Photo courtesy of Atlantic Coast Conference
Everything seems back to normal. The COVID-19 pandemic is still looming (sort of), but football season is back in full swing.
The NCAA and various conferences have established rules for vaccination rates and forfeiting, so no lingering virus is stopping this season from chugging forward as planned.
As for Florida State, there’s… excitement? After a 3-win season? The coaching staff has had a very busy offseason.
The new-look Seminoles have to be up to the task, because their first game is a home date against ninth-ranked Notre Dame.
(9) Notre Dame at Florida State
- Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.
- Sunday, Sept. 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
- Notre Dame -7.5, O/U 55.5
Norvell Year 2: Electric Boogaloo
Florida State head coach Mike Norvell’s first season could have been better, to say the least. The Seminoles finished with their lowest win total (three) since head coach Darrell “Dr. Victory” Mudra’s team ended the 1975 season with just three victories.
However, Norvell’s inaugural season was marred by the COVID-19 pandemic. He and his coordinators had to install their schemes via Zoom. Strength and conditioning coach Josh Storms had to send weights out to players’ homes. Recruits couldn’t take visits on campus.
The result was essentially year zero for Florida State’s new coach. This year, Norvell and company have had the whole offseason to work on schemes alongside a full cycle of recruiting and weight training.
This year will really show what Norvell brings to the table for FSU.
Meanwhile, Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish are on a roll. Notre Dame is coming off four consecutive 10-plus-win seasons, with two appearances in the College Football Playoff.
However, Notre Dame football is experiencing an identity shift this year. The Fighting Irish lost 14 players to the NFL Draft this offseason.
Particularly of interest is the quarterback position. It’s looking like the Irish will be relying on Wisconsin transfer Jack Coan behind center. Coan has big shoes to fill, as he is replacing three-year starter Ian Book. Book won more games at Notre Dame than any starting quarterback ever.
When FSU’S On Offense
We know one thing going into 2021 for sure: Florida State can run the ball. Every Seminole rusher who touched the ball more than 20 times averaged over five yards per carry. Jordan Travis even broke the school’s single season rushing record for a quarterback.
The Seminoles have a deep running back room and an improving offensive line, so there’s still room to grow on the ground.
FSU’s passing attack was not as successful. The ‘Noles were one of the worst in the country passing, but there is reason to believe it will be better. Reports out of camp say that Travis is much improved as a passer. If UCF transfer McKenzie Milton wins the job instead, he is an elite passer who will surely improve the pass game.
The Seminole offense is currently rated 41st in ESPN’s SP+ rankings out of 130 teams.
Unfortunately for the ‘Noles, Notre Dame’s defense is going to be one of the better defenses they face this year. Led by stud safety Kyle Hamilton, the Irish defense sits at 18th in ESPN’s SP+ rankings.
Florida State will need to establish the run early and often to get the offense going. With Hamilton over the top, throwing deep will prove difficult.
When FSU’S On Defense
Hopefully the Seminoles do not have as abysmal of a showing on defense as last year. Defensive coordinator Adam Fuller did not impress in year one, fielding one of the worst defenses FSU has had in more than 30 years.
Now, there are no excuses. With a full offseason and a plethora of transfers at his disposal, Fuller has the pieces to run a competent defense. If the group has significant struggles again, FSU might wind up looking for a new defensive coordinator.
With all the new transfer pieces and an offseason of development, FSU’s SP+ defensive ranking has raised from 85th to 69th.
Notre Dame’s 27th-ranked offense is definitely above average, but not elite. Coan is a decent quarterback and the Irish have one of the nation’s top returning tight ends in Michael Mayer. They also have a solid offensive line, despite losing a few key starters.
Notre Dame coordinator Tommy Rees is not known for explosive offenses. He prides himself in producing efficient, effective, game-controlling clock-burners.
FSU will need to put pressure on Coan, but more importantly, defend the middle of the field. The bane of the Seminole defense last year was tight ends streaking down the middle.
This isn’t a great match-up on paper, but season openers are full of surprises.
John: Notre Dame, 31-17. FSU shows signs of improvement but Notre Dame grinds it out late in the trenches.
Cory: Notre Dame, 38-24. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Until this team proves it has “it” on a consistent basis, I’m placing FSU firmly under Jeff Cameron’s “Tent of Suspicion”.
James: Notre Dame, 30-20. They (Notre Dame) are better than us (FSU) in the trenches right now, and Brian Kelly has a good running back with a quarterback starting that you only play conservatively. FSU puts on a good show.
Mike: Notre Dame, 34-24. Florida State shows significant improvement, but also shows that it is still far from being a force nationally or in the ACC. Expect positive things from the Seminoles, but a victory is asking too much.
Jake: Florida State, 30-27. Hear me out: last year the ‘Noles were hanging close in the first half but the Irish pulled away late. This will be a better FSU team vs. a worse Notre Dame team who lost a ton of talent. The Seminoles force Coan to make a few mistakes and pull it out in a close one.
CFBHome: Notre Dame, 33-17. Notre Dame is better in the trenches and I expect them to run the ball and exhaust Florida State’s line. Expect it to be a close first half but Notre Dame pulls away in the fourth quarter.