Tallahassee, FL (SportsNetwork.com) – The fifth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting
Irish square off with the second-ranked Florida State Seminoles in a marquee
matchup Saturday night at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Brian Kelly’s Irish have arguably one of the toughest schedules in the nation
this year and have thus far run the table, including a huge win over
powerhouse Stanford (17-14) two weeks ago. Notre Dame was involved in a
shootout last weekend at home and moved to 6-0 on the year with a 50-43
victory over North Carolina.
Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles are also an impressive 6-0 on the campaign. The
defending national champions ran the nation’s longest win streak to 22 games
with last week’s 38-20 road win at Syracuse. However, FSU was jumped this week
by Mississippi State, which took over the top spot in the Top-25.
Fisher wasn’t concerned with the poll and his team’s move down.
“Those things will all wash themselves out as the season goes on,” Fisher
said. “You can go up and down. If we go win (against) Notre Dame, does that
put us back up there again?
“We have an excellent opportunity to showcase our ability this week against
Florida State leads the all-time series with Notre Dame by a count of 5-2. The
Irish won the only previous matchup in Tallahassee in 2002, a 34-24 decision.
Notre Dame had no problems moving the football against North Carolina last
weekend, chewing up 519 total yards, with great success on the ground (219
yards) and through the air (300 yards). Moving the football has not been a
problem for much of the season, with the Irish averaging 444.3 yards per game.
Junior quarterback Everett Golson is the straw that stirs the drink in South
Bend. He didn’t play last season, but has picked up where he left off in 2012,
completing 62.5 percent of his passes, for 1,683 yards and 16 TDs. Golson is
also second on the team in rushing with four more scores.
Wide receiver Will Fuller has stepped up big time in the receiving corps for
Notre Dame in 2014. After seven catches, for 133 yards and one TD against the
Tar Heels, the 6-0 sophomore now has 35 receptions, for 504 yards and seven
The Irish backfield doesn’t have a workhorse to lean on, but the team does
generate 163.8 yards per game on the ground. Tarean Folston (4.4 ypc, 2 TDs),
Greg Bryant (4.7 ypc, 2 TDs) and Cam McDaniel (3.5 ypc, 2 TDs) are serviceable
The Fighting Irish used a suffocating defense to propel the team to the
national championship game back in 2012, and although Notre Dame was lit up by
North Carolina last time out, there have been flashes of dominant play on that
side of the football in 2014. Even with the 43 points surrendered last
weekend, Notre Dame still ranks eighth in the nation in scoring defense (17.2
Sophomore linebacker Jaylon Smith is the team’s top defensive playmaker,
leading the way with 49 total tackles. He also has 6.5 TFL and two sacks to
his credit. Senior linebacker Joe Schmidt is right behind with 48 stops.
Junior lineman Sheldon Day (6-2, 285) is a force up front.
While not on the same pace as last year’s national championship squad, Florida
State’s offense is still in the capable hands of Heisman Trophy winner Jameis
Winston for the time being. Winston, who is no stranger to off-the-field
controversy, could be embroiled in yet another one, this time an autograph
The FSU offense hums when he is at his best though, as the team is averaging a
healthy 462.5 ypg, thanks in large part to a passing attack that yields 324.0
ypg. Credit must be shared with a veteran offensive line stocked with NFL-
Winston has completed 70 percent of his passes this season, for 1,605 yards
and 11 TDs.
It definitely helps to have a veteran receiver playing at an All-American
level in senior Rashad Greene. The 6-0, 180-pounder is averaging over 100
yards per game and has 44 receptions, for 683 yards and three TDs on the
season. Senior tight end Nick O’Leary (24 rec, 275 yds, two TDs) is a valuable
asset as well as sophomore WR Jesus Wilson (21 rec, 262 yds, 4 TDs).
FSU’s ground attack hasn’t been as dominant, although getting tailback Karlos
Williams (353 yards, 4.8 ypc, 5 TDs) back after missing the Syracuse game with
an ankle injury should help.
The Seminoles are no longer a dominant defensive squad, although the numbers
aren’t bad by any stretch. The team is yielding 20.7 ppg this year on 358.5
yards of total offense.
Where the team has struggled a bit is in creating big plays, with a mere eight
sacks and 11 forced turnovers through the first six games.
The play of the linebackers has been solid, specifically juniors Terrance
Smith (50 tackles, 1 FF) and Reggie Northrup (50 tackles, 1 INT, 1 FR).
Sophomore CB Jalen Ramsey (44 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 1 INT) and junior CB P.J.
Williams (121 tackles, 1 INT) make things difficult on opposing receivers.
Eddie Goldman (20 tackles, 2 sacks) headlines the play along the defensive
Coach Kelly was asked if this game is like the National Championship Game
following the 2012 season in terms of preparation.
“No, I don’t think it’s the same,” said Kelly. “I think it will be an
environment that our kids will have to certainly get used to. We’ll prepare
them and talk a lot more about it this week. I won’t leave it up to we’re at
Notre Dame and we play in these kinds of environments. We’ve already brought
it up. We’ve already talked about it. We’ll spend more time on preparing them
for the environment that they’re going to be in. It will be a huge game. It’s
a national televised game. The crowd will be intense, but I don’t think it has
the same kind of routine leading up to it like a National Championship Game.”