Florida State at Notre Dame

The Sports Xchange

November 07, 2018 at 6:21 pm.

KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
SITE: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.
SERIES: Florida State leads 6-2. Florida State won the last meeting 31-27 in 2014.
RANKINGS: Notre Dame No. 3


–QB Deondre Francois said he expects to return after sitting out last week’s loss to North Carolina State with concussion symptoms. His replacement, James Blackman, threw for 421 yards in the 47-28 setback but threw a key interception, and coach Willie Taggart said this week he hasn’t made up his mind on a the starter. Francois has. “I’m still the No. 1 guy,” Francois said. “Coach Taggart continues to make that clear, and James understands that. But James is always ready, always ready to go.”

–WR Tamorrion Terry is arguably the biggest shining star on offense for the Seminoles during this down season. Terry has risen to third on the team in receiving with 505 yards and has caught seven touchdowns. The joke around Tallahassee right every time the Seminoles struggle is to just “run the Terry play.”

–DE Brian Burns leads the team with nine sacks through seven games. He has 23 sacks for his career, which ranks seventh-best in program history. In his last 14 games, he has 13 sacks and 23 tackles for loss.

Fighting Irish

–RB Dexter Williams leads the Fighting Irish on the ground with 568 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Florida State has been vulnerable on defense this season, and Williams has a chance for more big plays.

–WR Chase Claypool is heating up. He had eight catches for 130 yards last week against Northwestern, marking his second career 100-yard performance. It’s a safe bet that QB Ian Book will look his way again this week.

–DT Jerry Tillery is a menace to opposing quarterbacks. He leads the Irish with seven sacks and been credited with forcing a team-high three fumbles as well. He has a tendency to make big plays against big-time opponents such as recording four sacks in the win over Stanford and sacking Michigan QB Shea Patterson in the opener to deny the Wolverines a touchdown.

–LB Te’von Coney is coming off another big game in which he had 10 tackles, two sacks and a pass break-up against Northwestern. Coney leads the team with 80 tackles in nine games on the season.


After a neutral-site game against Navy in San Diego and a short trip to Evanston, Ill., to take on Northwestern, No. 3 Notre Dame will play its final home game of 2018 Saturday night against Florida State.

Kickoff at Notre Dame Stadium is 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

“One of our goals this year was to defend our home field,” Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “This will be our last opportunity to do that. We certainly want to be able to finish that goal off. One of them internally we had was to protect this stadium. Finishing that off against Florida State is certainly very important to us.

“Last home game for a number of seniors. That’s obviously important, as well. But I think just playing to that standard that I talked about in terms of that sense of urgency is most important.”

The Irish (9-0) finish the regular season against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium and on the road at Southern California.

It appears that the sturdy defense and a rejuvenated offense under junior quarterback Ian Book has put the Irish in control of their own fate in the College Football Playoff.

Book is completing 74.5 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has thrown for at least 264 yards in the six games since taking over the starting job from senior Brandon Wimbush.

Book replaced Brandon Wimbush, who accepted his demotion to backup quarterback without creating a public stir. Wimbush has been a big part of Notre Dame’s success, Kelly said.

“He’s got to stay ready,” Kelly said. “Who knows what happens, right? Every week we remind him. He knows that he’s one step away from going back out on the field.”

Senior wide receiver Miles Boykin is Book’s favorite target, recording 32 of his 40 receptions since Book became the starter and totaling 624 yards and seven touchdowns this season.

In the struggling Seminoles (4-6) the Irish will be up against a desperate team that sees its 36-year bowl streak at risk. Coach Willie Taggart has responded to criticism of his initial season in Tallahassee by turning over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Walt Bell. Bell actually called plays in last week’s loss to North Carolina State with an assist from Taggart.

“I thought it went well,” Taggart said. “I thought Walt did a good job of calling plays, and I’m sure there’s some plays like every play caller that’s always some plays you would like to take back, but I thought he did well.

“I know for myself, being able to see the game a little better and also interject and help out along the way, I thought that helped us on the offensive side of the ball. So I thought our first game from that standpoint — obviously, we didn’t get the win — but I thought him doing that was good and it allowed me to see and be a part of other things within our program.”

If history is any indication, this game could be close regardless of the teams’ records. This is the ninth meeting and six of the first eight games having been decided by seven points or fewer.

The most famous showdown took place in 1993 in what was dubbed as “The Game of the Century” because it featured No. 1 Florida State against No. 2 Notre Dame. The Irish held on for a 31-24 win at home.

This contest lacks the same national buzz, but plenty will be tuning in to see if Notre Dame can uphold its perfect season.

Kelly does not want Florida State to be the only team that plays with desperation.

“It seems like when this team is pushed, they really play well,” he said.

“So it’s my job now to get them to play with that sense of urgency for 72 plays, if that’s the average number of plays that you play. I think that’s what I’ve learned about this football team, is when they play with a sense of urgency, it’s a really, really fine football team.”