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Florida State football v. Notre Dame: Preview and prediction

There have been a wealth of great Florida State/Notre Dame match ups over the years and this looks to be another one.

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Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame comes to Tallahassee without having dropped a game this season. Much like Florida State, ND hasn't look particularly dominant in their games but has managed to survive. One team won't survive Saturday evening.

Time: 8:00 ET | Line: FSU -11.5 | O/U 56

V. Notre Dame's Defense

The Notre Dame defense has been a tricky animal to peg down this year. While they've looked pretty good, they really haven't played an offense that's ranked in the top 40 per S&P+ and by raw statistics they've been perfectly average as a pass defense when compared to other power 5 teams even though none of the offenses they've faced are strong passing offenses. Having said all that, this Notre Dame defense isn't poor by any means. They've kept the Irish in games while the offense was still finding its footing and turning the ball over.

Notre Dame plays a base cover-4 defense using sophomore LB Jaylon Smith in multiple roles to keep offenses off balance. Smith really does do everything well as he's able to cover slot WRs and has no problem sticking his nose inside in run defense and is great on blitzes.

The front 4 of the Irish are very stout against the run but struggle in pass rush meaning Notre Dame has to blitz to get pressure on the QB. The depth of the defensive line allows Brian VanGorder to constantly bring in fresh legs keeping up the pressure on offensive lines.

As we previously noted the Irish secondary hasn't been tested much this year but certainly will be against FSU. ND is a bit thin in the secondary due to suspensions and injuries but has done enough to keep this team moving along. Nole fans will see a familiar face in Cody Riggs as the 5th year SR transferred to Notre Dame from Florida to play safety.

Expect FSU to come out throwing the ball and keep on going. The Seminole run game hasn't looked great this year, although it hasn't been terrible, and it probably won't look great against the Irish. FSU should be able to stretch the ball and take advantage of Notre Dame's need to blitz Jameis Winston. While blitzing has not worked well in the past against Winston and FSU, the Irish do a very good job of disguising their blitzes and could confuse the offensive line, which is starting a red shirt freshman at center and has struggled with proper assignments in the past. If Winston is forcing the ball to O'Leary or Greene when other players are open, the ND defense is good enough to make FSU pay with turnovers. Winston also had his throwing hand thumb wrapped during the Syracuse game, which affected his velocity. Will he continue to wrap it or has it healed? He didn't wrap it in practice this week.

One real key will be the ability to throw on first down, as Notre Dame is solidly committed to taking away the run on first down by loading the box.

Will the Noles show more no huddle than they have this season? The Notre Dame defense struggled a bit in keeping up with North Carolina's pace last week so it would not be a surprise to see FSU go no huddle, but not necessarily hurry up, to prevent Notre Dame from substituting. It also wouldn't be a surprise to see FSU run out of an 11 personnel grouping (1 TE, 1 RB, 3 WR) in an attempt to target ND's linebackers not named Jaylon Smith in pass coverage.

When FSU does run the ball who runs it? Mario Pender is out, but Karlos Williams is back along with Dalvin Cook.


  • More than 6.0 yards a play before garbage time (300 yards on 50 plays, 360 yards on 60 plays, 420 yards on 70 plays)
  • No more than 1 turnover
  • 66% or greater TDs in the red zone

V. Notre Dame's Offense

The Notre Dame offense runs directly through Everett Golson and while it could be said that most offenses run through their quarterback, it's been Golson or bust for most of ND's season. Golson is a talent that led his team to a 12-0 regular season his freshman year and once again has the Irish undefeated.

Golson is an elusive QB that uses his mobility to either keep plays alive while continuing to scan the field or will take off and beat teams that don't properly react to him on the move. Golson is very accurate on shorter throws and deeper throws outside of the hash but does not always read the middle of the field as well. Expect Notre Dame to attempt and hit some back-shoulder throws against Florida State's corners.

The run game also goes through Golson as most of Notre Dame's runs are zone reads out of the shotgun involving either a RB or a WR running a jet sweep. While Golson can run the ball well, most of his runs come off of pass plays and QB draws and not these zone reads.

When the Irish do run the ball, Tarean Folston will get most of the touches. Folston has shown to be a good back by pilling up quite a bit of yardage last week against UNC but has had his production limited due to questionable OL play. While ND's tackles seem to do a solid job the middle of the line has struggled this season with center Matt Hegarty getting the lion's share of the blame.

FSU will continue to play its base 4-2-5 against Notre Dame but may change up its line up. Matthew Thomas, a projected starter before the season, returns to the field at MLB and could provide an immediate boost in pass rush and coverage but the amount of playing time he sees is questionable. Another possible switch could be along the defensive line where freshman Lorenzo Featherston has looked very good but has struggled with maintaining contain and discipline. Might DeMarcus Walker or Chris Casher see more playing time in an attempt to keep Golson in the pocket?

Expect FSU to blitz some to hurry Golson through his progression but this will only work if FSU tackles better than they did against NC State. Notre Dame will be able to move the ball on FSU as there's too much talent for them not to, but it's up to the Seminole defense to force the Irish to work their way down the field and not give up chunk plays. Golson has struggled early on in the last few games with turnovers and will likely give FSU's DBs INT opportunities.

The Noles also get a boost in the middle of the DL with the return of Derek Mitchell, who has been out since an injury he suffered during the NC State game. If Mitchell can play a decent amount of snaps, Mario Edwards Jr would be pushed back outside to his normal role of DE where he excels at pushing the pocket while maintaining proper leverage and contain.


  • Less than 5.0 yards a play before garbage time (250 yards on 50 plays, 300 yards on 60 plays, 350 yards on 70 plays).
  • Force 2 turnovers
  • Less than 50-percent touchdowns allowed in the red zone.

Special Teams

Remember the last thing we wrote about FSU's special teams? Yeah, it's the same.

Kyle Brindza handles kickoffs, field goals and punts for Notre Dame. The do-everything senior does a nice job on punts, averaging just over 40 yards/punt with 6 of his 26 punts going for more than 50 yards. While going 8 - 11 on FGs doesn't sound great you have to consider he missed 2 in a rainy game against Stanford and another 1 on a 50 yarder against Purdue. He seems to be a fine kicker, just not great.


Don't expect too much defense in Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday night. It would not be a surprise to see both teams start a little sluggish on offense with silly turnovers playing a role but neither defense has looked great against the pass and they'll see a lot of it on Saturday. FSU should be able to pull this one out due to better over all line play but they probably won't pull away until late.

Florida State 42, Notre Dame 32 | Chance of winning: 80%

Bud: Florida State 44, Notre Dame 27

Staff Predictions

jmnpb996: 44-31, late Aguayo FG gets the cover. Noles defensive line does a reasonable, but not great, job of collapsing pocket while maintaining contain.

FSUed: I can’t help myself. I went conservative last week and was right, but I can’t shake the feeling this team is ready to either explode or implode. That is, I think FSU either loses this game or wins big and makes a statement. I’m going with the latter. FSU 48-17.

ricobert1:Should be highly entertaining. Lots of splash plays from FSU D, some busts, some big plays from Jameis and Co., turnovers from both sides. Noles 38, Good Guys 31.

pbysh: I think between our personnel issues and the absurd throw and catches we've given up this year our defense is a little underrated at this point. Not to say they're anywhere near last year, but they will be the difference in this game. 41-24.

PhenomeNole: I love FSU's matchup advantages in this game. The ND D has to blitz to create pressure, blitzing JW is not what you do, especially with a thin secondary. On Offense, ND has major issues in the interior, Goldman and Mitchell should be able to EAT. Going to need to see a disciplined pass rush from FSU to force Golson to make progressional reads (he can't). I like FSU 44-24

Andrew Wright: FSU wins 41-30.  Our offense does well and Winston plays beautifully.  Our speed on defense overall helps compensate for breakdowns in coverage and some busts in containment against Golson.

Onebarrelrum: FSU gets Thomas back, which is great. But I don't think a guy that's been on the bench for 6 Saturdays will make a mediocre defense great. I look for Mitchell's return to have a bigger impact. Golson isn't the best QB in the country, but he's the best FSU will have faced to date. FSU made Brissett look like the number one dual threat QB, if only for a half. Golson and ND have a lot more talent. I worry about Golson's running ability. FSU cannot keep contain or rush with discipline. He's gonna pick up lots of 3rd downs with his legs. FSU gives up a lot of 3rd and longs on the regular anyway. All that said, I think the game will be close but Winston will run out of chances to save the 'Noles. Irish 45, Noles 41.

NoleThruandThru: I always root for the villains in movies, and this Saturday won't be any different. Aguayo breaks the hearts of the Irish. Scourge of the Earth: 38 Perfect Little Princes: 35

DA-2: Irish 20 FSU 37

FrankDNole: Once the game starts we will unleash the fury of a hostile team tired of having to defend itself with a vicious offensive attack not yet witnessed this year in CFB. We will get such a fast start out of the gate they will not know what hit them and they won’t be able to keep up. At some point in the 3rd quarter expect Kelly’s head to explode when his team is barely able to move the ball on such a uncomplicated and simple defense, causing him to realize his team cannot compete at our level and high tailing it back to the squalor that is South Bend. Ricardo Aguayo misses a field goal and it’s gonna rain. FSU 45 – ND 17

TimScribble: FSU 38-35. Golson scrambles a ton, but FSU holds on.

Kyle Griffis: I'm not sure if anyone knows what to expect from our defense. There's no doubt our offense can outscore them, but until I see a glimmer of consistency from the defense, it's going to take 40 points on offense for me to feel confident in a win. This game will come down to whether we can contain Golson and prevent him from making plays with his feet. I hope we don't see a repeat of NC State. 'Noles 45, ND 34.

Matt Minnick: To paraphrase Rust Cohle, the world needs bad guys to keep the other bad guys from the door. FSU, college football's new gatekeeper at the river Styx, unleashes its best performance since 2013 Clemson. We are "healthier" on D than we have been all year, Jameis plays best when the outside distractions seem to be their worst, and Big Game Greene is, well, a beast on the brightest stage. Even the Luck of the Irish is no match for Hell's Gatekeeper. FSU 45, ND 17

nolesblogger: Notre Dame will have to blitz to get pressure in Winston. They'll get there on some plays, but on the drives they don't, FSU will score and score quickly. Golson is going to make some plays and buy time for his receivers. Big plays from both sides throughout the game. In the end, the Noles make more of them. 34-24.

Dustin Tackett: Florida State's defense will be adding a few missing pieces this weekend, one of which - Matthew Thomas - has missed the first six games. I think Thomas works quite a bit of Mike, spying Everett Golson and ends up forcing a fumble. Defense plays fast, plays confident and plays assignment football. The offense is hungry, they must feast, and feast they will. The depleted Irish secondary won't have much of an impact, and not only can they not afford to double Rashad Greene because of lack of depth, but Bobo Wilson and the emerging Travis Rudolph will make them pay if they do. Blitz away, Irish, but you won't find any gold at the end of that rainbow - Winston is strong against the blitz. FSU wins 45-24.

The K-Man: The weather finally turned crisp. College Gameday brings their gallows back to Tallahassee as FSU's 2nd perfect season faces more trial and tribulation. No matter witch new curdling hurdle is thrown at Winston, he's able to hocus focus on Saturday and serve a healthy potion of points.

In his 19 starts, nobody's made Jameis Winston appear mortal, as 34 points is his cold dusty floor. Jimbo Fisher shall dig deep into his bag of tricks, using an evil concoction of vertical passes and mysterious screens to bewilder the oppressive Irish defense. He'll cackle in delight if their questionable secondary bites on the play action apple. Young heretic Dalvin Cook will eventually grow haggard vs. a vaunted ND rush defense, and Karlos spells him in 2nd half. How do the Irish cover their fellow countryman O'Leary? Two defenders better double, double toil or it will be trouble. FSU throws ostracized linebacker Matthew Thomas directly into the fire. He's arguably the Nole's most puritan pass rusher. The Noles D has looked wretched against mobile QB's. FSU must summon pressure and frighten Golson, as he's prone to Salem over his receivers' heads. If you spook Everett, things might look Grimm for the visitors. Our coven of wicked DB's will be flying around Doak.

Will the football Gods look down favorably upon the pagan champs? Can Jameis cast off the distractions and deliver a bubbling cauldron of highlights? Yes. Because when you think of Jameis, you think execution no matter the circumstances. The media is finally able to suspend.......disbelief: FSU is guilty of playing great.
Satanoles 41, America 24

Alan Mundy: On offense: I think FSU will come out throwing from 11 and 10 personnel. The Notre Dame secondary, especially the depth at corner is their weak spot and FSU will have favorable matchups there. Their front 7 is deep and talented and I don't think FSU will have much success running the ball against them. Watch for Jimbo to go to the QB run game to generate some kind of run threat. On defense: Notre Dame's run game is ineffective, largely due to OL issues, and I don't expect them to have much success with traditional runs. Draw action, especially QB draws, and scrambles could gash the FSU defense if they do not stay disciplined in their pass rush. Golson is going to make his fair share of plays, especially on extended plays, but he will also present the defense with several turnover opportunities. These must be converted. Prediction: FSU 38 Notre Dame 27

DKfromVA: I’ve been struggling with this one. Really haven’t had a great feeling about it this week for reasons I’m not quite sure. I think ND can contain the FSU run game and get them off schedule at times with an athletic front seven, but I do like the match-ups between FSU’s wideouts and the ND secondary. I think they’ll have success throwing early and move the ball. ND’s redzone defense has been pretty good this year, and I think Aguayo gets some significant work. On defense, I think FSU can give the ND line some problems with Goldman and Edwards, but its hard for me to think Golson won’t break contain and hit some long plays over the top. The questions will be how well FSU keeps Golson in front of them and how well they’re able to handle the Irish run game. If either of those things go poorly for FSU, the ‘Noles could be in trouble. But, Jameis, Aguayo, and an enraged home crowd. 29-24 ‘Noles.