Notre Dame is back in action tonight after a three week break following the COVID-19 outbreak in the program. The Irish host a Florida State program that is currently but a shell of its former self. In normal years Notre Dame – Florida State would be a marquee game of the day. Today, this one is expected to be a laugher, but will it? Let’s break it down.
What I’m Worried About This Week
Rust. Notre Dame hasn’t played a game in three weeks after Wake Forest was canceled and the scheduled bye week last weekend. A three-week break is a somewhat uncharted territory for a program like Notre Dame since even bowl prep has more time off in between. With all of that, I expect some rust from Notre Dame early on, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Florida State came out and took an early lead as a result.
I don’t expect the rust to carry over throughout the entire game, but I do expect there to be some timing issues at first and perhaps some week one type mistakes that typically would have been worked out by now. It won’t be enough for Florida State to stay in the game for four quarters given their program’s state, but don’t freak out with a slow start.
Injuries & Availability. We don’t yet know if there will be a list of players announced hours before kickoff who will be unavailable ala the South Florida game, but we should expect there to be some players not available today that we don’t know about. Notre Dame also missed a lot of practice time and had to ramp back up before getting back to practice, so the worry for me there is injuries.
We saw a few hamstring and minor injuries early in the season following the shortened off-season. Notre Dame will need to be on guard for those today, so expect to see a healthy rotation of players across the board as some players will be on pitch counts, and the staff will want to keep everyone from playing too much after the time off.
What I’m Not Worried About This Week
Running game. While I do expect some timing issues in the passing game early, I expect Notre Dame to counterbalance that with some power running. Notre Dame’s rushing offense was looking formidable before the shutdown, and Florida State’s defense isn’t likely to offer much more resistance than the Irish encountered in their first two games.
I expect to see a lot of rotation at the running back position again this week between Kyren Williams, Chris Tyree, C’bo Flemister, and Jafar Armstrong again (all pending availability). Not sure who gets the lion’s share of the carries or if any of them will have an individual 100+ yard effort, but will be very surprised if the trio collectively doesn’t combine for over 200.
Florida State’s pass defense. The good thing about the likely rust for a Notre Dame passing game that wasn’t hitting on all cylinders before the break is that the Irish are facing a really, really bad pass defense. Florida State has let pretty much every quarterback they’ve faced this year to look much better than they are. That should bode well for Ian Book and Notre Dame.
The Irish need this game to get their passing game going. Louisville next week is a more challenging test, and in two weeks, the Irish face the second-best defense they’ll see all year in Pitt. After that is Clemson. This is the week Notre Dame needs to get the passing game going.
The Irish will be as healthy as they have been all year at receiver with Kevin Austin returning even if he is on a snap count of 15-20 plays this week. Braden Lenzy should be 100% after his early-season hamstring problems. Bennett Skowronek is cleared to play from his injury too. Tonight is the first time we’ll see the Irish receiving corps at 100%.
A new starting QB for FSU. Florida State’s offense is turning to its third different starting quarterback of the season already tonight. That is not the sign of an offense that should worry anyone much less a defense coached by Clark Lea. Notre Dame is missing Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa and Jack Kiser this weekend, but that shouldn’t be an issue with the depth behind them.
In recent years, Clark Lea’s defenses have given up some drives at the start of games before Lea adjusts and shuts them down so that could happen here with the time off. Think Louisville season opener last year. It wouldn’t shock me if we saw something like that for the first quarter before the Irish defense settles in.
- Kevin Austin – Even on a pitch count I expect to see Austin make a few impactful plays. If he doesn’t, that’s a bad sign for this passing offense.
- Braden Lenzy – Lenzy returned to action against South Florida but we didn’t see him get vertical. I am hoping to see a deep shot or two called for Lenzy.
- Kyle Hamilton – Hamilton is back in action this weekend too after missing the South Florida game. The time off actually helped Hamilton since he likely would have missed the Wake Forest game anyway.
- Isaiah Foskey – Before the break, Foskey was looking like a game-wrecker. FSU doesn’t have a good offensive line. Foskey should EAT tonight.
- Jayson Ademilola – With MTA out, Ademilola will get the start. He was neck and neck with MTA before getting the start tonight. With a big performance, he might not leave the starting lineup.
- Marist Liafui/Shayne Simon – Jack Kiser was the star of the South Florida game but is unavailable. If Liafui or Simon don’t grab hold of the position, Kiser could come back as the starter.
If you haven’t been able to tell by now, I think Notre Dame will start slow before eventually finding a grove and winning comfortably. Will they cover the 21 point spread? It’s possible and I think they will, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if FSU backdoor covered either. I think the Seminoles could have a lead after the first quarter causing a Twitter meltdown, but Notre Dame is bigger and stronger along the lines. Look for Tommy Rees to use the Irish ground attack to grind down Florida State and the passing attack to crush their souls.
Notre Dame 38-13