The most interesting game of the day for most of the country features the 5th ranked Fighting Irish of Notre Dame (6-0) traveling to Doak-Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL to take on 2nd ranked and defending BCS National Champion Florida St. (6-0) in prime time (8:00pm ET). The Irish held off North Carolina 50-43 at home last week, and had a hard-fought 17-14 win at home over Stanford the previous week. Florida St. won 38-20 at Syracuse last week, a team that the Irish beat 31-15 on the road in week 5, and have defeated Clemson (23-17) and Oklahoma St. (37-31 in week 1) this season as well.
The Fighting Irish rank 39th among all FBS teams in scoring offense with 34.5 points per game and 42nd in total offense with 444.3 yards per game. Quarterback Everett Golson has returned after missing last season and picked up right where he left off, winning games. Golson has led ND to wins in 16 of his 17 career starts. Notre Dame ranks 8th nationally in scoring defense with 17.2 PPG allowed and 34th in total defense with 348.3 YPG allowed.
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Florida St. ranks 20th nationally in scoring offense with 39 PPG and 31st in total offense with 462.5 YPG. The major story for FSU continues to be their quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who is expected to play as of this writing despite ongoing off the field issues. Winston was efficient last week against Syracuse, throwing for 317 yards and 3 TDs. FSU is a model of efficiency, converting on 28 of their 29 red zone trips this season to rank 2nd among FBS teams. Defensively FSU ranks 30th in points allowed with 20.7 PPG and 44th in total defense with 358.5 YPG allowed.
Notre Dame vs. Florida St. Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Notre Dame Fighting Irish +10
@Florida St. Seminoles -10
Over 56.5 (-110)
Under 56.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from BetOnline.ag
Notre Dame vs. Florida St. Pick:
Notre Dame is 1-16 straight up against top 5 teams dating back to 1999, and has lost those games by an average of just less than 23 points with only two of those losses coming by less than 13 points. ND is 8-7 straight up against ranked opponents since Brian Kelly took over as head coach, but he is 0-2 against top 5 teams at ND and 0-4 overall for his career. FSU has won its last two meetings with top 5 opponents, including last season’s BCS National Championship game and is in the midst of a school-record 22 game winning streak. FSU leads the all-time series 5-2, with Notre Dame winning the only previous meeting in Tallahassee in 2002.
To say that the Fighting Irish have not looked good against top flight opponents is huge understatement, but the key to this game is Winston’s status which is why the game was taken off of many boards earlier in the week when it was though that he could miss the game. The key for FSU this season has been their efficiency on offense and with Winston under center that is unlikely to change. Notre Dame on the other hand, has had trouble with turnovers of late and Golson is not yet in Winston’s class when it comes to taking care of the football. He has thrown 4 INTs in his last 3 games after not throwing one in his first 3.
The Irish also have concerns on defense after allowing 516 yards to North Carolina last week, the most they have allowed since their infamous loss to Alabama in the national championship game two years ago. There are simply too many red flags here to take Notre Dame, given their defensive issues and Golson’s turnover problems. Likewise Winston’s situation is somewhat unpredictable, and the ‘Noles have not looked as sharp this season as they did last year. FSU can attack an ND defense that is worse against the pass than they are the run, especially given that FSU throws the ball over 50% of the time on non-passing downs. That being said, this game should feature some scoring given the skill level of both quarterbacks and the defensive issues that ND has defending the pass. Take the OVER here.