playmakers to make this an interesting game. No matter who is under center for the Cardinals on Saturday, I expect them to cover the spread on the road in this spot at Doak Campbell Stadium. 

Prediction: Louisville Cardinals +6.5

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These two teams are projected for 61 points, which might not be a stretch in this one. Louisville’s defense is much better this season, but Florida State should be able to move the ball on them, especially at home. Meanwhile, the Seminoles are giving up a whopping 484 yards of total offense per game, including 170.7 per game on the ground, so they could have trouble with Louisville’s rushing attack. Take this game to go over the projected total on Saturday. 

Prediction: Over 61
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Written By Nick Raffoul

Shortly after graduating with an Honors in Business Administration, Nick turned his attention from traditional stocks and bonds to investing in the performance of sports teams. And has now joined our team here at Winners & Whiners. Nick uses a combination of advanced stats and historical data to create sports investment models to identify value and generate consistent profits. Let Nick win for you.