Mike Norvell earned his first victory as the Florida State head coach last weekend as the Seminoles rallied to beat FCS opponent Jacksonville State. The test this week, however, is much tougher.
FSU (1-2) will head to South Bend to take on the No. 5 Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are 2-0 and have had the last two weeks off after positive COVID-19 tests derailed the Sept. 19 contest at Wake Forest. Brian Kelly's team should be closer to full strength for Saturday night's contest.
The meeting will be the second between the teams in South Bend in three years. Notre Dame throttled FSU in its last visit two years ago, 42-13. The Seminoles will look for their first win over a ranked opponent since 2018 and their first win over an AP top-5 team since 2014.
Florida State at Notre Dame
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Notre Dame -21
When Florida State Has the Ball
There will be a new man under center for Florida State when it takes the field on Saturday. Redshirt sophomore Jordan Travis will make his first career start after the best passing game of his career. Travis entered for an ineffective Tate Rodemaker last week with FSU trailing 14-0 and proceeded to lead six scoring drives in seven possessions. Travis passed for 210 yards in the victory, but Notre Dame will likely force the youngster to win Saturday's contest with his arm.
Despite losing Cam Akers to the NFL draft, FSU's backfield still seems in pretty good shape. Freshman Lawrance Toafili rushed for a career-high 99 yards and his first career touchdown last week against Jacksonville State. Jashaun Corbin and La'Damian Webb combined for 118 rushing yards and three scores. Out wide, Tamorrion Terry is the name to know for FSU, but he has had a bit of a down season so far. Look for the Seminoles to get tight end Camren McDonald involved this week.
Through two games, Notre Dame has allowed a grand total of 13 points. Among teams to play multiple games, only Marshall has yielded fewer. The Fighting Irish are giving up 282.5 yards per game, and the linebacking corps is one of the biggest reasons why. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is the team's leading tackler this season with 10 stops, a sack and a forced fumble. Drew White and Jack Kiser have combined for 17 tackles through two games.
Sophomore defensive end Isaiah Foskey has provided the pass rush for Notre Dame this season. Foskey leads the team with two sacks. The name to know for the Irish in the secondary is safety Kyle Hamilton. Hamilton not only brings size (6-4, 215) to the back end, but versatility as well. He tallied four interceptions a season ago.
When Notre Dame Has the Ball
Through two games, Notre Dame is 15th in the nation with 39.5 points per contest, although it did look somewhat pedestrian in the opener against Duke. Quarterback Ian Book is very experienced but hasn't had to do much this season. The Fighting Irish have done more damage on the ground than through the air. Running backs Kyren Williams and C'Bo Flemister have combined for more than 300 rushing yards through two games. Williams leads the team with 174 yards, while Flemister is averaging nearly 10 yards per carry. Book leads the team with three rushing touchdowns.
In the passing game, it hasn't been the wide receivers who have done the damage for Notre Dame. Junior tight end Tommy Tremble leads with eight catches for 104 yards. Williams is second on the team with 103 receiving yards, although 75 of that came on one play. Redshirt senior left tackle Liam Eichenberg headlines an offensive line that has yielded just three sacks so far. Notre Dame ranks third in the ACC at 5.3 yards per rushing attempt.
Perhaps no unit has been more disappointing so far for Florida State this season than the defensive line. A veteran group that includes Marvin Wilson, Cory Durden, and Janarius Robinson has managed just three sacks and ranks dead last in the ACC in tackles for a loss. The Seminoles will have to find a way to change that on Saturday.
Through three games, linebacker Amari Gainer is the leading tackler with 21 stops. FSU has been missing some key pieces, including last season's leading tackler and safety Hamsah Nasirildeen. The defensive MVP thus far for the Seminoles has been junior cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. Samuel leads the country with three interceptions. He's fourth in interception return yards. FSU ranks just 11th in the ACC in both total and scoring defense.
With two weeks off, Notre Dame will either be rested or rusty against the Seminoles, but the Fighting Irish are a far better team. For Florida State to have a chance on Saturday, it will need to get to Ian Book, force turnovers, and try to hit some big plays on offense. The good news for FSU is that the offensive line is improved and Notre Dame hasn't exactly lived in the backfield. FSU possessed the ball for nearly 35 minutes against Jacksonville State. A similar effort would go a long way this week.
Prediction: Notre Dame 41, Florida State 20
Podcast: Week 6 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Mike Ferguson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.