Notre Dame Football 2014 Off-Season Preview: Florida State Seminoles

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The champs are here.

FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES

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2013 Record: 14-0

F/+ Rank: 1

Wins: Pittsburgh, Nevada, Bethune-Cookman, Boston College, Maryland, Clemson, NC State, Miami, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Idaho, Florida, Duke, Auburn

Losses: N/A

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Season Recap

Not much negativity to talk about when you win the National Championship. The Seminoles claimed their 3rd title in school history and have now won their last 6 post-season games. FSU finished second in the country in points-per-game and and set the NCAA record for most points in a single season with 723. They were the only other team besides Baylor to pass for at least 4,000 yards and rush for at least 2,500 from the major conferences. The Seminoles 7.67 yards per play led the nation as did their 12.1 points surrendered on defense. So basically, the 2012 Irish defense but with an offense that scored twice as many points per game.

Series: 5-2-0 Florida State

Florida State is one of a handful of teams to have a decided edge in a series with Notre Dame. The Seminoles have been ranked in every single meeting and have been in the Top 10 for four of the meetings against the Irish. The Game of the Century back in 1993 is memorable for Notre Dame--as was the visit to Tallahassee in 2002--but a 37-0 embarrassment in 2003 and a coughed up victory in the 2012 Champs Sports Bowl have been the two latest games in this series.

Coach Resume: Jimbo Fisher (45-10, 5th Year)

For a while it looked like Fisher wouldn't be all that different from the late Bobby Bowden era results but after last year things are trending up in a big way. Since October 15, 2011 he is 33-3 with the Seminoles. Fisher is also 4-0 in the post-season and has now won back-to-back ACC championships in addition to last year's National Championship.

Linemen Situation: Very Strong

Center Bryan Stork is a big loss and leaves behind 40 career starts in addition to being last year's Rimington Award winner and a consensus All-American. The rest of the line is all coming back. Fifth-year senior Cameron Erving (14 starts) returns at left tackle, senior Josue Matias (14 starts) returns at left guard, senior Tre Jackson (13 starts) returns at right guard, and Bobby Hart (14 starts) returns at right tackle. If Austin Barron replaces Stork at center then the Seminoles will have an entire offensive line of seniors.

A few players are lost on the defensive line none more important than Timmy Jernigan who started all 14 games last year and earned All-American status at defensive tackle with 63 tackles, 11 TFL, and 4.5 sacks. Demonte McAllister also leaves after totaling 22 tackles and 1 TFL as does Jacobbi McDaniel and his 29 tackles, and 2.5 TFL.

A pair of former 5-star recruits now entering their junior seasons in Eddie Goldman and Mario Edwards still anchor the line moving forward. Goldman has developed into a jumbo-sized defensive end at 314 pounds and totaled 19 tackles, 3 TFL, and 2 sacks last year. Edwards will be one of the top defensive ends in the 2015 NFL Draft if he comes out next year and totaled 28 tackles, 9.5 TFL, and 3.5 sacks in 2013.

Returning Quarterback: Like You Didn't Know

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner returns following a sensational redshirt freshman season in which he led the country in passer rating and was first among major conference quarterbacks in touchdown passes. His 4,057 passing yards also ranked 9th in the country. While not a super dangerous runner Winston can move pretty well for a bigger quarterback (6-4, 227) and rushed for 219 yards and 4 scores in 2013.

Biggest Problem for 2014: Wide Receiver

I'm definitely stretching the definition of 'problem' here because Florida State's roster is ridiculously healthy for a defending champion that has seen a boat load of players leave for the NFL over the past couple years. They do return 2013 leading receiver Rashad Greene (76 receptions, 1,128 yards, 9 TD) but Kenny Shaw (54 receptions, 933 yards, 6 TD) is out of eligibility and Kelvin Benjamin (54 receptions, 1,011 yards, 15 TD) left early for the NFL.

With one of the country's best tight ends in Nick O'Leary (33 receptions, 557 yards, 7 TD) coming back and perhaps the country's best freshmen receiver class coming in this fall the Seminoles should be fine even if there are some growing pains.

Biggest Strength for 2014: Quarterback

Pick your choice, you could also make a perfectly good case for offensive line or the secondary. Nothing is more important in college than the signal caller and FSU returns an All-American at the position.

Offensive Scheme: Pro-Style/Multiple

The Seminoles mix some under center with a fullback type of schemes with a lot of shotgun 4-wide looks as well. Prior to 2013 there was a lot more option read in the offense but that part of the offense was reduced last year with Jameis Winston at quarterback. Florida State's offense has received the "simple" tag and relies on talent straight up beating your talent.

Special Teams: 3/4

Kenny Shaw returned a bulk of the punts last year and he's moved on. Freshman Levonte Whitfield only caught 5 passes in 2013 but he totaled an astounding 619 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 17 kick returns last year.

Rising redshirt sophomore Roberto Aguayo nailed 21 of 22 field goal attempts and is the reigning Lou Groza Award Winner as the country's top kicker. Rising junior Cason Beatty returns as the punter and is entering his third year as the starter.

Famous Alum: Burt Reynolds

Technically didn't graduate but attended Florida State on a football scholarship before suffering an injury in a car accident.

Random Stat: 49.6

That was Florida State's penalty yards per game which was above average nationally in 2013.

Summary

If a publication doesn't have Florida State as the No. 1 preseason team stop reading and immediately write them a sternly worded letter. This team is absolutely loaded and ready to defend their National Championship. The Heisman winner at QB returns, he'll be protected by 5 seniors, and the Seminoles do not lack for playmakers on offense. You could pick some holes on their defense but there are also 4 starters returning who have projected potential as 1st round NFL Draft picks. In total your average 2015 NFL Mock Draft has as many as 8 Seminoles going in the first two rounds alone.

Florida State's schedule looks a little more daunting than last year so that could slow them down somewhat. Games against Oklahoma State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Louisville, Miami, and Florida offer one of the better top half schedules in the country. It won't be easy to breeze through a schedule like that.

At any rate, I don't expect this game to be close. The Irish will be coming directly off games against Stanford and North Carolina while FSU will have played a soft stretch of NC State, Wake Forest, and Syracuse prior to hosting Notre Dame in Tallahassee. The Irish have only lost one game over the past 3 years by more than 14 points and that was in the BCS Title Game against Alabama. I don't think this game will be quite that level of an embarrassment. Still, it wouldn't surprise me if FSU leads by 10-14 points for the majority of the game and ultimately pulls away with a margin of victory in the low 20's range.

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