Points of Emphasis: Louisville vs. Florida State

Here are the more significant storylines to follow ahead of Louisville football's matchup with Florida State:
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - After capturing a thrilling win against UCF, Louisville (2-1, 0-0 ACC) is hitting the road, and will face Florida State (0-3, 0-1 ACC) for their Atlantic Coast Conference opener. Kickoff is set for Sept. 25 at 3:30 p.m. EST.

Here are some of the more notable storylines heading into Saturday's game:

Cardinals Getting Healthy After Physical UCF Game

Louisville may have secured a 42-35 win against UCF in dramatic fashion, but several key players got banged up in the process. CB Kei'Trel Clark, LB Monty Montgomery, and RB Jalen Mitchell all missed some in-game time, QB Malik Cunningham was visibly limping, and OL Adonis Boone & Michael Gonzalez didn't enter at all.

The Cardinals had a full training room over the weekend, but early in the week, head coach Scott Satterfield expressed optimism that most of the players who suffered injuries should be good to practice and play. Later in the week, defensive coordinator Bryan Brown had much more positive news to report.

"You look at the sheet that has all the guys that are injured, and that's been in the training room, it was full on that Saturday and Sunday," he said. "Then today (Wednesday), it may have been one or two guys on that list. That was a great thing to see."

Satterfield Expecting 'Best Shot' from Florida State

It's safe to say that the second year under head coach Mike Norvell is off to an inauspicious start for the Seminoles, as they are 0-3 with losses to Notre Dame, FCS Jacksonville State and Wake Forest. However that isn't stopping Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield from taking them any less seriously.

"We know their backs are against the walls, and we know that we're gonna get their best shot when we go down there this weekend," head coach Scott Satterfield said.

Like Louisville last year, Florida State's biggest problem is with turnovers and penalties. But the main reason that Satterfield is not discounting the Seminoles, is that their roster has a plethora of athletic and talented players.

"You watch the film, the guys are running around," he said. "They can run, they're fast, they're big, they're strong. Notre Dame really didn't run the ball on them at all."

Energy, Effort Will Be Crucial at FSU

During Louisville's first two games of the 2021 season, they were not exactly playing the most inspiring brand of football. But when UCF came to town in week three, a switch seemed to flip for the Cardinals.

“I think our team took a big step forward Friday night, and last week in their preparation and with their energy, so they kind of set the standard," Satterfield said. "We want to be right there at least, if not better."

Not only could you see Louisville playing with much more fight against UCF, but those on the sideline were much more pumped up than they had been against Ole Miss and EKU. The next step is for Louisville to maintain those levels of energy and effort, and that won't come easy in a hostile Doak Campbell Stadium.

"It will be different," Satterfield said, "That's one of the things we just talked about with our leadership group. We have to have a great week of preparation; and that's where it starts.”

Offensive Line Capitalizing on Positive Momentum

Through the first two games of the season, Louisville's offense was not exactly firing on all cylinders. While a lot of factors came into play, the crux of the offensive stagnation revolved around the play of the offensive line.

But when UCF came to town, a switch had flipped. Quarterback Malik Cunningham not only had the time to go through his reads and open up the passing game, but both him and the running backs were able to run it down the Knights' throat. 

"We were really focused. We just didn't rush into the game, we felt like we were prepared better as a unit, we had studied more film," center Cole Bentley said. "We knew we needed to buckle down and get it, and I think that's what happened."

Now, the key moving forward will be carrying this effort throughout the rest of the season, and making sure it was not a one-off performance. But Bentley believes the line was always going to be in good hands, they just simply needed a reminder of what they were capable of.

"In the first two games we underperformed, but then having something like that reminds you that you are going to be good, and everything's gonna be okay," he said. "All the hard work you put in, it's gonna pay off. It's just a little reminder that we just got to keep at it."

Underrated FSU Front Seven Awaiting Louisville

Not much has gone right for Florida State so far this season. Their total offense and defense numbers rank among the bottom four in the ACC, they are among the ten worst teams in FBS at committing penalties, and their turnover margin is tied for the second-worst in FBS.

But there is one area where the Seminoles actually perform quite well in: the front seven. Through their first three games, Florida State actually ranks in the top 20 in both sacks and tackles for loss, averaging 4.00 and 8.00 per games, respectively.

"The first thing that jumps out (on film) is just their size," offensive lineman Bryan Hudson said. "A team like Florida State, they're always going to have the size up front, the D-line especially. They're very active with their hands, they're quick and they're just overall good players."

Defense end Jermaine Johnson II is off to a blazing hot start, already logging seven tackles for loss and five sacks. The Seminoles also have five other players with at least two TFLs, such as defensive end Keir Thomas and linebacker Amari Gainer - who each have 2.5 TFLs and a sack.

Louisville Ready for Florida State Quarterback Situation

Through the first three games of the 2021 season, the Seminoles have yet to determine who they want as their primary signal caller. Jordan Travis got the start against Notre Dame in the opener, but then McKenzie Milton started against FCS Jacksonville State and Wake Forest

"Travis is a great runner. We saw that last year when he was here. He ran around here and made some big-time plays," Satterfield said. "Then Milton gets in, and he's that savvy passer that they don't want to run as much. Really you almost have to have, I won't say two different game plans, but two different thought processes depending on who the quarterback is.

But no matter who Florida State decides to trot out, Louisville feels like they are ready for them. Not only did Satterfield anticipate on having a good game plan for each quarterback, but cornerback Greedy Vance echoed those sentiments.

"We know both quarterbacks' strengths and weaknesses. We know how to game plan against them, we know what we're getting out of each quarterback, we know who likes to do what," Vance said. "So when that time comes, we're gonna have to just lineup, just play the call, and stop them from whatever their strengths is."

Brown Happy With Improved Defensive Execution

Louisville's struggles on offense against Ole Miss and EKU are well documented, but they weren't exactly perfect on defense either. Alignment errors, missed assignments and shoddy tackling definitely left more to be desired.

Against UCF, they took a tremendous step forward, While they did allow 420 yards and 35 points, both were well under the Knights' average, and defensive coordinator Bryan Brown chalks it up to an uptick in execution.

"I think it may have been about 85 to 87 percent that we executed each play, and that's awesome, especially going against a high powered offense like those guys, and how fast they were," Brown said. "Way better than the first game, as far as execution-wise goes.

"Our guys executed really well, and they tackled well for the most part in that game. Keeping everything in front, driving down and making tackles, getting a couple sacks here and there. We were able to get stops on third down, and that's really, really critical when you're going against an offense like that."

(Photo of Malik Cunningham: Melina Myers - USA TODAY Sports)

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