The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will host the Florida State Seminoles on November 10th this year, and will be looking for revenge for the last three times the Irish and the Seminoles have played each other. That could be a tough ask though, as FSU looks set to have another strong team in their first season after Jimbo Fisher’s departure.
1. What’s your overall impression of how Florida State’s 2017 season went?
FSU’s 2017 season was nothing short of a colossal disappointment. Even after dropping an opener against Alabama, one that the Seminoles were supposed to lose anyway, this team still had promise. Yes, losing QB Deondre Francois for the season late in that contest against the Tide hurt, as it forced Florida State to turn to a true-freshman signal-caller in James Blackman. Remember, even Jameis Winston took a redshirt year at FSU. Still, this team was largely rudderless, as Jimbo Fisher and most of his staff had one foot out the door for a good part of the campaign. Most FSU fans were just very appreciative that Seminole great Odell Haggins was able to step in and salvage the nation’s longest bowl and winning-record streaks.
2. Will Florida State be better or worse in 2018?
Vegas seems to think that FSU will win around 8 games, and while that may seem low, the Seminoles play arguably the toughest schedule in the country. If the ‘Noles finish worse than they did last season (7-6), protective netting may have to be installed around Tallahassee’s skyscrapers. So yeah, they should be better.
3. What’s going to be the biggest change between last year’s Florida State team and this one?
In a word? Fun. Energy. Enthusiasm. Buy-in. Okay, those are several words, and that last one is more than one word. But the point is that Fisher’s message had grown stale in Tallahassee. After much practice, I could transcribe most of his answers before he’d even given them-- and if you’ve ever heard Fisher give a presser, he’s not an easy guy to transcribe. The rewind button on my voice recorded is as worn out as Sean Astin’s head on the Rudy statue on Notre Dame’s campus, if there were one. Kidding. Nobody’s gonna risk the back problems that could follow reaching down to rub Sean Astin’s head. Again, kidding-- Goonies never die. But Fisher’s Saban-esque mantra about “The Process” at FSU? That was dead. Chester Copperpot dead.
4. Who are the big name players to watch for Florida State this year?
Y’all remember that Dalvin Cook guy? For the longest time, FSU fans debated if he was a better ‘Nole running back than the great Warrick Dunn. Last year, the top RB recruit in the country, Cam Akers, came along and shattered the Florida State freshman rushing record that Cook had established in 2014. While not quite as shifty as Dunn or Cook, Akers is more powerful, which could serve him well against ND come November. And he’s surrounded by a running back stable that may be the nation’s best. That said, the Seminole OL is still largely inexperienced and unproven.
Defensively, keep your eye on No. 99, Brian Burns. A weak-side defensive end, Burns features crazy athleticism and bend, along with an unremitting desire to get after the passer. He’s freakishly long and playing in what could be his money year, should he decide to come out early. And new FSU defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett, formerly of Michigan State, has made no secret of his desire to get after the opposition’s QB, while relying on the Seminoles’ deep and diverse secondary to pick up the slack. Florida State is known as DBU for a reason: last season’s NFL first-team corners, Jalen Ramsey and Xavier Rhodes, are ‘Noles.
5. What’s your prediction for this team’s game against Notre Dame this year?
If I had to make a call right now, I’d take Notre Dame. The simple truth is that this is an FSU squad embarking on a rough 2018 schedule with an almost entirely new coaching staff. That’s a rather new concept in Tallahassee, after decades under Bobby Bowden and then a coach-in-waiting transition to Fisher. This is an offseason unlike any FSU has experienced in a long, long time. And the Seminoles will be tested right out of the gate in a primetime tilt against Virginia Tech. Adversity is a near certainty, even if we don’t know when, and how, it will occur. The manner in which Florida State responds will tell us a lot about the Willie Taggart regime, and the game against the Irish will be one of those benchmarks.
For more on the Seminoles, check out David’s work on TomahawkNation.com.