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Early 2021 football preview and predictions: Florida State Seminoles

| Tuesday, March 9, 2021

It’s been just three months since Notre Dame’s 2020 season came to an end, but it feels much longer than that for all of us here at The Observer, so to pass the time, we are previewing every game on Notre Dame’s 2021 schedule. Last year, our predictions were an exercise in futility because the schedule changed almost completely, but hopefully this year there won’t be any last-minute changes. 

The Irish are set to kick off their season in Tallahassee, Florida, against the Florida State Seminoles on Sept. 5 in a rare Sunday college football contest. We’ve provided a history of the matchup, a breakdown of the opponent and some way-too-early predictions from our staff to help tide you over until the fall. 

Opponent: Florida State Seminoles

Date: Sept. 5, 2021

Location: Tallahassee, Florida

Kickoff: TBD

History of the matchup

This will be the 11th meeting between the two programs. The Seminoles own a 6-4 record against the Irish, but Notre Dame has won the last two games, including a 42-26 home victory last year. By far the most notable matchup was the 1993 contest, dubbed the “Game of the Century.” Florida State came in as the top-ranked team, but the second-ranked Irish emerged with a 31-24 victory thanks to multiple late defensive stands. Another battle between top-five teams took place in 2014, when the Irish were ranked fifth and the Seminoles second. Florida State was victorious, 31-27, in the back-and-forth game after Notre Dame had the potential game-winning touchdown called back due to offensive pass interference.

John Quackenbos | Boston College Athletics
Irish graduate student receiver Bennett Skowronek is lifted into the air by fellow graduate student receiver Javon McKinley while celebrating the former’s third touchdown of the first half of Notre Dame’s 45-31 win over Boston College on Nov. 14.

2020 performance

Florida State had a difficult season last year in what was head coach Mike Norvell’s first season with the program, finishing with a 3-6 record, including a 2-6 mark in the ACC. However, one of those wins was a massive upset against then-No. 5 North Carolina, and their other two wins came against an FCS opponent, Jackson State, and in the last game of the season against Duke.

They had a revolving door at quarterback, with four different signal-callers starting at times throughout the season, due to injuries and poor play. The Seminoles were among the youngest teams in college football last season, with underclassmen making up more than 74% of their roster. They were also hit hard by the injury bug and COVID-19-related issues, making it difficult to maintain continuity throughout the roster.

2021 outlook

By far the highest-profile addition the Seminoles made this offseason was former UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton, who led UCF to an undefeated season in 2017 before being sidelined by a devastating knee injury the following year. Early reports from Tallahassee indicate he is fully cleared to begin spring practices, and he should challenge for the starting job. Jordan Travis, who started six games last season, will likely compete with Milton for playing time as well. 

The Seminoles return their top wide receiver, Ontaria Wilson, but beyond that, there is not much experience within that group. The Seminoles averaged nearly 200 yards on the ground last year and return two of their top three running backs, so with question marks at the quarterback and wide receiver positions, they may rely heavily on the run again. On the offensive line, the Seminoles had a very young group last year, but they return four starters. 

Defensively, Florida State allowed the third-most yards per game in the ACC. The defense should be much improved this season, thanks to the addition of multiple transfers, especially in the secondary, although former All-American defensive tackle Marvin Wilson will be difficult to replace. 


Way-too-early Predictions

Liam Coolican — Sports Writer

Florida State was the one of youngest teams in college football last year and made some intriguing transfer pickups. They’ll certainly be better than they were a year ago, but the degree of improvement will largely depend on the quarterback position, which remains a question mark. Playing on the road in Tallahassee is never easy, and the Seminoles may provide an early challenge for the Irish. I predict a close first half, much like we saw last season, but the Irish have the superior talent at nearly every position and will run away with the game in the second half. 

Final: Notre Dame 45, Florida State 24


Mannion McGinley — Associate Sports Editor

Based on the 2020 match-up these two had and how both teams’ seasons played out after that — the Irish heading to the CFP and the Seminoles finishing 3-6 — I should expect a similar score, but there are things that make me nervous. In 2020, the Seminoles were having a quarterback issue, and coming into the 2021 season, they have two very viable options. They also have more stability, as it will be head coach Norvell’s second year with the team. The Irish, on the other hand, now have to decide on who their leading signal-caller will be. And, will the quarterback be able to lead the Irish well enough on offense to make the point margin as significant as 42-26? Can Kelly help whoever takes the helm to achieve that? If he can’t, by the grace of the defense, this will be a narrow win.

Final: Notre Dame 24, Florida State 17

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