The run by Florida State and Jameis Winston the past two seasons has been riddled with unknowns and drama. There was the Kelvin Benjamin miracle catch last season, the Clemson overtime thriller earlier this season, and the Notre Dame win that was a loss and then suddenly wasn’t.
During that time, the Noles’ have seen just about everything the College Football world has to offer. That’s why it’s hard to imagine FSU losing any time this season. Exceptional talent coupled with unmatched experience. However, the Louisville Cardinals may offer up something to the Noles’ that they haven’t seen. The best defense they’ve faced – could that, in fact, be the Louisville Cardinals?
Early this year, Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher said that Wake Forest was the best defense the Noles’ have seen. He said that and was completely serious.
“You want to know the truth? Wake is the best defense we’ve played,” the Head Coach told SirusXM’s College Sports Nation. “Wake is very good on defense. And probably the best set of corners that we’ve faced. At different places, other teams have been more talented. Wake was very talented in the secondary. Brought multiple blitzes, multiple looks. They’ve got a corner, probably the top senior corner in the southeast. Very talented, one (corner) had 35 starts, one had 33, the other field corner is a very good player and they got pressure at times.”
Let’s say Jimbo Fisher is telling the truth and he truly believes that Wake Forest was the best – or at least one of the best defenses – the Noles’ have faced. If that’s truly the case, things bold well for Louisville. Wake Forest ranks 41st in total defense giving up just over 300 yards a game, Louisville ranks 1st giving up just under 250 yards per game. That secondary that Fisher praised – the one that gave Winston his lowest quarterback rating of 126.4 – Louisville has a better one. They’ve got a Charles Gaines who is viewed by many as a first rounder in the 2014 NFL Draft and a Gerald Holiman who leads the Country in interceptions.
Maybe it’s just blind luck that Wake Forest is the only team to hold Winston to a QBR under 130, not just once or twice. Maybe it’s not. But if the Demon Deacons are truly the best defense the Noles and Winston have faced in two seasons, we’ve already answered the question they we set from the onset with a resounding yes.
Luckily though, if your skeptical, we have some numbers to talk about. Rapid fire time.
During Winston’s tenure at FSU, the Noles have yet to face a defense that is giving up less than 260 yards on average. The Louisville Cardinal defense is giving up 236 yards on average. You can say they haven’t played anyone but that would be selling Clemson extremely short. You remember Clemson right? The Clemson that a Winstonless Florida State needed overtime to defeat. The Cardinals held them to 229 yards, the Noles’ held them to 407 yards and Jameis Winston doesn’t play defense.
Still skeptical? You could ask Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher what he thinks about the Cards.
“Not many people get many points, and not many people get many yards,” Fisher explained. “They’re very good. They’re multiple up front, three down, four down, a lot of blitzed packages, mix the coverage up well, and have very good players. They’re a well-coached, well-disciplined, really good football team. They really are.”
Have you heard about Gerald Holiman? I touched on him on the opening but the statistical hold he’s had on opposing offenses means his name is worth repeating. It’s quite possible that he’s the best defensive player that Florida State has faced in two seasons. The Jim Thorpe award, given to the top defensive back in the country, has named him as a semi-finalist. His eight interceptions are easily leading the Country and he’s two away from tying the Louisville school record. Jameis Winston has thrown costly interceptions at points throughout the season might wanna look out for him.
There are many different factors that encompass the Louisville defense. The proverbial star they have at each level defensively is what makes them so hard to attack. You could easily make a strong case that this will be the best – overall – defense that the Noles’ have faced since the age of Winston. Does that mean that Winston can’t shred them a part like we’ve seen him do before? Absolutely not. Does that mean that Winston will be forced to prove that? Without a doubt.
Jimbo Fisher has never faced a defense coached by Todd Grantham and Winston has never faced a defense like the one Louisville will bring on Thursday night. Who wins?
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