Date/Time: October 30, 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Florida State -6.5
A lot of people are going to say that the Florida State Seminoles are on upset alert this week against the Louisville Cardinals. And, frankly, who could blame them? Florida State is a perfect 7-0 on the season with wins in all four conference games and the Seminoles haven’t lost in 22 games. But, this team looks a bit different this season and has struggled in several of their games this season. This is really the last potential landmine keeping Florida State from yet another perfect regular season because the Seminoles host Florida to end the season and they will be a big favorite. Can Bobby Petrino pull off a major upset in his first season back at Louisville? Oddsmakers don’t think so, as the Seminoles are a 6.5-point favorite.
Dealing with what seems like a new Jameis Winston scandal every week, the Seminoles are still 7-0. Winston was suspended for the game against Clemson and the Seminoles escaped with a 23-17 overtime win thanks to a late fumble in field goal range by Clemson. They narrowly escaped defeat last week as Notre Dame had a chance inside the 10 to win the game, but an offensive pass interference call negated the game-winning touchdown.
Even though the Seminoles have a talent mismatch over every other team in the conference, they’ve struggled in the running game with just 125.9 yards per carry, which is among the 20 worst yards per game averages in FBS. Winston has a higher completion percentage this season, but after throwing 40 touchdown passes in 14 games last season, he has just 13 in seven games this season. There have been fewer big plays from the Seminoles offense, as Winston, who averaged 10.6 yards per attempt last season, is averaging nine yards per attempt this season. The defense has taken a step back as well. After holding opponents to 12 points per game last season, they’ve allowed 21.6 points this season. That would be the most points allowed per game since 2009.
Stepping up to the ACC this season, the Louisville Cardinals were expected to take a little bit of a step back. The competition level was going up and Teddy Bridgewater made the jump to the NFL. The Cardinals have a couple of road losses on their schedule to date, but the defense has allowed just 14.6 points per game. The scuffling offense got a big boost last week with the return of wide receiver DeVante Parker. Parker caught nine passes for 132 yards and ranks fifth in receptions and yardage after just one game. The Cardinals have only managed 3.6 yards per carry.
Given the offensive problems, the defense will have to not only keep Louisville in the game, but also win it for them if an upset is in the cards. The Cardinals rank first in total defense in the first season under former Georgia and NFL defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. The key for the Louisville secondary is that they’ve been able to trust their defensive backs in one-on-one coverage and having success with that will allow linebackers to spy Winston and keep him in the pocket.
Both teams have had a little bit of extra time to prepare for this game, which adds a wrinkle of intrigue because of the coaching matchup. Bobby Petrino has been around a long time and he’s had plenty of success in his career. Including this season, Petrino teams are 89-32 straight up. He was 25-12 ATS from 2003-06 with Louisville, 30-19 ATS with Arkansas from 2008-11, and 5-7 with Western Kentucky. This season, Louisville is 6-2 straight up and 5-3 ATS. Six of Louisville’s eight games have stayed under. Jimbo Fisher is 52-10 straight up and is just 32-28-1 against the spread, including a 1-6 mark this season. All three Florida State road games have gone over the total.
Free College Football Pick: Louisville Cardinals
This is a very dangerous spot for Florida State. They’re playing a defense that has the athleticism to match up and make things difficult for Jameis Winston’s skill players. They are also talented enough in the trenches to mitigate what Florida State’s strength is over most of the teams in the ACC. With a raucous Thursday night atmosphere, this is the lone landmine left in conference play for the Seminoles. That means a lot of pressure on the road team. Louisville probably won’t win, but it should be too close for comfort for the Seminoles.
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Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.