Observer Football Beat predicts how primetime matchup with FSU ends
Aidan Thomas, Nate Moller, Colin Capece, Mannion McGinley, Jimmy Ward and Emily DeFazio | Friday, September 3, 2021
Aidan Thomas — Sports Writer
This game reminds me of the last time Notre Dame played in the ACC’s Sunday night primetime opener. In 2019, the Irish took on Louisville on the road, facing a squad coming off a horrific season that had some potential for the upcoming campaign. That describes the Seminoles quite well, who have been down in the dumps for about four years now. Is McKenzie Milton the answer? He has to first win the QB1 job outright, but it feels like that will happen sooner or later. However, in the season opener, Notre Dame is simply the more talented team. Up and down the roster, the Irish hold advantages at just about every position. The biggest challenge will be getting their new-look offense to gel against a transfer-laden FSU defense, but I don’t anticipate a strong Irish defense struggling against a disoriented and inexperienced Seminoles’ offense.
Notre Dame 31, Florida State 14
Nate Moller — Sports Writer
The more I think about this game, the more it scares me. Despite being in the dumps the last couple of years, the Seminoles will surely bring the energy on Sunday night and play with something to prove. I expect the crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium to be crazy, and the ’Noles will also be playing for the first time since the death of legendary coach Bobby Bowden. While the Seminoles will have the crowd and energy on their side, the Irish are by far the more talented team at nearly every position. The Seminoles’ defense is full of underclassmen, and I expect Irish tight end Michael Mayer to have a career game on Sunday night. The ’Noles keep this one close throughout, but Jack Coan will lead the Irish on a late touchdown drive to secure a double-digit victory.
Notre Dame 34, Florida State 20
Colin Capece — Assistant Managing Editor
The FSU program has been nothing but a hot mess for the last four seasons as compared to the Jimbo Fisher glory days that delivered a national championship. The Seminoles never lack talent, however, and some young players have a lot to prove in this primetime game, FSU’s first on Sunday in program history. The Seminoles are dangerous on offense no matter if McKenzie Milton or Jordan Travis starts at quarterback. Milton hasn’t played in two years after suffering a gruesome ankle injury with UCF in 2018, so he’ll without a doubt be laser-focused if he gets a shot to play. If Mike Norvell goes with Travis, the holder of the FSU single-season quarterback rushing record can certainly give the Irish problems with his legs, not to mention his ability to throw the deep ball against largely untested Irish cornerbacks.
This game will be fast-paced and spread out at the beginning, but the Irish defensive line will eventually swing momentum in Notre Dame’s favor by taking control of the line of scrimmage. Defensive ends Isaiah Foskey and Justin Ademilola will solidify their presence in the rotation with thunder by getting after the quarter in the second half. Jack Coan will impress with his accuracy and decision-making in his first start, finding his playmakers in the open field against a young FSU secondary that will struggle to contain the newfound Irish offensive jolt.
When Notre Dame grabs the lead, there’s no way they’ll give it back. Notre Dame’s speedsters will help the Irish bury the Seminoles in their own stadium before Kyren Williams and the big boys up front stomp all over the dirt pile. Doak Campbell Stadium will be absolutely rocking from the jump for the home opener against a visiting top-10 opponent, but Brian Kelly won’t let his team unravel on the road. The Irish will stay stone cold in Tallahassee en route to a tone-setting first victory.
Notre Dame 48, Florida State 14
Mannion McGinley — Sports Editor
The Irish should walk away from this one fairly unscathed. That is, unless head coach Norvell has a much better weapon in Milton than he’s leading everyone to believe. Quarterback is the one position truly in question and the one position I think can have any real effect on this game for the Seminoles. Travis is undoubtedly highly skilled and can get the job done, no questions asked. But he’s the level of FSU play the Irish are expecting.
To play injury-plagued Milton over him quickly means they’ve got Milton somewhere he’s never been before. The FSU defense, although all talented, is all too young to pose a definitive threat to a lead running back like Kyren Williams or cause an issue for Coan to find passing options, especially when he has someone like Michael Mayer, in addition to an extremely talented receiving corps. I’ll leave room for the Irish to get their feet under them, wake up after a competition-less off-season, but unless the quarterback position has some major piece that all of us are missing — and that Norvell kept really close to the chest like an ace of hearts — I don’t see this game being any kind of threat.
Notre Dame 38, Florida State 20
Jimmy Ward — Associate Sports Editor
I think the Irish will be able to fend off the ’Noles but I am not expecting any team to run it up on the scoreboard. Also, to make a rather bold prediction: Notre Dame’s first taste of the end zone will come off a defensive score. I can see Kyle Hamilton stealing away a pass and sneaking down the field for a pick-six or Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa stripping a ball carrier and finding his way into the end zone. The Irish win but it is not a game that is free of the typical stress and anxiety that Notre Dame football is known to produce from time to time.
Notre Dame 27, Florida State 17
Emily DeFazio — Associate Sports Editor
For some reason, this season opener has me remembering the fateful Louisville game of the 2020 season. Louisville, who finished 4-7 overall, only lost to Notre Dame by five points. And the final score was only 12-7. The Seminoles may have been down the past few seasons, but that does not mean they’re untalented; if underestimated, we could have ourselves a closer game than is comfortable, especially with the wild card that is McKenzie Milton in play.
This game will also be a defining moment for Jack Coan ahead of next weekend’s home opener, as it will set the tone for his time in the QB1 position. However, I can’t see an outcome where Notre Dame walks away from this with anything but a victory. Kyle Hamilton and the defense will shut down any threat the scattered FSU offense can offer, and I expect offensive standouts like Kyren Williams and Michael Mayer to pick up right where they left off last season. Though there is always nervous anticipation heading into the season opener, the Irish come out of this one with a clear victory and start the year off on a good foot.