We have finally reached that point in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football offseason where we can talk about this year’s opponents without thinking about it all as an event still months away. The conference media days are underway (lol conference things) and camp is just right around the corner. So, we’re dedicating each day (other than Chick-fil-A Day) to Notre Dame’s 2021 opponents, and starting off those days with a quick look preview. Join the conversation in the preview and the editorial in their respective comment sections, and/or use the FanPost/FanShot feature to share something more in depth.
Game 1 — Notre Dame at Florida State
Where: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Florida
When: September 5th (Sunday)
How to Watch: ABC and the various ESPN streaming services
The Noles are still struggling on the field thanks to Jimbo Fisher’s departure, the poor hiring of Willie Taggart, and Mike Norvell’s less than ideal handling of 2020’s COVID and social justice issues. Quite frankly, they are a sleeping giant that keeps getting fed Valium.
2020 really was an abysmal year with a 3-6 record that included 3 cancellations due to COVID. While the wins over the Duke Blue Devils and Jacksonville State Gamecocks were hardly impressive, the Noles did find a way to embarrass a top 5 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels team.
It was the same story for Florida State on offense — there just wasn’t enough of it. Jordan Travis was a breathe of fresh air at quarterback, but he was still very inexperienced. The offensive line was just bad, and was the catalyst to poor offensive showings for most of the season.
Defensively, FSU couldn’t generate much of a pass rush and were last in the ACC in sacks. That stat undoubtedly helped guide the Noles to giving up 36 points per game last year. Just saying “they were bad” gives too much of a positive spin on what they actually did.
Notre Dame — FSU All-Time
Florida State is one of the few programs out there that Notre Dame has a losing record against. After heartbreaking losses to FSU in 2011 and 2014, the Irish have beat up on the Noles in the past two games (both in South Bend) by a combined score of 84-39. The Irish haven’t won in Tallahassee since a 34-24 win in 2002 — one of only two times that this series has ever played inside Doak Campbell Stadium.
The Top 3 Players
- Jordan Travis — QB
- Jashaun Corbin — RB
- Amari Gainer — LB
There’s a lot of hype for UCF transfer QB McKenzie Milton, but his health is still very much in question after a very serious leg injury. Travis impressed me last year with his play and his competitiveness, and I think he may end up being the top signal caller on this team.
There isn’t a strong outlook for the Noles this season from most onlookers. Many question marks still surround their offensive line despite acquiring Notre Dame guard Dillan Gibbons, and I think the possibility of some weird locker room vibes about Travis VS Milton has the potential to cause issues with a team infested with issues. They need to replace a lot of production on the back end of the defense — which wasn’t great to begin with.
While FSU does have all of those question marks and more, they are still talented enough to cause problems for the Irish in the first game of the season on a Sunday night in Florida. Notre Dame should win this game, but whether that’s by 6 or by 20 is still very much on the table. Last year, Notre Dame was a little rusty after two weeks off due to a COVID outbreak, and they turned the ball over early to help keep the Noles in the game early — although Notre Dame finished with a fairly comfortable 42-26 win.
Difficulty 1-10: 6
Early win or loss prediction: Irish win