The question has been floating around the Notre Dame blogosphere for a couple of days now leading up to Saturday's gigantic showdown between the fifth-ranked Irish and #2 Florida State.
"Would you rather Jameis play or not?"
It first came up last Friday, when it was reported that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston will soon face a disciplinary hearing that will ostensibly determine whether he violated the school's student code of conduct when he did whatever it is that he did to be accused of sexual assault during his redshirt season in 2012. That case continues to cause controversy though Winston has yet to be formally charged, controversy which heated up when the New York Times ran a story last week accusing the Tallahassee police of, essentially, covering up crimes committed by FSU players.
The question has picked up even more steam this week, with Winston now allegedly having been involved with the same memorabilia dealer (EDIT: Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation helpfully points out in the comments that it was actually a memorabilia authenticator, not a dealer) who got Todd Gurley in hot water with Georgia brass (and led to Gurley's indefinite suspension). While FSU coach Jimbo Fisher is, at least publicly, adamant his QB is innocent and will play, there remains the possibility (though likely faint) that either a) FSU decides enough is enough and benches Winston anyway, or b) Winston does some other stupid thing by Saturday and forces the school's hand again.
There are some obvious pros and cons, from an ND perspective, to Winston playing this week. Certainly, FSU being without a Heisman Trophy winner and national champion QB would help ND's chances of coming out with an upset win Saturday night, which would move the Irish up to, at least, #4 in the (now meaningless) polls. After all, Winston threw for over 4,000 yards last season and is averaging over 300 yards a game, with a total of 11 passing TDs, this year. As we all know, he's also never lost as a starting QB.
Then again, how seriously would such a win be taken nationally, especially by the selection committee that's tasked with assembling this year's playoff? ND's schedule is already taking hits, justified or not, from some in the national media for not being as difficult as it first appeared, thanks largely to Michigan's miserable performance so far this year. A win without Winston at FSU, which barely looked like a top 25 team in the one game it's already played without Winston this season (an overtime win vs. Clemson), would likely be dismissed as being merely a solid win rather than the statement victory Irish fans would prefer. While a win against a full-strength Seminoles team would give ND some cachet in playoff discussions even if the Irish slipped up later at Arizona State or USC, one without Winston involved might not.
Of course, on the other hand, Winston playing would clearly be a dangerous prospect to the Irish's hopes of a win. ND struggled defensively against North Carolina last Saturday, and while the ‘Noles don't run the same type of offense, UNC might have given FSU some ideas on how to attack Brian VanGorder's defense. A loss to a Winston-led FSU, while it likely wouldn't eliminate the Irish from playoff contention, would eliminate any margin of error the team may have. Winning out, and doing so impressively, would be ND's only chance to make the playoff at that point.
Personally, I want Jameis to play. Florida State is one of the best teams in the country, and I want to play them as such. Part of the Notre Dame ethos is the idea that the school will try to do things the right way, and even if you want to do them the wrong way, they'll still beat you. Several ND coaches have underscored this point this week, parading the Irish's graduation rate as compared to the other four teams in the AP top 5 (spoiler: ND's is a lot higher than theirs).
FSU has gone this far without administering any significant punishment for Winston's various alleged misdeeds (it grows more ironic by the day that the thing that actually cost Winston a game was far less serious than basically anything else he's been in the news for doing), so I'd prefer it if the ‘Noles went full heel and just kept playing him. It would strengthen ND's schedule, and dammit, it would just be more meaningful as a fan to beat the ‘Noles at their best.
However, I know my opinion isn't the only one. A poll has been created below for your voting pleasure. Tell us what you think. Go Irish.