Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 06, 2018 at 10:26 pm.

With QB questions, weather concerns, Seminoles huge underdogs vs. No. 3 Irish

When Florida State travels to South Bend, Ind., this week to take on No. 3 Notre Dame, not many are giving the Seminoles a chance to pull off the upset.

Especially not Las Vegas.

Florida State enters the primetime showdown Saturday night on the road as 18-point underdogs — one of the largest spreads the program has ever been on the wrong side of in the last 40 years.

Of course, why wouldn’t Notre Dame be nearly three-touchdown favorites? The Fighting Irish are 9-0 and only one of four teams in the country that remain unbeaten. Plus, they’re at home — and the weather for the game very much favors Notre Dame as well: By kickoff at 7:30 p.m., the temperature should be around 30 degrees, with 15 mph winds and a decent chance of snow.

That’s not exactly the type of weather the Seminoles (4-5 overall, 2-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) are used to playing in.

“Notre Dame’s a really good football team,” Taggart said Monday. “We’re going into a hostile environment.”

The Seminoles will also enter with questions at quarterback. Sophomore James Blackman started in place of junior Deondre Francois last Saturday at North Carolina State after Francois (concussion) remained injured and couldn’t go. Blackman responded to his first start since last season — when he took over for Francois in the first game of the year against Alabama — by finishing 29 of 46 for 421 yards and four touchdowns against the Wolfpack.

But he also threw an interception, and the Seminoles lost badly 47-28.

Francois has been practicing this week — something he didn’t do much of last week — and the junior seemed to think he was poised to return against the Fighting Irish.

“I’m still the No. 1 guy,” Francois told the school’s official website “Coach Taggart continues to make that clear, and James understands that. But James is always ready, always ready to go.”

Speaking of going, Taggart’s duties as offensive coordinator were gone as of this week — albeit, the head coach gave them up voluntarily. The first question from reporters centered on word that Taggart had relinquished calling plays to assistant coach Walt Bell, and the head coach seemed very surprised to be asked that.

Reporter. I saw you did an interview and you talked about Walt Bell possibly or continuing to call plays. How did you feel that went?

Taggart: From who?

Reporter: (ESPN Tallahassee radio host) Jeff Cameron.

Taggart: Oh, I thought that was taped for later.

Reporter. Oh. They put the tweet out already.

Taggart: Oh, okay. Go ahead, finish your question.

Turns out, Taggart had allowed Bell to call plays in last week’s loss to N.C. State too — with an occasional assist from Taggart.

“I thought it went well. 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,” Taggart said. “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.”

Will the quarterback quandary and new blood behind the Xs and Os make a different ahead of a showdown with Notre Dame? The Fighting Irish debuted at No. 3 in the College Football Playoff Rankings that were released Tuesday evening, but they’ve survived a number of close games this year to get to this point, including a 31-21 road win at Northwestern last week and a 19-14 win against Pitt two weeks before that.

One thing’s for sure: Center Alex Eberle will be ready. Ready for Notre Dame. Ready for the cold. And ready to block and protect whichever quarterback Taggart decides to go with.

“It doesn’t matter who’s out there,” center Alec Eberle said. “Whether it’s James or Deondre, we’re going to do our best to get things going.”