This ongoing series examines Notre Dame’s 2014 opponents as they stand after the spring. We’re going down Notre Dame’s schedule, so next up: The Florida State Seminoles.
Date: Oct. 18 at Doak Campbell Stadium. Time TBA.
Series history: Florida State leads, 5-2.
Last meeting: 2011 — Florida State won, 18-14.
2013 common opponents: Pittsburgh (Notre Dame lost, 28-21; Florida State won, 41-13).
2013 in a nutshell
A national championship season led by a Heisman-winning freshman quarterback can speak for itself. This is a team that scored more than 40 points a game in the first 11 weeks. Seven of Florida State’s 13 opponents never cracked double digits on the scoreboard. The Noles’ average margin of victory was 40.9 points per game. Interestingly enough, prior to their 34-31 win over Auburn in the championship, Florida State’s closest game was a 48-34 win over Boston College — the most points the Nole defense gave up all year. The week after that, the Florida State steamrolled Maryland, 63-0.
Previous pre-season previews:
Players/positions to watch
- Jameis Winston, quarterback: Could there have been a more obvious pick? Winston returns from an explosive redshirt freshman campaign that saw 4,057 passing yards and 40 touchdowns on 257 completions (66.9 percent accuracy) and a Heisman Trophy.
Off-field issues aside, Winston is an athletic beast (He was named to the Preseason All-American Baseball Third Team as a pitcher with a 1.95 ERA) and Vegas is already penciling him as a Heisman repeat. To top it all off, Winston will line up behind a seasoned offensive line that returns four of five starters from last season.
- Rashad Greene, wide receiver: Greene has been Florida State’s top receiver in all three seasons he’s been with the team, and was named the Champs Sports Bowl MVP in the 18-14 win over Notre Dame as a freshman. Greene finished his junior campaign with 76 receptions for 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns. Greene will be tasked with catching a trio of new receivers up to speed, a task he undertook with gusto in the off-season.
- Secondary: This unit started calling itself the “No-Fly Zone” after fielding the top-rated pass defense in 2013. The secondary loses top defensive backs Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks, but it returns an experienced slate of sophomores and juniors — with Jalen Ramsey, Nate Andrews and P.J. Williams leading the way. They must replace the 12 combined tackles for loss, four combined sacks and four combined interceptions Joyner and Brooks had last year, but depth is not an issue for this stacked unit. Andrews alone recorded four interceptions, four pass breakups, three forced fumbles and a sack in 11 games last season — and he only started one game.
“Anyone can say we're cocky, we don't care about that. We're convinced we're the best,” Ramsey said about the secondary, according to FOX Sports.
There’s no beating around the bush; Florida State is absolutely loaded. Winston aside, the Noles will field as many as eight potential first and second round picks in the 2015 NFL Draft.
True, Florida State lost big receiver Kelvin Benjamin (54 receptions, 1,011 yards, 15 touchdowns) and running back Devonta Freeman (173 carries, 1,016 yards, 14 touchdowns) to the NFL. Benjamin, who caught the game-winner in the national championship, and Freeman will be hard to replace. But the Noles return Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary and they are loaded with highly-ranked freshmen and sophomores waiting to step up, so don’t expect much drop off here.
Notre Dame’s chances would have already been slim in this contest but also factor in the impact of home bouts with Stanford and North Carolina before traveling to Tallahassee.
If Notre Dame is going to pull off the upset, it will have to replicate what Duke and Auburn almost did. As it is, the Irish lose by double-digits and return home for a much-needed bye week.