CRAWFORD | FSU's Fisher says Louisville 'a definite force' in AC - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | FSU's Fisher says Louisville 'a definite force' in ACC

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Florida State University football coach Jimbo Fisher is under fire on several fronts, some of them well-deserved. But Fisher took time from deflecting questions about his troubled quarterback and running back to talk about his No. 2-ranked team's Thursday night matchup at No. 25 Louisville, and had nothing but good things to say about the Cardinals.

It's not the first time. Fisher applauded U of L's addition to the league during ACC Media Days in July, and during a weekly meeting with reporters this week said Louisville could grow into a key ACC rivalry for the Seminoles. U of L's three strongest allies within the league when the ACC was adding a new member in November of 2012 were Florida State, Syracuse and Clemson. Jurich went out of his way at the time to thank Florida State publicly.

Louisville slipped into the first-ever college football playoff rankings released by the committee Tuesday night at No. 25, giving the matchup a little more luster.

“I think Louisville for the history and what they've done in their past (could be a rival),” Fisher said. “They have great history, great tradition, great players. They had three first-round draft picks last year – you forget that. They have a bunch of really good players now. They are a definite force in our league. They are a great addition.”

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Louisville had hoped to have even more at stake heading into this meeting, but coach Bobby Petrino's offense has struggled because of injuries, quarterback inexperience and primarily the loss of wideout DeVante Parker until the eighth game of the season.

Its defense, unexpectedly, proved more than capable of carrying the team, and it was the Cardinals' defense — ranked No. 1 in the nation in yards allowed, No. 4 in scoring defense and No. 1 against the run and No. 5 in sacks — that drew most of the questions for Fisher.

“I think they tackle well,” Fisher said. “The first thing that jumps out to me is that they tackle well. They get great leverage on the ball and they tackle well. They have done a good job of pressuring the quarterback, mixing things up and mixing coverages. They play the run. Their inside guys are very physical on the run. They are long on the outside and they create a good pass rush with length and get in the passing lanes. They cover well and they create turnovers. It's like what goes with great offense and great defense is when the other side of the ball starts to play well it keeps the other team off the field, or it gets it back for you when you're on offense. They are doing both.”

But Fisher wasn't discounting the ability of the Louisville offense. His own defense has been good enough — ranking 59th in yards allowed but 29th in scoring defense. Florida State opponents are converting just over 43 percent of their third-down tries, which ranks only 98th nationally, but against nationally ranked teams (Florida State has played two), the defense ranks 21st in that category, allowing opponents to convert just 35.3 percent. (U of L leads that national category as well, allowing its one ranked opponent to convert just 12.5 percent of its third-down attempts).

“Offensively, they have the quarterback (Will Gardner) back,” Fisher said. “They have Parker back, who is a first round pick. They've got (wide receiver James) Quick. They've got (running back Michael) Dyer. You've got first-round picks at all these different positions.”

Fisher acknowledged that Parker's return makes planing for Louisville a bit more difficult.

“Yeah it can, but you can also look at things the coach Petrino has done in the past,” he said. “You can also look at things that that kid (Parker) is capable of. They won't go way off of the grid of what they've done in the past. They will have some additions and wrinkles, there is no doubt. . . . When a receiver emerges, it takes the pressure off the other guys and what you do. If you matchup one-on-one here or you get the one-on-one there, it adds another dimension to what they do. It opens up the field a lot more.”

Defensively, Florida State ranks just 103rd nationally in sacks, though it has ranked No. 49 against the run.

“You always want a better pass rush,” Fisher said. “You always want to stop the run better. You always want to get more interceptions. I think a lot of our young guys are really developing. We have a lot of young players out there on the edge that are coming. I thought we affected the quarterback very well in the last game. I think we had 10 batted balls. We had some sacks. It's not always sacks. You always look at sacks, but how many times did you hit the quarterback … how many times you affect him … how you make your move off the spot. I thought we did a really nice job of that in the second half of the Notre Dame game.”

Of course, Fisher has Heisman trophy winner Jameis Winston at quarterback, a player who can extend plays, and who can make plays even when the defense seemingly has things covered. Winston has played in six ACC road games in his career. He has thrown for over 300 yards in five of them, and has a 72.1 completion percentage in those games, with an amazing 1,971 yards and 20 touchdowns (and just five interceptions) in those. (Credit Chris Nee of 247Sports with those stats.)

Those are big-time numbers, and they are the challenge for the U of L defense.

After a week in which he has again fielded questions about Winston's off-the-field issues and now running back Karlos William's alleged domestic battery, Fisher clearly was looking to turn attention to the game about to happen Thursday night.

“They have a very, very good football team,” Fisher said of Louisville. “They've had two losses by less than a touchdown. They'll be ready to play, and hopefully we'll be ready to play. That'll be another great matchup for the ACC.”

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