Well ladies and gentlemen, it’s safe to say it’s officially November, as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team, having built our hopes up with a 9-0 start, has begun to, like clockwork, drop disappointing news on ND fans nationwide.
It was announced yesterday that QB Ian Book — the catalyst behind the Irish offense’s surge in production over the past 6 games — will be out against the 4-5 Florida State Seminoles tomorrow night due to rib/kidney injuries suffered against Northwestern.
This is, of course, terrible news. But unlike in past years or with other teams, Notre Dame’s backup quarterback is an experienced winner who is absolutely no slouch. Brandon Wimbush, who sports a 12-3 record as a starter and who owns the single-season QB rushing touchdown record, will be at the helm tomorrow. On his Senior Day and in front of what will be a cold, anxious crowd, Wimbush has a chance to lift the Irish fans’ spirits and alleviate the bad feelings of November beginning to once again seep into their collective consciousness.
Florida State might end up being an ideal opponent for Wimbush to return against, as the Seminoles are 75th in S&P+ and have lost their last two games by a combined score of 106-38. The Seminoles, despite their struggles this season, still have 5-star talent all over the place, and with a solid defense (39th in S&P+), they are still at least dangerous in a game where they have nothing to lose, while ND has everything on the line.
So, how will the two teams match up — especially in potentially snowy conditions? Let’s have ourselves a look, eh?
Florida State Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense
The Florida State offense has been the definite driver behind the Seminoles’ poor season in 2018, as the unit is 102nd in S&P+ and has had a TON of trouble in the trenches, especially. This has…um…slightly affected FSU’s talented running backs in their search for yardage.
There are only 2 Power 5 backs (min 70 carries) averaging less than 1 yard before contact:
Cam Akers, 0.78
Jacques Patrick, 0.50
— Hi, I’m David (@ADavidHaleJoint) November 5, 2018
The Irish defense isn’t quite elite in stopping the run, but they are 39th in the country in rushing yards allowed per attempt, and 40th in total rushing yards allowed per game. With Jerry Tillery in the middle and guys like Te’von Coney, Drue Tranquill, Asmar Bilal, and Alohi Gilman filling gaps and making sure-handed tackles, it’s unlikely that Cam Akers’ (496 yds, 4.1 ypc, 3 TD) and Jacques Patrick’s (251 yds, 3.4 ypc, 1 TD) issues will suddenly be solved against Clark Lea’s squad.
So, if Florida State plans on moving the ball at all on offense, it will need to come through the air. Unfortunately, the Seminoles don’t even have the QB position settled, as James Blackman took over for Deondre Francois in last week’s 47-28 loss at NC State.
Francois had been the guy back in 2016 before having to miss 2017 with an injury, and so far in 2018 he’s been QB1 for most of the year, throwing for 2,039 yards, 13 TD, and 7 INT while completing 61% of his passes.
Blackman, however, got the nod last weekend, and he played pretty damn well, throwing for 421 yards, 4 TD, and 1 INT (giving him 510 yards, 5 TD, and 1 INT total on the year).
Assuming Blackman starts due to his mobility and effectiveness last week, he’ll be looking to connect with a number of athletic, talented receivers.
The group is led by WRs Nyqwan Murray (42 rec, 571 yds, 3 TD) and Tamorrion Terry (23 rec, 505 yds, 7 TD), who are both dangerous guys in space (especially Terry, as the team’s best deep threat). DJ Matthews is a fast slot receiver who’s pulled in 32 passes for 306 yards and a TD, and WR Keith Gavin has chipped in 23 catches for 369 yards and a touchdown as well. TE Tre’ McKitty is also a solid option, as the big guy has 23 receptions for 244 yards and a couple touchdowns to his name this year.
If Blackman gets time to throw to that group, there’s actually a chance Florida State could find some success against DBs not named Julian Love. Unfortunately for Blackman, Julian Love exists. Even more unfortunately for Blackman, the trio of pass-rushing dynamos known as Khalid Kareem, Julian Okwara, and Daelin Hayes also exist. And even MOST importantly, the Florida State offensive line — especially the tackles — have been absolutely horrid this year, and therefor will very likely not provide anyone at QB with enough time to get the ball to those receivers.
So, with an offensive line that cannot open holes for the running backs and cannot provide adequate protection for the quarterbacks, I don’t see this matchup going any way except Notre Dame dominating for almost the entire game. With Florida State’s speed and talent, there’s a chance someone like Akers or Terry breaks loose for a big play or two, but overall I just don’t see the Seminoles being able to do much of anything against such a stingy ND defense.
Blackman/Francois, especially, will be lucky to make it out of the game alive after the pressure they’ll likely face thanks to the empty cupboards that are the Florida State offensive tackle positions.
Offensive Seminole to Watch
I think the only way FSU has a chance is to come through with some big plays through the air. It’s unlikely Blackman or Francois will have enough time to make the throw, but Terry is a bonafide deep threat who could certainly manage to get behind the ND secondary. The Seminoles will absolutely need him to come up with some momentum-changing plays if they want to have a chance in this one.
Defensive Irish to Watch
Okwara has been unblockable against better offensive lines than Florida State’s, so I want you all to just watch him go at it, if only for entertainment purposes. Julian will find it’s fiscally responsible to rent a room in the Seminoles’ backfield — he will be there that often. He and his teammates will benefit with lots of sacks and QB hurries thanks to his speed, athleticism, and relentlessness.
Halftime Fun Facts!!!!!
Best Names in the Game
1. Notre Dame RB C’Borius Flemister
2. Notre Dame TE Tommy Tremble
3. Florida State TE Tre’ McKitty
4.Notre Dame LB Ovie Oghoufo
5. Florida State DB Hamsah Nasirildeen
6. Florida State DE Walvenski Aime
7. Florida State WR Tamorrion Terry
8. Florida State TE Naseir Upshur
9. Notre Dame LB Asmar Bilal
10. Florida State LB Zaquandre White
11. Florida State WR Nyqwan Murray
12. Florida State DB Array Culmer
Quick Power Ranking: Chops
1. Chopping Wood — you may disagree with this right now, but wait until you see my reasoning, which is the video below
2. “What am I, chopped liver???” — we need to bring this saying back, it’s awesome
3. Pork Chop (food) — delicious
4. Porkchop (dog in Doug) — seems like a good dog
5. “busting your chops” — just havin’ some fun, man!
6. Slap Chop — it just seems so easy to chop food with this great device! Slap your troubles away all day!!!!!!!
7. Lamb Chop’s Play Along (children’s TV show) — legendary show that I remember nothing about except that it was good, I think
8. Lamb Chop (food) — honestly not sure if I’ve ever eaten a lamb chop in my life, but I imagine this is tasty
9. “has/have the chops” — pretty hip way to say someone is capable of something
10. Chopper — neat slang term for helicopter, if you’re into informally talking about helicopters
11. “on the chopping block” — fun to say, but then you remember what it means and it’s sorta dark, ya know?
12. Machop (Pokemon) — it’s a Pokemon, so it belongs here I guess
13. Ron “Chopper” Harris — some guy I found in my research whose nickname was Chopper. I don’t think that’s that good of a nickname, but whatever
14. Chop Shop — this is illegal
15. Chop Suey (food) — seems good, but I forgot to add it to the list until now and I am NOT going to redo this list
16. Chop Block — dangerous, my guy
Third to Last. Tomahawk Chop — get out of here, Florida State and Atlanta Braves
Second to Last. Chopsticks — no utensil makes me feel more like an incompetent human being with no motor skills to his name…chopsticks can go to hell
Last. Chopping vegetables without a Slap Chop — why would you do this when Slap Chop is so affordable, easy, and fun???
In case you weren’t aware, Florida State University is in Tallahassee (i.e. Talla-nasty):
Tallahassee, as you might also know, is in the weird, wild state of Florida, which is also the home of the legendary “Florida Man,” who has accomplished all sorts of previously unheard-of feats.
Let’s quickly just reflect on Florida Man, what he and Florida State both represent, and what they both bring to our lives, by looking at just some recent Florida Man feats from the past few months. These stories are especially near and dear to my heart because of my love for ridiculous headlines.
Florida Man Performs Striptease for Couple in Japanese Restaurant; Threatens to Fight Husband When He Tells Him They Didn’t Order It https://t.co/GSOnaCcTXa
— Florida Man (@_FloridaMan) August 12, 2018
I’ll finish with that one, but obviously there are COUNTLESS other amazing Florida Man stories from well before the second half of this year.
Please, please, please share your personal favorites in the comments below. I want this to turn into a Florida Man fan page with no football discussion happening at all.
Bonus: What the fuck, why is this burning spear thing allowed? Dude’s going to burn the Goddang field
Notre Dame Offense vs. Florida State Defense
This will be the big matchup of the game, and I think you all could have told me that.
Not only was the Notre Dame offense against the Florida State defense already going to be two strong units going at it, but now the Irish will be without starting QB Ian Book, meaning original 2018 starting QB and 2017 season QB1 Brandon Wimbush will be back at the helm (and that the Irish will be without Book’s 1,824 yards, 75% completion rate, 15 TD, and just 4 INT).
Wimbush was much-maligned at the end of last season, during the offseason, and at the beginning of this year due to a lot of inconsistency and inaccuracy in his passing game, but the guy is still 12-3 as a starting QB, including a bunch of huge, efficient performances in non-Miami games last season and also including the biggest win of the Irish’s season in the ‘18 season opener, as Wimbush’s offense scored 21 1st half points en route to beating now-4th-ranked Michigan 24-17.
A fun aspect of this situation is that tomorrow evening is Notre Dame’s Senior Day, meaning Brandon Wimbush, after going from “heir apparent” to “star QB” to “QB who needs to be benched” to “benched QB/good soldier who has to watch his replacement crush it,” gets to spend his Senior Day with a chance to shut down all the haters who said the Irish couldn’t have the success they want to have with him at QB.
I’m not saying anyone who wanted Book to start over Wimbush is wrong, as that move has clearly been the right call for the team so far. But I also don’t believe Wimbush is the lost cause many made him out to be, and I think he’s going to show that tomorrow evening.
Wimbush will have to do it against an athletic, fast defense full of talent — especially on the defensive line and in the secondary. The secondary part could be trouble for Wimbush, who threw 4 INT (and just 1 TD) while completing only 55% of his passes in the first three games of the season. FSU’s secondary is led by guys like Stanford Samuels III, Asante Samuel Jr., and Jaiden Woodbey, who all are capable of making some plays and coming up with turnovers if Wimbush gets sloppy. One bit of fortune for Wimbush, though — starting CB Levonta Taylor is out this week.
If Wimbush keeps his cool and is able to connect on more throws than he did earlier in the season, look for him to lean heavily on WRs Miles Boykin and Chase Claypool, who are both 6’4” receivers that make it much easier on QBs with their hands, catch radius, and physicality. Boykin has emerged under the Book-led offense to catch 40 passes totaling 624 yards, scoring 7 TD in the process. Claypool has been pretty damn good himself as more of a possession receiver, snaring 36 passes for 448 yards and 3 TD.
Add in Alizé Mack (27 rec, 250 yds, 1 TD), who has been cleared of his concussion that kept him out last weekend, and Chris Finke, who has been much improved this season (32 rec, 383 yds, 1 TD), and Wimbush has plenty of weapons to throw to — not to mention guys like Michael Young, Cole Kmet, and Jafar Armstrong who are solid contributors through the air as well.
Of course, Wimbush will probably need to be better in his passing than he was against Michigan, Ball State, and Vanderbilt, and that could be difficult to do against this defense — especially due to a good FSU pass rush led by Brian Burns. When you then think about Demarcus Christmas and Marvin Wilson on the interior and about how disappointing the ND offensive line has been this season, Wimbush may face more pressure than he can handle when trying to throw the ball. His mobility and ability to get out of a collapsed pocket and pick up yardage (just like he was able to so effectively do against Michigan) will probably be key.
With Wimbush at QB, the Irish could really be most effective if they are able to run the ball. That would obviously mean the offensive line — missing their best guy in Alex Bars, remember — are actually able to move Christmas, Wilson, and the rest of the FSU front seven and open running lanes for Dexter Williams, Armstrong, and Tony Jones Jr.
If they can finally put it together in the cold, snowy weather that necessitates their excellence the most, Williams (568 yds, 6.1 ypc, 8 TD in 5 games) could have himself a huge game, considering the lack of strong talent at linebacker besides Dontavious Jackson. Armstrong (315 yds, 5.3 ypc, 6 TD) and Jones Jr. (328 yds, 4.8 ypc, 3 TD) could turn in some big chunk-yardage runs as well if Sam Mustipher and co. get a decent push.
Overall, I think the ND offense will do fine with Wimbush at QB, assuming Chip Long and Brian Kelly call a game offensively that is catered more toward Wimbush’s strengths (running, deep balls, less RPO in general). That, plus Wimbush just seeming like a smart, charismatic, hardworking kid who never seemed to pout when he was benched, make me believe he can go out there tomorrow night and legitimately play a very good game and drive the Irish toward a solid, if not spectacular, blowout of a bad opponent.
Defensive Seminole to Watch
DE Brian Burns
Wimbush absolutely struggles in the passing game when he faces a lot of pressure (as many other QBs would), and so Burns as FSU’s best pass rusher could be key in forcing Wimbush into making big mistakes and into turning the ball over.
Offensive Irish to Watch
Just kidding — do I really need to say it?
QB Brandon Wimbush is absolutely the guy to watch on the Notre Dame offense. If he plays a smart, clean game and makes some plays with his feet (and maybe one or two big ones with his arm), I think it would go a long way toward ND blowing Florida State out on Senior Day while missing the starting QB. Wimbush has a chance to erase a lot of negative opinions about him as a player, and I think he’s going to do it. I am very excited for Wimbush’s redemption game.
Not much to mention here, per usual.
FSU’s punt returner DJ Matthews is pretty dangerous, which is a cause for concern considering ND’s bad kickoff coverage and how the punt coverage team seems due for a similar miscue.
Otherwise, the kickers for both teams (Justin Yoon for ND, Ricky Aguayo for FSU) are both guys who have not missed extra points, have hit most of their field goals, and generally get the job done. Aguayo is 2/2 on 50+ yard field goals, so that could be an interesting factor if the game is somehow close as it comes down to the wire.
Alright, Let’s Predict the Result of This One
Before we dive into my prediction — let’s all take a moment to painfully remember what happened the last time the Irish faced the Seminoles.
Did you enjoy that? Are you feeling any kinds of feelings after watching that? Maybe a great deal of anger bubbling up inside you?
Let that hatred course through your veins. It’s time for payback, and it’s time for punishment.
Ian Book or no Ian Book, Notre Dame is going to crush Florida State.
Brandon Wimbush is going to have an unbelievable moment on his Senior Day. That wonderful, wonderful kid who:
- decommitted from Penn State (another reason to love him with all your heart) to attend Notre Dame instead after Blake freakin’ Barnett deserted the Irish for Alabama
- burst onto the scene as a freshman by running for a long TD in 2015 and got all of us excited about his potential
- took the reins in 2017 and ran the most devastating rushing offense at Notre Dame in decades, including statement wins against Michigan State, NC State, and of course, the most beautiful beatdown of USC you could imagine:
- led a questionable offense against one of the best defenses in the country in this year’s season opener and just flat-out won what would become the most important game for the Irish all season (and he was a huge reason why ND flat-out won that game)
- handled being benched for Ian Book with unbelievable grace and leadership, helping his teammate prepare and staying ready on the sidelines instead of looking to transfer or pout or complain
Brandon Wimbush is going to be on a mission tomorrow evening, and I firmly, truly believe that he is going to have Irish eyes smiling when the snow-dust settles.
Oh, and the Irish defense is going to just obliterate the FSU offensive line.
Notre Dame 41, Florida State 17