I feel like we have this discussion almost every year, “can Notre Dame stay undefeated this year?” The question has come up yet again with the Irish firmly at number 3 in the polls. The 9-0 Irish seem to be ready to waltz right into the College Football Playoff games, even though they have games against an 8-2 Syracuse team and USC who despite not being as dominant as normal still have the opportunity to play spoiler for Notre Dame.
Before we (or the Irish) get too far ahead of themselves they face off against a Florida State Team that comes in with a less than daunting record (4-5). However, although the Seminoles come in with a poor record do far this season; they actually have a ridiculous 6-2 (.75) record against the Irish — including three straight wins. Although the sample size is only 8 games, Notre Dame will also be without starting QB Ian Book who has established himself as a big reason for Notre Dame success this season.
As a result, this game is being much hyped as a potential trap game, but how worried should the Irish be?
So far this season in road games, the Seminole are allowing an average of 154 rushing yards per game and 242.25 passing yards per game for a total yards allowed of 396.3 yards per game. Their offensive statistics are what’s scary; they are averaging only 58 rushing yards per game, to go with 255.75 passing yards per game. So, they are averaging 313.8 total yards of offense per game. If you’re a Florida State Fan there is a little bit of a silver lining; they’ve played away games against Syracuse, Louisville, Miami and NC state. As of the latest CFB ranking Syracuse is #13, NC State is #14 and Miami has received votes off and on through the season — basically what you should be taking from this is that they’ve had a very tough road schedule (three of their losses have come from Syracuse, Miami, NC State; another loss to #2 Clemson; and the final loss was against Virginia Tech).
The Irish have had a much easier route to their 9-0 playing only a ranked Michigan Team (#4) in the first week of the season and they are scheduled to play a #13 Syracuse team next week. There have definitely been years where Notre Dame have had a very weak strength of schedule, but this year would be a very difficult one, historically. They scheduled against Stanford, USC, Florida State, Northwestern, Michigan, and Syracuse. At home, the Irish are allowing an average of 211 passing yards per game and 98 rushing yards per game for a total yardage against of 309 yards/game.
Their offense without Book is what’s drawing most of the concerns and while it’s impossible to determine his exact influence on the game — I’m going to try my best. My best guess at the starter for this game is senior Brandon Wimbush, in the games he’s played the Irish have limited him to an average of 18 passing attempts per game, while increasing the QB run game and rushing overall. Wimbush has played in 4 games compared to Book’s 9, but he has only 10 fewer rushing attempts in 5 less games averaging 13 QB rushing attempts per game. Florida State is allowing a lot more yards rushing than the Irish have been gaining — and I expect that Coach Kelly will seek to exploit this. Wimbush’s Achilles heel has been interceptions, he has 4 Interceptions compared to 1 touchdown.
So, now I’ll answer the question you all came for, in a second. I see the game flow and time going very heavily Notre Dame’s way and most of the damage done by the rushing game. I could see 200+ yards for Notre Dame rushing, and anticipate very conservative throws and just enough to keep the defense from being able to sell out to stop the run. From the Florida State side I think it will be almost the opposite — I think they will feel like they need to get out ahead early with the passing game. Ultimately, I think Notre Dame adds another win to their schedule as I just don’t see their multi-pronged rushing game being smothered. And I think the Irish are good enough defensively to keep this one out of reach. As long as Wimbush doesn’t throw a ton of interceptions, I’m not sure Florida State will even keep it close.
Last Updated: November 10, 2018