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No. 3 Notre Dame vs. Florida State: Who, what, when, where, why and by how much?

In a game that truly lives up to the hype, the No. 2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeat the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles 31-24.

WHO? No. 3 Notre Dame (9-0) vs. Florida State (4-5).

WHAT? This should not be construed as a revival of the rivalry that begat the 1993 classic or a chance for revenge for the “illegal pick” game of 2014. This is separate from those, but using that 2014 Irish defeat in Tallahassee as a context point, it is interesting to take a look at the two programs since.

The Seminoles finished 2014 at 13-1 with the loss in the College Football Playoff semifinal. Two so-so years of 10-3 followed before the bottom fell out from beneath Jimbo Fisher with last year’s 7-6 showing that required a game added to the schedule to reach bowl eligibility. Fisher took off for Texas A&M before that could even be played, leading to Willie Taggart’s arrival and the current 4-5 situation.

Notre Dame limped to the finish line in 2014 with a defense beset by injuries, showed well in 2015 before losing its last two and then the bottom fell out from beneath Brian Kelly in 2016 with a 4-8 record. Irish director of athletics Jack Swarbrick expressed patience, kept Kelly around and now Notre Dame is on the verge of winning double-digit games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1992 and 1993.

Since that pass interference call on Corey Robinson’s catch, Florida State has gone 37-18 while the Irish have gone 35-18. For having such similar records, the programs are currently trending in very different directions.

WHEN? 7:30 ET with kickoff scheduled for 7:37. Senior Day festivities will take place immediately prior, beginning at or about 7:24. It seems rather easy to expect fifth-year linebacker Drue Tranquill to be the last name called.

WHERE? Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., where winter is … here? Temperatures will top out today at 31 degrees in the mid-afternoon before falling to about 26 degrees at kickoff, per projections. Some snow may fall in the morning, but that is not expected to be an issue come kickoff.

NBC will have the broadcast, with the game streaming online here or on the NBC Sports app.

Per usual, NBC Sports Gold is available to international fans.

WHY? This was supposed to be a game which bolstered the Irish Playoff résumé. The Seminoles began the season ranked No. 19 by the AP. Instead, it is simply a game Notre Dame needs to get through without stubbing its toe, no matter who is starting at quarterback (senior Brandon Wimbush) or what color the Irish jerseys are (green).

A ranked Notre Dame has never played an unranked Florida State. Only in two of their eight previous meetings have the Irish been ranked higher, in 1995 and 2002.

Starting Wimbush rather than junior Ian Book at quarterback because of injury complicates this. Take, as an obvious example, how bookmakers reacted: Notre Dame had been favored by 18 points all week with a combined point total over/under of 54.5. When the news of Book’s status broke Thursday morning, those numbers shifted to 15.5 and 51.5, making for a projected score of 33-18.

Senior Days in South Bend can be tricky, on its own. The Irish are 0-4 against the spread in the home finale since a cold day against BYU in 2013, and 3-5 across Kelly’s eight years.

Expecting Wimbush to provide the 33 points necessary to reach those projections is a tall order. The offense averaged 23.3 points per game in his three starts to begin the season, and even with the addition of senior running back Dexter Williams, a 10-point improvement feels steep, especially against a deceptively-good Florida State defense.

The Notre Dame defense, however, should be able to shut down the atrocious Seminoles offense. In its last seven games, Florida State has averaged more than 2.7 yards per rush just once, against Wake Forest. In its last two, FSU has rushed for a total of three yards. Partly as a result, the Seminoles have attempted at least 40 passes in each of the last three games.

All that is to say, if anything, expect few points. If the Irish can match the temperature at any point in the game, they should be in fine shape for the week.

Notre Dame 24, Florida State 10.
(8-1 in pick; 4-5 against the spread, 4-5 point total.)

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