Notre Dame and Florida State are set to do battle on Sunday, September 5, in the ACC’s annual Sunday night opener. The Irish played in this game two years ago and beat Louisville. In Florida State, the Irish face an opponent who has talent, but has also underperformed in recent years. Emotions will be running high in an electric atmosphere in Tallahassee. But when it boils down to between the white lines, who carries the advantages?
Notre Dame and Florida State Offensive Comparison
Both Notre Dame and Florida State had quarterback battles entering the season. Notre Dame has decided theirs, with transfer Jack Coan taking the reigns. In Tallahassee, the situation is still unclear. Jordan Travis completed 55% of his passes last year with six touchdowns and six interceptions. However, the Seminoles also welcomed in transfer McKenzie Milton, who hasn’t played since 2018 due to injury. On the latest depth chart, Milton and Travis are both listed as starters, meaning both could take snaps on Sunday.
Due to the uncertainty of the quarterback situation at Florida State, the edge here has to go to Notre Dame. Jack Coan is 10-4 as a starter and has been a standout in Fall practice. His connection with some of Notre Dame’s top receivers has been noticeable. Meanwhile, Florida State will roll with a quarterback who was shaky and inconsistent last year, or one seeing his first action in three years. Either way, it’s not a fantastic situation in a home opener against a top-10 opponent.
Edge: Notre Dame
A tougher battle to call. Neither team has a ton of experience in this position. The Irish’s starting trio combined for 403 yards last year, with Braden Lenzy and Kevin Austin battling injury. For the Seminoles, Ontaria Wilson is the leading returner, having garnered 382 yards. Keyshawn Helton is another key starter, but other than that, there’s not much experience in this corps.
Last year, in a 42-26 victory, Notre Dame receivers had rare success against Florida State’s secondary. However, their normally vaunted defense also struggled, giving up 26 points to Travis and Co. It’s hard to say who has the advantage, having seen neither of these inexperienced receiver rooms outside practice.
Camren McDonald is a very good tight end, and he may be the second most targeted player in the Florida State offense, behind Wilson. But his counterpart in this matchup is too good. Michael Mayer, just a sophomore, could make a case as a top-5 tight end in the nation. After starring as a true freshman, Mayer is expected to shine once more in 2021. He’s the Irish’s top returning receiver in an offense that historically loves to utilize tight ends. George Takacs has also had some burn as a backup tight end before, and he gives the Irish some depth at the position. This one isn’t particularly close.
Edge: Notre Dame
Another position that leans the Irish’s way, running back is the strength of head coach Brian Kelly’s offense this year. While Notre Dame and Florida State both return their top two rushers, the Irish’s backfield may be among the best in the nation. Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree form a dynamic duo. Last year, Williams racked up 1125 rushing yards, 313 receiving yards, and 14 all-purpose touchdowns. Tyree, playing in a more limited capacity, secured 561 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns. With a less mobile quarterback under center, these two backs will get even more of a chance to shine. In Week One, as Notre Dame’s restructured passing attack gels, Williams and Tyree could star. It’s especially likely against the Seminoles, who gave up 288 rushing yards to this duo last year.
Meanwhile, the Seminoles aren’t desolate at the running back position, just not as lethal. And unlike the Irish, some of their running production will come from the quarterback position. Travis enters the year as the top returning rusher. That being said, Jashaun Corbin notched 516 yards on 5.2 yards per touch last season, scoring five touchdowns. In a bad FSU offense, Corbin stood out, and he will be utilized frequently in 2021. He only received two touches in the Notre Dame game, so his sample size versus the Irish is insignificant. Given the previous success of Williams and Tyree against Florida State and the lethality of the duo in general, it’s hard not to give this edge to the Irish.
Edge: Notre Dame
Notre Dame has a rebuilt offensive line, but the unit looks promising, as the depth chart solidified itself throughout the fall. Freshman Blake Fisher is a big name to watch as he locks down the left tackle position. The Irish love running the ball through the left side, so Fisher will be prominently featured in the offense. Zeke Correll also shifts to left guard to solidify the left side of the line. Veteran transfer Cain Madden is a huge addition for the Irish, as he and Josh Lugg occupy the right tackle and guard positions. Jarrett Patterson returns from a broken foot suffered in 2020 to anchor the line at center.
Notre Dame may have a lot of new faces in their starting offensive line, but Florida State matches them, and then some. The Seminoles will start three redshirt-freshman on the offensive line – and a transfer. Two of Notre Dame’s most experienced defenders play on the defensive line, so it could be a mismatch to watch. And while the size isn’t everything, the Florida State offensive line, headlined by a Notre Dame transfer in Dillon Gibbons, is significantly smaller than a monster Irish unit.
Edge: Notre Dame