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FSU vs. Notre Dame: Keys to victory, predictions

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Florida State (1-2) goes on the road to take on No. 5 Notre Dame (2-0) on Saturday night in a game that will be televised nationally by NBC at 7:30 p.m. The Seminoles enter the game in search of their first ACC and FBS win of the season after beating Jacksonville State, 41-24, last week. The Fighting Irish have beaten Duke, 27-13, and South Florida, 52-0, and had their game against Wake Forest postponed due to concerns about Covid-19.

Redshirt sophomore Jordan Travis is expected to make the first start of his FSU career in the game after leading the team back from a 14-0 deficit to JSU last week. According to the depth chart FSU released earlier in the week left guard Dontae Lucas will return to the starting lineup after being benched for disciplinary reasons against JSU. Maurice Smith is also expected back at center, which will allow Baveon Johnson to move back to right guard and Devontay Love-Taylor back to right tackle.

On defense, Marvin Wilson is expected to be back in the lineup after sitting out of the first half of the game against JSU due to being called for targeting in the second half of the Miami. Wilson only played in 12 second-half snaps in the FSU win. Safeties Travis Jay and Hamsah Nasirildeen are listed on the two-deep but it is unknown whether or not they are healthy enough to play. Both players were listed in the team’s two-deep roster for the JSU game but neither dressed for the game.

This will be the 10th meeting between the two storied programs with the Seminoles holding a 6-3 advantage over the Fighting Irish.

FSU will be face on tough task against a veteran Notre Dame team. The Osceola staff takes a look at what the keys are to a Florida State upset in South Bend:

Keys to Victory

Keep Your Dukes Up Early – Notre Dame entered the season opener against Duke as a 20-point favorite but the game was much more competitive than that, especially early in the game. FSU can not allow Notre Dame to take an early lead like it has in games against Miami and Jacksonville State. Duke’s defense forced Notre Dame to go three-and-out on its first three possessions and FSU’s defense needs to get similar results early against the Irish. They also made Notre Dame earn their points the hard way, sustaining drives. Notre Dame’s only touchdown drive of the first half came on a 96-yard drive and their second score, a 48-yard field goal, on a 54-yard drive. Duke’s offense also had most of it success early with 246 of their 334 total yards coming in the first half. FSU needs to go into the locker room at halftime with the Irish knowing they have a four-quarter game on their hands. FSU young team could continue to build off last week’s second-half performance by taking the fight to Notre Dame early by having first-half success on offense and defense. The Seminoles must play the most physical brand of football we have seen this season and let the Irish know its going to be a battle all night.

Extra Possessions/Short Fields – In 2011 when I was on the South Florida football staff we played Notre Dame in the second game of the season as a huge underdog, just like FSU is on Saturday. Statistically we shouldn’t have been in the game. Notre Dame had 509 yards of offense that day to USF’s 254 yards but whether they were forced or unforced, earned or lucky, Notre Dame turned the ball over five times that day (including one that resulted in a defensive touchdown). USF took advantage of Notre Dame’s turnovers and short-field situations by scoring nine points on three drives that covered a combined 81 yards and and just 16 plays. The outcome was a 23-20 upset of the Irish. FSU’s defense needs to take the ball away, earned or gift wrapped, from Notre Dame several times on Saturday, creating short field opportunities. And if the offense is afforded those chances they must take advantage of them by putting points on the board be it field goals or touchdowns.

Time of Possession and the Kitchen Sink-Florida State needs to do what it can to establish long drives and control the clock. That’s easier said than done against a Notre Dame defensive line that has been stingy against the run. What can FSU do? Throw everything, just short of the kitchen sink, at the Irish. FSU should use its offensive strengths – talent at running back and Jordan Travis’ mobility – to run or with option plays. Travis was also successful throwing off play-action in the win over Jacksonville State. If FSU wins the time of possession in this game it likely means that the Seminoles have found success on the ground, which provides the added benefit of keeping Notre Dame’s offense and the FSU defense off the field. Last, go for it on fourth-and-short a few times, especially if FSU is between the 50 and just outside of field-goal range. It will always be tempting to punt-and-pin the Irish deep, but to have a chance to pull off the upset Mike Norvell will need to take some calculated risks.

Predictions

Patrick Burnham – Notre Dame 34, FSU 21

Jerry Kutz – Notre Dame 34, FSU 17

Bob Ferrante – Notre Dame 45, FSU 17

Mark Salva – Notre Dame 42, FSU 17