The Daily Nole

FSU’s Biggest Questions for Louisville

Mitch White/FSU athletics

The first road game of the season didn’t go as planned for Florida State football. But a recent 18-point victory has the Seminoles feeling good about their second road game against the Louisville Cardinals in Kentucky.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals suffered a humiliating 27-3 loss to the Virginia Cavaliers. Momentum is on Florida State’s side, if nothing else.

We’ve identified four questions which FSU will need to answer if it wants to emerge victorious on Saturday. The last two iterations of this game have been devastating in different ways for the Seminoles, so there’s a bit of a revenge aspect at play. If there’s a year to accomplish it, it’s 2018.

Which Quarterback Does FSU Prepare For?

Louisville has a seemingly unsolvable quarterback battle between Jawon Pass and Malik Cunningham. Pass is strictly a threat in the pocket, while Cunningham looks best while running. Cunningham is also the leading rusher by over 100 yards, so he can get the offense moving if he’s got room to make things happen.

Both were shut down against the Virginia Cavaliers. For as good as Cunningham can be with his legs, he’s arguably a worse option when passing. Pass doesn’t have good numbers, but he can stretch a defense vertically.

How FSU defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett approaches Saturday will be interesting to find out. The Seminoles did a fairly good job containing Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey when they played, but there’s also a bit of an uncertainty factor for the Louisville game that didn’t exist against Syracuse.

Can the Offensive Line Sustain The Momentum?

The Florida State offensive line is still not where it needs to be — head coach Willie Taggart made sure to mention that after Northern Illinois — but Saturday did show marked improvement from the unit. Abdul Bello and Brady Scott manned the tackle positions decently while Cole Minshew and Mike Arnold did their job on the inside. The running game wasn’t much better at all, but the starting five gave quarterback Deondre Francois enough time to excel.

Good news continued to pour in on Monday when Taggart commented that Landon Dickerson was ahead in his recovery schedule. It’s doubtful that he’s back in time for Louisville, so the line needs to string together consistent performances with the current lineup. Louisville has pieces up front which will make that very difficult.

Will FSU Stop Shooting Itself in the Foot?

The most concerning part of the Northern Illinois win was the turnovers. FSU coughed the ball up four times — three of which occurred inside FSU territory. The Huskies produced 14 points off those turnovers and kept the game much closer than it should have been. The Seminoles actually out-gained them by 252 yards, yet it was still a tight contest heading in to the fourth quarter and would’ve been even tighter if a receiver’s heel had stayed in bounds.

Should Louisville be gifted four turnovers by Florida State, it’s hard to not like its chances. Turnovers have a knack for skewing final scores and making teams look better than they are. FSU needs to stress ball security over the next week and hope that Louisville doesn’t come up with lucky bounces.

Is Francois Progressing?

Francois bounced back on Saturday by throwing for over 350 yards and two touchdowns, albeit with two turnovers. He looked very comfortable when given a relatively clean pocket, and generally made better reads down the field and during option plays. His touchdown throw to Tamorrion Terry was a thing of beauty that showcased what he could do when his confidence returns.

All of this will be crucial for the upcoming road game. Much of the blame for the slow start was (rightfully) on the offensive line, though Francois didn’t help them out by making bad decisions. If the Northern Illinois win is a genuine sign of progress on Francois’ part, then Taggart’s offense becomes that much more of a danger to make explosive plays. It won’t be Oklahoma level, but it might just be enough to save the bowl streak.

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