TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Louisville and Florida State have a lot on the line when they meet on Saturday, just not the stakes that many thought before the season.
Instead of the matchup being a major factor determining the Atlantic Coast Conference's Atlantic Division race, both teams are struggling to get bowl eligible. They each have challenging schedules the rest of the way, which makes this week's game even more vital.
The Cardinals (4-3, 1-3 ACC), who haven't missed playing in a bowl game since 2009, have dropped three of their last four and were upset 45-42 last Saturday by Boston College . The Seminoles (2-3, 2-2), who have a 35-year bowl streak, have been under .500 all season after losing starting quarterback Deondre Francois in the Sept. 2 season opener against Alabama.
Freshman James Blackman has shown progress in each of his four starts, but FSU and Illinois are the only Power Five schools that haven't scored 27 points or more in a game this season. A big reason why the Seminoles have been able to move the ball better is the running game, which is averaging 193.3 yards over the past three games with Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick.
"You're starting to see us develop much more of an identity by running the football well but you've got to put points on the board," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.
Louisville's defense has allowed 200 or more rushing yards twice this season, including 364 last week to Boston College.
"Every team in America has adversity, and certainly, we're going through that right now. You have to keep working and getting better," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said.
One player who isn't struggling for the Cardinals is quarterback Lamar Jackson , who leads the nation in total offense at 430.3 yards per game. The reigning Heisman winner has 21 games of 300 yards or more of offense in his career, which is tied with Chris Redmond for the most in school history.
Some other things to know about this game:
NOT HOME SWEET HOME: Florida State is trying to avoid dropping its first three games at home since 1974. With a 24-20 loss to No. 8 Miami on Oct. 7, Florida State is 3-4 at Doak Campbell Stadium since having a 22-game home winning streak snapped last year.
SPECIAL LIFT: Florida State punter Logan Tyler and kicker Ricky Aguayo have bounced back after slow starts. Tyler has 10 punts of 50 yards or more over the past four games (he had seven all of last season) while Aguayo has made 11 straight field goals after missing his first two.
STOP GAP: Louisville's defense is on the hot seat after a third consecutive ACC loss in which it yielded at least 500 yards and 39 points. One week the pass defense struggles, next week it's the run defense. Sometimes, both falter. Petrino concedes the Cardinals need a stronger effort against FSU. "We've got to do a better job of shedding blocks and running full speed to the football, and really getting more guys around it," he said. "That's something we've done well in the past, and we're just not getting it done right now."
BRIGHT SPOT: Overlooked in the Cardinals' collapse last week was a career-best 107 yards rushing by senior Reggie Bonnafon, who preceded Jackson at QB and played primarily at receiver before moving to the backfield. Bonnafon's day included a 64-yard TD blast through the middle that provided an early lead, just the kind of effort Louisville needs to take the load off Jackson.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Florida State safety Derwin James. He missed last year's game as Jackson had five touchdowns (four rushing, one passing) in a 63-20 Louisville victory. The Seminoles had their struggles against option quarterbacks last year but this is the first time they have faced one this season. The sophomore leads the team in tackles with 29 and is one of the best open-field tacklers in college football. Cornerback Levonta Taylor said of James: "He might put a little bit of fear in Lamar Jackson's heart just seeing him back there."
AP Sports Writer Gary B. Graves in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.
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