Top Five College Football Showdown: #5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at #2 Florida State Seminoles

#5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish at #2 Florida State Seminoles
Doak Campbell Stadium – Tallahassee, Florida

Saturday, October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: ABC
Opening Line: Florida State -12 1/2 (-115)
Current Line: Florida State -10 (-105)
Opening Total: 56
Current Total: 56 1/2
Opening Money Line: FSU -390 / Notre Dame +320
Current Money Line: FSU -380 / Notre Dame +330 

FSU and Notre Dame square off in a match-up of undefeated top five teams with massive playoff implications.
FSU and Notre Dame square off in a match-up of undefeated top five teams with massive playoff implications.

There are six undefeated teams left in FBS college football, including Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Florida State, Baylor, Notre Dame and Marshall. Two of those teams meet Saturday as the 6-0 #2 ranked Florida State Seminoles host the #5 6-0 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The winner has a really good shot of running the table and securing a spot in the four team college football playoff, but Notre Dame still has tough road games at Arizona State and USC remaining.

Florida State leads the series 5-2 against Notre Dame, but the Irish won the only meeting in Tallahassee in 2002. Florida State won the last meeting 18-14 in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. The Seminoles are not scheduled to make the return trip to South Bend in the near future.

Notre Dame is coached by Brian Kelly. The Fighting Irish have home wins over Rice 48-17, Michigan 31-0, Stanford 17-14, and last week against North Carolina 50-43. Notre Dame also has neutral site wins over Purdue 30-14 in Indianapolis and Syracuse 31-15 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. This is the first true road game of the season for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame is 4-2 ATS and the total is 2-4 this season. The Fighting Irish were 16.5 point favorites against UNC and the total was 62.

Florida State is coached by Jimbo Fisher. The Seminoles have a neutral site win over Oklahoma State 37-31 in Arlington, Texas, home wins over the Citadel 37-12, Clemson 23-17 in overtime, and Wake Forest 43-3. FSU also has road wins at North Carolina State 56-41 and last week against Syracuse 38-20. Florida State is 1-5 ATS and the total is 3-3 this season. The Seminoles were 23 point favorites against Syracuse and the total was 55.5. Florida State has won 22 straight games dating back to the 2012 ACC Championship game, including an undefeated BCS Championship season last year. Despite the winning streak, the Seminoles were jumped in the polls by Mississippi State after the Bulldogs beat top 10 teams in 3 straight weeks.

Notre Dame is outscoring teams 35-17 this season. The Fighting Irish are #8 in points allowed and #39 in scoring nationally. Notre Dame is averaging 444 yards per game on offense, including 281 passing and 164 rushing yards. The Irish are in the top 45 nationally in both total and pass defense On defense, Notre Dame is allowing 350 yards per game including 238 passing and 112 rushing yards. The Fighting Irish are #35 in total offense and #19 in rush defense. Notre Dame is +3 in turnovers with 14 takeaways. The Irish average 40 penalty yards per game and opponents are averaging 61. Notre Dame is 46/96 on third and fourth conversions and opponents are 37/102. The Fighting Irish have forced 12 sacks and allowed 10 this season. Notre Dame is 25/28 scoring in the red zone with 20 touchdowns and opponents are 13/17 with 10 touchdowns. The Fighting Irish have allowed 2 defensive touchdowns this season.

Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson has thrown for 1,683 yards with 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, and also has 58 carries for 209 yards and 4 touchdowns. Running back Tarean Folston has 60 carries for 263 yards and 3 touchdowns along with 10 catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. Greg Bryant has 43 carries for 201 yards and a touchdown, plus 4 catches. Cam McDaniel has 51 carries for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns, plus 7 catches. Receiver William Fuller has 35 catches for 504 yards and 7 touchdowns. Corey Robinson has 19 catches for 260 yards and 2 touchdowns. Receiver Amir Carlisle has 14 catches and 2 touchdowns. Chris Brown and Ben Koyack will also get a lot of targets. Five Notre Dame players are suspended indefinitely because of academics including 3 defensive backs.

Florida State is outscoring teams 39-21 this season. FSU is #20 in scoring and #30 in points allowed nationally. The Seminoles are averaging 463 yards per game on offense including 324 passing and 139 rushing yards per game. Florida State is #13 in passing offense nationally, but #97 in rushing. The Seminoles are #32 in total offense. FSU is allowing 359 yards per game on defense including 214 passing and 145 rushing yards per game. The Seminoles are -1 in turnovers with 11 takeaways. Florida State averages 46 penalty yards per game and opponents average 52. The Seminoles are 36/77 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 43/102. FSU has forced 8 sacks and allowed 14 this season. The Seminoles are 28/29 scoring in the red zone with 19 touchdowns and opponents are 17/25 with 10 touchdowns. FSU has a pick six and a fumble return for a touchdown this season.

FSU quarterback Jameis Winston is being investigated for possibly selling autographs after more than 2,000 pieces of autographed memorabilia with his signature have shown up on the internet. This game was briefly taken off the board because of a possible suspension for Winston, but no proof exists as of yet that Winston ever sold his signature. Winston already missed the Clemson game with a suspension for an unrelated matter. The defending Heisman Trophy winner has completed 70% of his passes for 1,605 yards with 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, plus 2 rushing touchdowns Winston is officially listed as questionable but a suspension seems unlikely at this point unless further evidence comes out. Sean Maguire filled in for Winston against Clemson. He threw for over 300 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions. He is out indefinitely with a broken hand. True freshman John Franklin III is the back-up QB if Winston gets suspended or injured.

Running back Karlos Williams has 74 carries  for 353 yards and 5 touchdowns, plus 12 catches for 111 yards. He is questionable with an ankle injury. Dalvin Cook has 47 carries for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus 4 catches. Mario Pender has 32 carries for 200 yards and 4 touchdowns, plus 8 catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Rashad Greene has 44 catches for 683 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is probable with a foot injury. Tight end Nick O’Leary has 24 catches for 275 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jesus Wilson has 21 catches for 262 yards and 4 touchdowns. Six defensive players are questionable or out for the Seminoles.

Notre Dame is 5-0 ATS against teams with winning records, 4-0 after passing for more than 280 yards, 5-1 in October, 3-1-1 after failing to cover, 5-2 on grass, 1-6 after allowing more than 40 points and 1-7 after scoring more than 40 points.

Florida State is 5-0 ATS against teams with winning road records, 9-3 at home, 5-2 against teams with winning road records, 1-6 overall, 1-5 after a straight up win, and after passing for more than 280 yards, and 1-4 on grass.

Some of the offshore sports books posted contingent lines on this game depending on if Winston played or not. There was roughly a 5 point difference as FSU went from -11 with Winston to -6.5 without him. I don’t know if there another player in college football that could move a line that many points if he wasn’t in the line-up. FSU is easily the best passing offense Notre Dame has faced this season. The Seminoles haven’t been as dominant as they were last year, and are vulnerable to an upset with all of the injuries and possible suspensions. I think FSU escapes with a close victory at home, but I give Notre Dame a puncher’s chance at the upset.

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