There’s certainly no opportune time to claim the lowest yards-per-rush average of any Power-5 team in the country, much less the second lowest average of any of the 130 FBS teams. But welcome to 2018, and the dismal state of the Seminole running game.
Thanks in no small part to an offensive-line situation that continues to spiral downward at Florida State, the ’Noles have averaged just 2.38 yards per carry through nine games this season. Only San Jose State “boasts” a lower average. Yes, those numbers include yards lost to quarterback sacks, but they still reflect a significant hinderance to the FSU offense— especially with a road trip to Notre Dame looming.
The current forecast for Saturday night’s primetime venue in northern Indiana includes a high of 33 degrees and a low of 26. The sun will set at 5:29, well before kickoff, so a game-time temperature below freezing seems likely. And wind could play a factor as well. As of publication, snow does not look to be in the mix— but that could change, as flurries are predicted for both the day before and the day after the game, and weather patterns could shift. So even while the Florida State passing game functioned better with James Blackman in a loss at NC State, this looks like a contest that will be played in conditions with which very few ’Noles have much experience.
Only two FSU players — neither of whom see much meaningful playing time — are from the midwest. Xavier Peters is from Ohio, while Naseir Upshur calls Philly home. And as someone born and raised in Michigan, I can personally attest to the chill in the air when temps drop. Those of us who’ve spent significant time in Florida can certainly speak to the effect of humidity in the summer, as opposed to the more manageable “dry heat” of the semi-arid states of the mountain west.
But due to Notre Dame’s proximity to Lake Michigan, it gets plenty of lake-effect weather. Specifically, whereas, say, Colorado winters are dry and relatively easy, the temperatures facing the Seminoles on Saturday night will feel colder than they actually are, because of the moisture in the air, which makes for a damp, bone-chilling cold.
The point is that it’s much easier to handoff and run in those conditions than it is to keep a southern QB’s hands warm while he then tries to find the seams on a cold football. On the other end, receivers used to warm weather can sometimes adjust their technique, at times using their bodies when they lose trust in brittle, chapped hands. So, FSU’s inability to run the ball consistently, while always a detriment, could prove even more so when the ’Noles square off against the Irish on Saturday evening.