Florida State returns home after delivering a 38-3 beat down to Syracuse in their final road game of the regular season. Up next, they welcome the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns into Doak Campbell Stadium this Saturday for a noon contest between two teams who have never met before. FSU currently sits at a 24-point favorite over the 5-5 Cajuns who hail from the Sunbelt conference.
This game may have been a different story last season as the Cajuns finished with a stellar 13-1 record under now Florida head coach Billy Napier. However, they were left with significant holes to fill on both the staff and roster which makes carrying success forward a tall task for any team.
As we’ve already seen a few times this season you can never take playing a Sunbelt team for granted. Just ask Jimbo how that worked out… However, FSU seems to have turned a corner and ULL is still rebuilding from all the losses. If FSU comes to play, they should win this one rather comfortably.
FSU has not been a team who’s played down to the competition this season either. They have played 3 FBS teams with a .500 record or below this season (Boston College, Georgia Tech and Miami) and beat them by a combined 97 points and outgained them by 1,200 yards!
While I do think FSU will handle their business and cover the spread, I could also see a scenario where it ends up being a little closer than expected. FSU is coming off an 8pm kick all the way in Syracuse to a noon game against a lesser opponent with a big rivalry game ahead on a short week with the Friday night kick vs Florida.
My only real concerns for this game are related to that. There could be some look ahead to next week but to be fair for FSU has been pretty good about taking it one game at a time. Another reason I think it could be closer is given the above details, I could see FSU pulling the starters early in this one to rest and keep them healthy for next week.
FSU is playing the best they have all season which is in part because they are about as healthy as they have been all season too. I can’t say this for certain, but it seems Norvell has been out to make a statement in the past three games. In those games, albeit against not great teams, FSU has outscored its opponents 124-22 and outgained them by over 900 yards. It’s been quite an impressive and dominant run which “should” continue this week as well.
However, no Saturday is a given and ULL isn’t just coming here to collect a paycheck. FSU will need to strap it up and play well against the upset minded Cajuns. Let’s look at what the second team on FSU’s schedule from Louisiana will bring to the table.
On offense, the Cajuns have seen some struggles so far this season. They currently rank 83rd in total offense (73rd in passing and 78th in rushing) and 119th in red zone offense. To be fair they have played a few tough defenses this season.
Although none have come from the power 5 level, they have played 3 top 25 defenses and will face their fourth against FSU whose defense currently ranks 11th. One thing to note is against those top 25 defenses they have only scored an average of 13.3 offensive points per game.
At quarterback, Louisiana has turned to backup Ben Wooldridge as starter Chandler Fields has been battling injury this season. Wooldridge, a Fresno State transfer, has stepped up in Fields absence and performed well for them. Here’s a look at some of his number so far this season.
138/246 (56.1%) 1,654 yds – 15 TD – 5 INT
BTTR 4.7% | TWP 3.2% | PFF Grade 73.9
10 Sacks | 94 Pressures | P2S% 10.6%
26 ATT – 229 Yds – 2 TD – 5 Fumbles
Kept Clean: 65.4%
118/173 (68.2%) ADJ Comp % – 82.1%
PFF Grade 90.8
1,373 Yds – 14 TD | 1 INT
20/73 (27.4%) ADJ Comp % – 50%
PFF Grade 33.3
281 Yds – 1TD | 4 INT
He has good completion percentage and PFF grade for all levels of Passing Depth, especially the deep ball. However, Louisiana primarily tends to throw short passes (0-9 yards) which accounts for 40.2% of their passes.
As you can see, he struggled mightily under pressure which has led to some turnovers as well. Creating pressure will be key for FSU in this game. That may be easier said than done as his pressure to sack ratio is only 10.6% meaning he’s not that easy to sack just because you get pressure on him.
Their offensive line has been pretty good at protecting the quarterback only allowing less than 2 sacks per game on average. However, both of their tackles have pass blocking grades that are below average, and they have not faced a defensive line like Florida State’s yet this season.
The two main weapons to watch for on offense are 6-foot-4 wide receiver Michael Jefferson who has caught 6 touchdowns this season and has twice as many yards and almost twice as many targets as any other receiver on the team. However, he only has a 57.3% catch rate and 33.3% contested catch rate. The other impact player is running back Chris Smith who is averaging over 5 yards per carry (5.2) and has a nice PFF Grade of 74.9.
The Cajuns have a solid defense coming in at 40th in total defense (74th passing and 32nd rushing) and have been good at creating turnovers too. They are currently ranked 6th in interceptions, and as a team are +7 in turnover margin. FSU will need to be diligent about ball security in this game and not allow Louisiana to hang around by capitalizing on mistakes and turnovers.
However, unlike what their offense has had to face Louisiana’s defense hasn’t quite had to run the gauntlet of tough offenses with only 2 ranked in the top 70 and 4 ranked in the bottom 100. FSU currently has the 16th ranked offense and has rushed for over 200 yards in 5 consecutive games.
The Louisiana defense has performed well this season, but this will undoubtedly be their toughest challenge so far. They do have some play makers to watch for including Zi’Yon Hill-Green and Andre Jones who have a combined 67 pressures and 13 sacks.
On paper, FSU should run away with this one if they play like they have the last 3 games. But like I said Louisiana isn’t just coming here to collect a check. Unfortunately, for the Cajuns they just aren’t the same team that finished 13-1 last year and FSU isn’t the same team from last year either.
Like I mentioned before I think FSU will take care of business, cover the spread, and win another game in convincing fashion. However, I do expect the starters to pulled rather quickly if the game gets out of hand early with Florida on the near horizon. I still think the second string for FSU will hold their own, but it could have a slight impact on how the final score looks. I’d love to see FSU get its first shutout in years or at least go another 4 quarters without allowing a touchdown.
This is one of those games you just want to see FSU do what they have to and get out of there with a win while staying healthy and that’s exactly what I think they do. Give me the Noles to win their eighth game of the season in another runaway victory over the Cajuns something like 45-6. Thanks for reading and Go Noles!
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