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No. 5 Notre Dame vs. Florida State: Who, what, when, where, why and by how much?

Jordan Botelho

ND No. 3 Jordan Botelho in the second half vs. USF (9.19.20) at Notre Dame Stadium

WHO? No. 5 Notre Dame (2-0, 1-0 ACC) vs. Florida State (1-2, 0-2).Every time this matchup shows up on a schedule, there is hope for rekindling what once was, namely what was 27 years ago. If not that “Game of the Century,” then even the 2014 meeting was competitive, dramatic and consequential. But instead, 2018’s 42-13 Irish victory made it clear the two programs diverged since that controversial offensive pass interference call negated a game-winning Corey Robinson touchdown. That said, for the sake of eventful college football, there is still annual hope the Seminoles have reversed their trend, something that could conceivably happen quickly due to the innate talent on the roster. Brian Kelly acknowledged that expectation this week, giving first-year Florida State head coach Mike Norvell the benefit of the doubt.

“Mike will get this football team playing better football,” Kelly said. “I just hope it’s not this weekend.”

WHAT? As schedules were remade on the fly late this summer, Notre Dame essentially involuntarily traded USC, Stanford, Wisconsin and Arkansas for four ACC games: vs. Florida State, at Boston College, at North Carolina and vs. Syracuse. It was a significant downgrade in strength of schedule, as the Irish avoided Miami and Virginia Tech, both appearing to be the true third-tier of the ACC, below Notre Dame, which is obviously below No. 1 Clemson.

WHEN? A 7:41 ET kickoff will not include brisk temperatures for the Seminoles to cope with, unless 65 degrees and falling to 58 counts as unbearably chilly.

WHERE? Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., where the Irish have never opened a season with four home games, as they will this year due to postponing their first road trip thanks to a coronavirus outbreak that included about 30 positive tests. The last time Notre Dame began a season with four home games was in 1912 when the Irish were still playing their home games at Cartier Field under head coach … … … this pause is simply to give you a chance to remember who preceded Jesse Harper, Knute Rockne’s predecessor … … … John L. Marks, who went 13-0-2 across two seasons, both of which began with a month at home.

The captain of that 1912 team? None other than the throwing half of the pair that is credited with inventing the forward pass, Gus Dorais.

NBC will have the broadcast, while the game will stream online and via the NBC Sports app.

WHY? Not only did Notre Dame’s schedule need to be reshuffled, but so did Florida State’s, and to fulfill that, someone has to have the privilege each week of beating the Seminoles. This week, it is an Irish duty.

If that sounds dismissive of Florida State and the talent Kelly warned of, realize the Seminoles are on a four-game FBS losing streak, in which they have averaged 13.5 points per game; realize last year, Florida State beat only one FBS-level team that finished with a winning record, 8-5 Louisville; realize the Seminoles are on their third starting quarterback of the season in junior Jordan Travis, more a mobile threat than an aerial one; and lastly, realize there are deeper reasons the hypothetical talent is not currently as prevalent as one generally presumes of a Power Five school in Florida.

Given those realities of the Seminoles’ current state, and Notre Dame’s continuing validation as a top-10 program, a 21-point spread in Irish favor should not surprise anyone, along with a combined point total over/under of 53.5. That generates conjecture of a 37-16 final score.

Notre Dame is coming off a three-week layoff between games, and before that unwanted break, the timing was not exactly clicking in the Irish passing attack. The return of junior receiver Kevin Austin and the bettered health of classmate Braden Lenzy should only help that concern, but perhaps not drastically or abruptly.

That struggle continuing would not necessarily further hamper Notre Dame’s scoring. By calling rushes on 68.18 percent of the plays against South Florida (45 of 66 plays), Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees found his way to 45 points.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame has held opponents beneath their team total over/under in seven of its last eight games and in 20 of Clark Lea’s 28 as defensive coordinator.

Maybe the Irish run into a bit more resistance from the Seminoles than they did the Bulls, but there should still be ample opportunity to reach the end zone four or more times while Lea’s defense keeps Florida State out of it most of the evening, no matter how many rotation players it is without as Notre Dame’s outbreak still keeps a handful or two of players in isolation or quarantine, already known to include sophomore linebacker Jack Kiser and senior defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa.

Notre Dame 38, Florida State 10.
(2-0 straight up, 2-0 against the spread, 1-1 over/under)

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