5 Things To Watch

Florida State: Five Things To Watch

The throwback angle brings back sepia-toned memories of 1993 when Notre Dame Stadium was the site of the most-hyped football game in its history between a pair of November unbeatens, the top-rated Seminoles and the second-rated Irish.
But fast-forward to 2018—and there are plenty of reasons for both the current Notre Dame and Florida State teams to try to make history Saturday night in that same Irish home facility.
The quarterbacks are iffy, the weather looks frigid and complicated at best, the Irish are trying to keep their playoff hopes alive and the ‘Noles are fighting to maintain their 36-year consecutive bowl streak.
Here’s what else to consider in advance of the Notre Dame matchup with Florida State:
And, so, who exactly is going to play quarterback? Who would have guessed that 11 weeks into the college football season both Notre Dame and Florida State would have some uncertainty at quarterback? Seminole coach Willie Taggart Thursday said he still had not made a decision on that subject and wanted to see how practice went even as late as Friday. It’s either Deondre Francois (he missed last week’s game versus North Carolina State after suffering a concussion against Clemson the previous Saturday) or James Blackman (he opened some eyes against the Wolfpack by throwing for 421 yards and four scores). Meanwhile, Irish coach Brian Kelly revealed late Thursday that Ian Book is day to day with an upper-body injury. That means Brandon Wimbush could well see major playing time against the Seminoles for the first time since Book took over the top job against Wake Forest in late September. Both coaches feel like their teams can win no matter who plays under center. Stay tuned.   
The Irish must find ways to disrupt. The ‘Noles boast their share of game-breaking skill players. That suggests there’s plenty for Notre Dame’s defense to contend with Saturday night. The Irish kept Northwestern off-balance a week ago with pressure on quarterback Clayton Thorson, and that figures to be a key again this weekend. Only three times in 2018 has Florida State topped the 100-yard mark in team rushing—and the Irish will attempt to add to that trend.
Will the weather make a difference? The high today in Tallahassee is 80 degrees. The low Saturday night in South Bend is 24 degrees, and some snow fell overnight on Thursday. Will that have any effect on either team? It’s probably safe to say the Irish at least have more experience playing in colder conditions.
There’s plenty of motivation to go around. Florida State plays three ranked teams (No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 17 Boston College and No. 19 Florida) to finish the regular season and needs wins in two of those to become bowl eligible. Thirty-two Irish seniors will be introduced before the game Saturday night in their final appearance at Notre Dame Stadium. The game could pivot on which team rides longer and higher on whatever emotional wave is produced.
Something has to give. Notre Dame has permitted 174 or fewer passing yards to five of its past six opponents. Florida State has thrown the football for at least 268 yards in five of its last six outings. Expect a busy night for Julian Love and the rest of the Irish pass defenders.   
John Heisler, senior associate athletics director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 1978. A South Bend, Indiana, native, he is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame. He is the author, co-author or editor of 12 books (one a New York Times bestseller) and editor of the award-winning “Strong of Heart” series.