It seems just like yesterday that Florida State was no longer the 9-win team incapable of breaking through and suddenly had morphed into an elite National Championship team. There was a time from mid-2011 through mid-2015 that the Seminoles were on a scorching hot 52-4 run that probably isn’t fully appreciated yet historically. Today, things have swung hard in the other direction. Since the beginning of 2017, Florida State has dropped 11 of their past 22 games while becoming shockingly average within the ACC.

Florida State (+16.5) at Notre Dame

Notre Dame Stadium
South Bend, Indiana
Date: Saturday, November 10, 2018
Time: 7:30 PM ET
Series: 6-2-0 Florida State

Additionally, the immediate future for Florida State does not look great with no turn around in sight. The Seminoles will be traveling up north to South Bend for the 3rd of 5 straight games against ranked opponents. Should they finish the season without a win their NCAA-record 36-year bowling streak will come to and end with a massive thud and their 8 losses will be the most since 1975 prior to FSU emerging on the scene as a national power.

3 Pre-Game Topics

Weary Willie 

What if I told you someone was under .500 at Western Kentucky, under .500 at South Florida, spent one mediocre year at Oregon, was hired at one of the country’s Top 10 head coaching jobs and found himself drowning in his first season in Tallahassee? His name is Willie Taggart!

Even if this isn’t totally fair–he did quality rebuilding jobs at WKU and USF–the point remains that a lot of people talked themselves into the ascendant star of Taggart because…recruiting or something?

The Seminoles head coach signed a 6-year $30 million deal and he’s already on the hot seat with over $20 million reportedly owed to him in any buyout this off-season. Obviously, he’s very likely to stick around for a while but still.

Offensive Seminoles “O”

The big picture advanced stats table is down below but before we get there let’s take a perusal through some of Florida State’s rankings on offense (note there are 130 FBS programs):

Success Rate: 121
Rushing S&P: 124
Standard Downs: 107
Points Per Game: 105
Yards Per Carry: 129
Yards Per Play: 111
3rd Downs: 130

At least with throwing the ball they are doing better with the 50th ranked passing S&P, 38th on passing downs, and 23rd in raw passing yardage. Still, the Seminoles quarterbacks are 61st nationally in passer rating and 62nd in yards per attempt. They’ve had a few really long plays from scrimmage (leading to the 7th IsoPPP rank!) but are only 72nd in plays of 10+ yards and 66th in plays of 20+ yards.

This offense really is in the dumps, likely the worst Florida State offering of my lifetime.

Senior Day

The data might not actually back this up but it does seem like the majority of Senior Days at Notre Dame lean toward being sleepy affairs in the first half. The team is thrown out of their normal routine a little bit and you can forgive them for being a bit distracted prior to kickoff.

In this light, maybe it’s a good thing the Syracuse game was moved to Yankee Stadium! It’s going to be gloomy and cold with thousands of people in attendance just wanting to get through the whole night with a victory as quickly as possible.

2 Key Opponents

WR Tamorrion Terry – The former high 3-star recruit took a redshirt in 2017 during his first year on campus and has been slowly emerging this season, culminating in 5 receptions for 142 yards and 2 scores last week against NC State. Standing at a robust 6’4″ and averaging nearly 22 yards per reception, Terry could be a handful down field for Notre Dame’s secondary.

DE Brian Burns – This guy could be a problem. In an upcoming loaded year for draft-eligible edge rushers Burns is right up there as a potential 1st round pick. As a singular talent, he may be the best pass-rusher the Irish will see this year and has totaled 23 sacks and 37.5 tackles for loss in less than 3 years of playing time.

1 Prediction

College football is crazy. Five years ago Florida State were National Champions following a 14-0 march through their schedule and a record +553 point differential (to put this in perspective at Notre Dame’s current point differential pace they’d need to play 30 more games to catch FSU 2013). Four years ago they were completing a perfect regular season and back in the playoffs. Three years ago they were beating Michigan in the Orange Bowl for another double-digit win season.

Now, Jimbo Fisher skipped town, Jameis Winston is flaming out in the NFL, and the Seminoles are at rock bottom for their modern history.

My title is a pun on “Talking ‘Bout the Noles.”

Three months ago I thought this matchup was being grossly overlooked. Florida State appeared able to bounce back from a mediocre 2017 and move on from the the acrimonious end of the Fisher era with a fresh, new coaching staff. Their defense appeared ready to carry the team and (borderline) star quarterback Deondre Francois was coming back from injury to lead an improved offense.

Two weeks ago I thought Florida State was shaping up to be the toughest remaining game on the schedule. They’d won 3 of 4 with a near-upset of Miami and were playing Clemson close after a scoreless 1st quarter. Then, Clemson scored 8 touchdowns on 10 drives and handed the Seminoles their worst home loss ever.

Under normal circumstances, this should not be an overly difficult game for the Fighting Irish.

National Rankings

F/+ 6 80
S&P+ 6 75
S&P+ Offense 27 102
S&P+ Defense 3 39

So, massive blowout right? Not so fast! The circumstances are no longer normal.

The weather (currently expected to be in the high 20’s, cloudy, with 10 mph winds) combined with the overall morale of the Seminoles should have plenty counting on an easy cover for Notre Dame. However, there’s two sides to that coin. The Irish may be more comfortable in this weather but also acutely aware that Florida State won’t be too thrilled and adjust accordingly. It’s kind of a “we know they know we know they will fold early so we don’t need to go 110%” type of deal.

Last week, even in a tight game, we saw some rotation on Notre Dame’s defense especially up front on the defensive line. I have a hard time believing against a perceived weaker team we will see the starters logging a ton of snaps. If the Irish get out to a 14-0 lead I think we’ll see the likes of Micah Dew-Treadway, Ade Ogundeji, Jordan Genmark Heath, Donte Vaughn, and even a wild Devin Studstill appearing on the field in non-blowout situations during the first half.

It’s also possible the cold weather dilutes enthusiasm for both sides. Florida State’s run defense has been good enough that they could make Notre Dame struggle and who knows how the passing game fares in less than ideal conditions?

We’ve also received word that Ian Book is officially out this weekend (and maybe longer) with mid-section injuries. Florida State was actually dealing with their own quarterback issues as James Blackman did some good things last week (421 yards, 4 TD) but the Seminoles appear to be putting Francois back in, at least to start. Without Book on the field, it’s time to take a step back and reassess this matchup.

This is potentially a heart-warming Senior Day for Brandon Wimbush as he steps back into the spotlight and can lead the program to an important victory. He may be needed to do much more, too. However, we know the RPO’s are going to be packed away with him under center and there’s a real possibility Florida State clamps down daring Wimbush to throw. I don’t want to gloss over how much of a change it will be to close the book (sorry) on the things that made this offense tick over the last 6 weeks.

This should probably be a conservative game plan with a lot of running but that doesn’t mean it’ll be pretty or Wimbush won’t have to make several big throws. I’m trying to reconcile the idea that Notre Dame knows Florida State could be a pushover in crappy conditions with the sense that the offense now needs to re-boot itself, at least temporarily, in a way that won’t torpedo the undefeated season.

Either way, this game just got a lot closer than expected.

Florida State 13

Notre Dame 22