1. Bobby Petrino talked about challenges the team faces against Florida State. What's the most challening one? That's a challenging question. Florida State has one of the top running backs in the nation in sophomore Dalvin Cook and slowing him down will be no easy task. Proving his breakaway abillity, half of Cook's eight touchdowns have come from beyond 35 yards, three have been over 70 yard runs. For the Cardinals to win, the defense must limit Cook's big plays.
However, the biggest challenge U of L will face will be the improving and youth-filled Cardinals offense against the Seminoles defense. FSU ranks 10th nationally in scoring defense, giving up just two touchdowns a game, and No.22 in total defense. Petrino also mentioned the need to get his running backs more productive, but with the Seminoles limiting their opponents to just 116 yards a game, that has to be the toughest challenge for the Cardinals this weekend.
2. After a slow start to the season, has the defense turned the corner and become the group we expected? All signs point to yes. One could point to the level of competition between the season's first three games, all losses, and the most recent two, both wins, as a reason for defensive improvement, but the reality for this Cardinals defense is closer to their more recent performances. After giving up an average 397 yards per game during the season-opening losing streak, opponents have mustered an average of 197 yards the past two weekends.
3. What would a win over the Seminoles do for the Cardinals season? It'd serve as a restart and help erase the pain of the 0-3 start. A win over the 11th-ranked Seminoles would immediately elavate Louisville back into the ACC title discussion and serve as an indicator that the Cardinals program would be a favorite for the conference crown in 2016. In addition to ACC title implications, it also makes the Cardinals much more attactive to bowl committees. U of L is going to have to snap a few streaks to do it. FSU has won 17 straight at home and 27 game winning streak against ACC foes.
4. Does this game have big recruiting implications? All games have recruiting implications, but things reach another level when the game includes a top 15 opponent and annual league favorite on national television. Part of U of L's recruiting pitch includes the opportunity to play some of the nation's best teams with the expectation of winning the ACC title and reaching the College Football Playoff, so to paraphrase something a Cardinals assistant recently told me, it's time to start backing up what they are selling. Beat FSU in Tallahassee and every recruit throughout the ACC region will realize the continuing direction of the Louisville program.
5. Is Lamar Jackson ready to be a starter against one of the nation's best defenses? The true freshman is five games into his career and he's already proven that he has no fear running against top college defenses, but the offense remains in need of a consistent passing game. He's completing just 53 percent of attempts and has thrown more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (3). However, despite the less than stellar passing numbers, Jackson is more than capable of facing a top ten defense and has the talent to guide the team to an upset victory. Poise isn't much of a concern for Jackson and as his reps, and protection, improve, so will his numbers.