Malik Cunningham scrambles

Louisville's Malik Cunningham scrambles in a victory over WKU.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WDRB) – The University of Louisville will plunge back into ACC play at the scene of their last ACC road victory – Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium.

Louisville is riding a two-game winning streak, but finds itself an underdog against the Seminoles, even though Florida State has lost two of three to open the season and in general struggled under second-year coach Willie Taggart.

For Louisville, it’s a winnable game, though the talent disparity is still pretty striking. The Cardinals will be challenged by FSU’s up-tempo offense, and a defense that showed some improvement a week ago after Taggart abruptly added defensive specialist Jim Leavitt to the coaching staff as a quality control coach.

If many of Louisville’s past meetings have served as yardsticks for where the program stood in the bigger picture, this one certainly has that potential for first-year coach Scott Satterfield, who has improved team morale and execution, but still faces a problem with depth. A win would signify amazingly fast progress for Satterfield’s staff. A loss could mean many things, but mainly confirmation of how far the program still has to go.

“Coach Satterfield has done a great job with his team,” Taggart said. “Offensively, they are doing a good job running the football. I think whenever you can run the football, it always gives you a chance to win ballgames. They are doing a good job with it and know who they are and what they want to be.”

More on Saturday’s matchup:

1). Time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EDT.

2). Where to watch: ESPN (Mark Jones, Dusty Dvoracek and Olivia Dekker). Where to listen: WKRD-790 AM (Paul Rogers, Craig Swabek, Jody Demling). Sirius channel 94. XM channel 210.

3). Line: Florida State by 6 ½. Over-under: 61.

4). Scouting FSU: The numbers that jump out is that FSU opponents are averaging 485 yards and 37 points per game against the Seminoles this season. The defense showed some signs of improvement in last week’s 31-24 loss at Virginia, but the team’s lone win remains a 45-44 win over Louisiana-Monroe. QB James Blackman has thrown for 9 touchdowns and running back Cam Akers is dangerous, averaging 129 yards per game. But Louisville coach Scott Satterfield said he’s just as concerned with FSU’s defense, which continues to evolve (and change) quickly under Leavitt’s influence.

“They've given up a lot of yards. And then second half points,” Satterfield said. “You know, there's, as you look at the games like Boise (State), you know, it was 24-6 in the first half of that game, I looked at Monroe it was 21-0 Florida State and (Louisiana) Monroe in the first half of that game. So I feel like it's a lot of these things have happened in the second half. I mean, I hadn't really broken down the stats to see first half and second half, but I feel like it's in a second half with a lot of these teams just coming back and for whatever reason, and you know, they have some great size up front, and they’re an odd front team two, three down linemen, and all three guys up front are over 300 pounds, and 6-4 or better. Their outside linebackers are 6-5 260. I mean, it’s a lot of size and a lot of length and I don't know what's happening in the second half to them.

5). Scouting Louisville: After three weeks, the Cardinals have the top rusher in the ACC (Javian Hawkins) but still haven’t said who will be handing off to him. Jawon Pass resumed practice this week after missing last week’s game against WKU with a foot injury. In his absence, Malik Cunningham was effective, as was third-stringer Evan Conley. Depth on defense will remain a concern all season – but could particularly be an issue against a fast-paced, no-huddle FSU attack that will look to keep Louisville’s defense on the field for a large number of snaps. Louisville has had its own second-half lulls. Satterfield said stopping the run and getting some takeaways will be keys for the Cardinals, who haven’t won an ACC game since the conference finale of the 2017 season, nor an ACC road game since winning at Florida State on Oct. 21, 2017.

6). Sideline storyline: Leavitt, a longtime head coach at South Florida before becoming a defensive coach in the NFL and in stops at Colorado and Oregon, comes to Tallahassee with a strong defensive reputation and has been suggesting changes in personnel and scheme after working on the fly to get ready for Virginia. He’s a wild-card in this game because those changes could make things more difficult for Louisville, which wants to run the ball whatever defensive scheme it sees, but could have to be sharp with in-game adjustments to do it.

7). Spotlight players: For Louisville, it’ll have to be Pass and Cunningham. At some point, the Cardinals are going to have to begin passing the ball more effectively, because their running game has been impressive early in the season, and will become the focus of opponents. Pass has not been accurate with the deep ball, but has made good decisions in the running game and done a good job of managing games. Cunningham has passed the ball well but the overall running game didn’t seem as smooth with him getting the snaps. Either way, how well this position plays moving forward could determine how much Louisville is able to surprise its ACC competition.

8). Fan tip: If you’re heading south, watch your speed in the final 85 miles to the Tennessee border, have fun with the Nashville traffic, and prepare for heat. Game-time temperature in Tallahassee is expected to be 90 degrees.

9). Video: Not from this year, but worth a look back to before the teams played in 2016.

10). The picks: Rick Bozich has it FSU 31-24, Eric Crawford has FSU 35-31.

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