How does Notre Dame beat Florida State? By following these four keys to the game.
These keys to the game will likely decide Sunday’s matchup between No. 9 Notre Dame and Florida State.
Pressure beats any quarterback
Florida State head coach Mike Norvell can keep his starting quarterback a secret as long as he wants, but the solution to slowing down either Jordan Travis or McKenzie Milton should still be the same. Notre Dame’s front seven needs to make both quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket to disrupt any sense of rhythm and flow in offense.
Notre Dame knows Travis can pick up yards on the ground after rushing for 96 yards and one touchdown in a 42-26 loss to the Irish last season, so making sure pressures are finished with sacks or incompletions will be particularly crucial when he’s in the game. The Irish should have an advantage with their defensive line and the many looks coordinator Marcus Freeman wants to throw at the Seminoles.
Run it back
What’s the best way to make Notre Dame’s new starting quarterback Jack Coan comfortable? Give him a dominant running game to help carry the load. That’s what he was used to during his 18 career starts at Wisconsin.
The Irish offense won’t look like those old Badgers, but it has the potential to complement Coan well with a two-headed, running back attack of Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree. If the four new starters on Notre Dame’s offensive line can clear paths for them consistently, the weight of Coan’s first Irish start should feel lighter.
Florida State’s defense was porous against the run last year (199.2 yards per game). The Irish should make it a priority to find out if they can run for as many yards against Florida State as they did last year (353).
Man up or man down?
If Notre Dame’s defense is going to maximize its potential in Freeman’s scheme, the Irish cornerbacks have to be able to handle their man coverage assignments. That might be a lot to ask of a group that’s thin on experience. The cornerbacks should be aided by a persistent pass rush, but they’ll be needed to prevent big plays.
Florida State doesn’t have a long list of guys who can makes Notre Dame’s cornerbacks look bad, but the Irish don’t have a long list of guys who have proven they can shut down the Seminoles’ receivers either. Keeping Kansas transfer Andrew Parchment and freshman Malik McClain in check will be the first test for Clarence Lewis, Cam Hart and the rest of the cornerback group.
Tune out the war chant
Notre Dame hasn’t played in a road atmosphere that will match Sunday night in Doak Campbell Stadium since an Oct. 2019 trip to Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Just mentioning that 45-14 loss to the Wolverines might make your stomach uneasy. But this year’s Irish can’t be unnerved by the loud chanting crowd in Tallahassee.
Head coach Brian Kelly has prepared his team for the noise and wants as many players on the roster to experience it. The conditions won’t be ideal for a team debuting so many new starters, but a fast start could help Notre Dame keep the riled crowd quiet or directing their ire at the home team. After three losing seasons, the Florida State faithful might be ready to check out early following a poor start.
Follow ND Insider Tyler James on Twitter: @TJamesNDI.