Here are five keys for No. 5 Notre Dame (2-0, 1-0 ACC) when it hosts Florida State (1-2, 0-2) on Saturday (7:30 p.m. EDT on NBC).
PUSH THROUGH FATIGUE
Fatigue will be the biggest concern for the Irish. This is the longest layoff between regular-season games in 102 years of Notre Dame football. Head coach Brian Kelly said this week he expects multiple players to be on snap counts. Certain players are having to be eased back, because they did not practice or condition to the fullest extent while being in isolation or quarantine. The Seminoles may take advantage of that reality by looking to play fast or wear down the Irish defense. Whether it’s by using rotation or a specific game plan, Notre Dame must find a way to mitigate and push through potential exhaustion.
BUILD SIZABLE LEAD
One way Notre Dame could mitigate fatigue is by building a considerable lead by halftime. In that case, the Irish would likely be able to control the game flow and dominate the time of possession with their potent running game. They also would not have to worry as much about crumbling in the fourth quarter due to exhaustion. Florida State’s offense would have to rely on quarterback Jordan Travis to pull off a miracle on the road in his first career start.
Florida State’s offense often struggled under quarterbacks James Blackman and Tate Rodemaker in the first nine quarters of the season. Down 14-0 in the second quarter against Jacksonville State last week, the Seminoles turned to Travis. He gave the offense a jolt en route to a 41-24 win. Notre Dame is not Jacksonville State, but the Irish know FSU’s offense looked at its best with Travis at quarterback. They will need to account for his dual-threat ability, especially in the second half if the defense grows tired.
OFFENSIVE LINE IMPRESSES AGAIN
The offensive line has been Notre Dame’s most dominant position group so far and ranks No. 1 nationally on Pro Football Focus. Led by defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, Florida State’s defensive line presents problems that Notre Dame did not face against Duke and South Florida. The Irish feature a run-heavy offense under first-year coordinator Tommy Rees. So if they can move the Seminole defensive front and create holes in the ground game, this offensive line will pave the way for another double-digit victory.
WIDE RECEIVERS PRODUCE
There will be times Notre Dame will have to move the sticks through the air. But will quarterback Ian Book finally click with his wide receivers? Having his top three receivers — Kevin Austin Jr., Braden Lenzy and Ben Skowronek — for the first time this season will help. Kelly said on Monday to expect No. 1 option Austin, who missed the first two games after breaking his foot in preseason camp, to be in for 15-20 plays. The Irish receivers face a tough matchup against Preseason All-ACC cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. and his bookend Akeem Dent, a former five-star recruit in the 2019 class on Rivals. They need to be productive after only accounting for 11 of the team’s 32 pass receptions through the first two games.