Fighting Irish Have Knockout Punch Ready for Visiting Florida State

notre dame florida state

Rainman M.

Monday, November 5, 2018 11:55 AM UTC

Monday, Nov. 5, 2018 11:55 AM UTC

Currently holding the last playoff spot, the Irish won’t just want to beat Florida State -- they’ll want to cover the very large spread and they’re more than capable of doing so.

Florida State (4-5, 3-6 ATS) at No. 4 Notre Dame (9-0, 4-4-1 ATS)Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBC)Free NCAAF Pick: Notre Dame ATSBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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In South Bend, Indiana, the Seminoles will face temperatures about 40 degrees colder than what they faced in their last game. They could show up motivated despite the cold weather. But then again, Florida State hasn’t shown up all year. For example, its defense came out with awesome energy against top-ranked Clemson and the game was tied at zero after a quarter. But the game slowly tipped toward Clemson's favor and Florida State quickly lost its toughness. The game ended in a 59-10 Clemson victory. A culture of quitting seems to be establishing itself at FSU ever since its starting quarterback got injured in last year’s season opener. Since then, FSU is 6-14-1 ATS. This year, Florida State’s only covers came against Northern Illinois from the MAC, obviously a beatable opponent for an ACC team, Wake Forest, which has been a disaster in its own right with one of the nation’s worst defenses, and Miami, one of its two most hated rivals. Notre Dame is neither a beatable opponent, a disaster, or a hated rival.

Florida State’s defense has been especially problematic. In its past two games, against Clemson and NC State, the Seminoles allowed combined 106 points. Florida State allowed Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence to have his best game of the season in terms of yards and touchdown-to-interception ratio. Against NC State, FSU allowed Reggie Gallaspy to have his best game in terms of yards per carry (5.0) with at least double-digit carries. Those are the only ACC teams that FSU has faced which have both a capable rushing attack and a dangerous passing attack and FSU has shown little ability to stop a balanced offense.

The versatility of Notre Dame’s rush attack helped them stay undefeated last week against Northwestern. Dexter Williams improved the team’s running back situation when he returned from suspension against Stanford. Northwestern exerted extra effort to bottle him up last week, but ultimately had to pay for it. Notre Dame sealed the game when quarterback Ian Book faked a handoff to Williams up the middle and ran outside for the game’s final touchdown. Book won’t play against Florida State due to a rib injury. But his backup Brandon Wimbush is a more adept runner who also throws a better deep ball. When he played throughout last season, he averaged 5.7 YPC, which is almost as many as Williams averages this year. He flexed his deep ball ability against Michigan, connecting on a couple dimes en route to a 24-point effort against a defense that has given up fewer than 24 points to every other opponent. FSU will have to account for the running ability of both Wimbush and Williams, not to mention Tony Jones, who had started while Williams was suspended, and change-of-pace speedster Jafari Armstrong.

FSU’s secondary lost half of its top guys in the offseason and has dealt with a few injuries. Above all, its top cornerback Levanta Taylor is listed as "questionable" for Saturday with an undisclosed injury. FSU has been lit up by its last two opposing quarterbacks faced, NC State’s Ryan Finley and Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Under the leadership of a new defensive coordinator, the secondary has yet to deal even somewhat successfully with a challenging pass attack.

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On offense, FSU may be dealing with a quarterback controversy because James Blackmon started last week and may start again even if Deondre Francois is healthy. No matter who starts, Notre Dame is likely to achieve many sacks. FSU’s offensive line is about as awful as it was last year. It lacked depth to start the season and was inflicted with injury issues since the opener. It ranks 82nd in percentage of sacks allowed. Although Blackmon would signify an improvement over Francois in terms of feeling opposing pressure and navigating the pocket, he took five sacks last week from an NC State squad whose defensive line was decimated by 145 starts' worth of offseason departures. Notre Dame will be ready should Blackmon/Francois attempt 46 passes like last week. It ranks eighth in opposing passer rating, led by top cornerback Julian Love. The d-line presents a huge mismatch against FSU’s rush attack. It returned six of eight, including first-teamer Jerry Tillery, who leads the team with six sacks. ND ranks 37th in opposing yards per carry. Its best effort was to limit Michigan stud Karan Higdon to his worst game in terms of yards per carry, 2.2 below his season average.

With your NCAAF Picks, expect Notre Dame to cover the number posted on the NCAAF odds board by blowing past Florida State.

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