By Scott Carswell Jr.
On Saturday the Seminoles will head to South Bend, Indiana to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at 730 on ABC. The game time temperature is projected to be around 25°.
The Fighting Irish are undefeated at 9-0 on the season. Their wins have come against Michigan, Ball State, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, Stanford, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Navy and Northwestern.
The last meeting between Florida State and Notre Dame was in 2014 in Tallahassee. Florida State won the game 31-27 to extend its perfect season. In the final moments of this game Notre Dame thought they had taken the lead but offensive pass interference was called against the Irish. Notre Dame failed to convert on 4th and goal from the 18 to give the Seminoles the ball back.
The last time Notre Dame won a game in the series was in 2002.
Observations from the North Carolina State game
Offensive coordinator Walt Bell called the plays for the first time this season. I thought he did a fairly good job and I guess coach Taggart did too, because he announced earlier this week that Bell will continue to call the plays for the rest of the year.
James Blackman started off slowly but he ended up passing for over 400 yards and 4 TDs, which was good enough to give him the ACC quarterback of the week award. Taggart has still not declared who will start at quarterback at Notre Dame, but with last week’s showing I think all signs point to Blackman starting again.
The rushing attack continues to struggle as the Seminoles only managed 45 yards rushing from running backs.
Starting cornerback Lavonta Taylor was sorely missed. Starting safety Stanford Samuels had to replace him and the pass defense suffered committing 4 pass interference penalties.
Florida State offense versus Notre Dame defense
Notre Dame has solid and experienced players littered throughout the defense. Playmakers that stand out the most at each level of the defense are cornerback Julian love in the secondary, linebacker Te’von Coney and defensive tackle Jerry Tillery. Love is 5th in the FBS with 12 pass breakups. Tillery is a pass-rushing machine from the defensive tackles spot. He is 18th in the country in sacks at seven and is tied for seventh in forced fumbles with three. Coney is a stat stuffer at linebacker who leads the team in tackles at the 80. He also has three sacks, three pass breakups, an interception and a fumble recovery. Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame’s other playmaking linebacker, is questionable for the matchup. In previous games he has played in passing downs situations only. All signs point to that happening again.
The Irish defense has not made a whole lot of tackles for loss in the running game this season. If that continues to be an issue, FSU might be able to stay in manageable second down and third down situations. James Blackman and the Seminole offense played well in the Independence Bowl in last year’s finale. Hopefully the solid play in the cold will continue this weekend. Blackman and the rest of the offense will try to push the ball down the field to big play receivers to Tamarrion Terry and DJ Matthews. If Florida State is able to get this going, it might be able to open some running lanes for the read option later in the game.
Florida State defense versus Notre Dame offense
Irish quarterback Ian Book leads the nation in completion percentage at 75%, but reports are that Book may not play due to a rib injury. This means Devin Wimbush would be the starter at quarterback. Notre Dame was still a run heavy team with over 100 more rushing attempts than passing attempts even with Book’s success. Bush was only able to throw for 500 yards and a TD with 4 interceptions in his three starts.
Dexter Williams is the team’s leading rusher with 568 yards and 8 TDs. Tony Jones Jr and Jafar Armstrong are other options for the Irish at running back. Wimbush is also a threat to run with 52 carries on the year. When they do throw it they like to spread it around to receivers Miles Boykin, Chase Claypool, and Chris Finke and tight end Alize Mack. Notre Dame’s offensive line is experienced on the right side and talented, but young on the left. Brian Burns, Janarius Robinson and other Florida State pass rushers will need to get back to creating havoc in the backfield once again. North Carolina State and Clemson have the best offensive lines the ‘Noles will see, so I expect them to have a little bit more success this week.
Pittsburgh, who gave up only 19 points to the Irish, runs a similar defense to the one that Harlan Barnett uses at Florida State. (Pittsburgh’s head coach Pat Narduzzi and Harlan Barnett both coached under Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio). This will help the defense recognize what Wimbush and the Irish are trying to do to them.
The past two weeks FSU has faced the best quarterbacks it will see all season and this forced the secondary to play more on its heels instead of bearing down on the run. This made more holes available to opposing running backs making life on the defense very difficult. This was supposed to be the case this week as well, but due to Wimbush being less accurate the Seminole defensive backs will be able to take more chances. Without Lavonta Taylor being in the lineup for the Seminoles the Irish receivers should have an easier time getting separation. Freshman Asante Samuel and converted safety Stanford Samuels will need to showcase their talent to help get the ‘Noles a chance.
After playing well against Miami and Wake Forest the special teams have been abysmal the past two weeks. Almost every time there has been a return there has also been a penalty, forcing the offense to start with terrible field position. Keeping the mistakes to a minimum on special teams could help the garnet and gold immensely. I will take Justin Yoon, Notre Dame’s kicker, over Ricky Agauyo in this game due to experience in the bad weather. We will have to see how the weather affects Logan Tyler, but I think he will continue his improvement. Notre Dame punter Tyler Newsome is averaging 45 yards per punt, which is 2 yards better than Tyler. The Irish definitely have the edge on special teams.
The biggest key to this game will be discipline, with the emphasis on penalties. Over the last two games Florida State has had 32 penalties for 255 yards. Due to these numbers, FSU has dropped to dead last in the FBS with 9.9 penalties per game. Notre Dame is averaging the 16th least amount of penalties per game at 4.7.
When looking at the stats there isn’t one thing that Notre Dame does that stands out. With that being said, they do everything well. They are around 30th in the country in yards passing, yards rushing, passing yards allowed and rushing yards allowed. The passing attack was able to catch up to the running game with the emergence of quarterback Ian book. Through the first three games with Devin Wimbush, Notre Dame was 99th in scoring offense and in the eight games that Ian Book started the Fighting Irish offense moved to number 27. With their ability to avoid mistakes, Notre Dame makes the opponents beat themselves. Most offenses have to take the ball the length of the field to score against ND, which helps make the Irish 17th in the FBS in points allowed at 19.3 per game.
I think the injury to Book will make a difference in the final score, but I do not think it will affect the outcome. I believe the Fighting Irish will extend its perfect record to 10-0 by knocking off the Seminoles 38-21.