Notre Dame Football Opponent Preview: Jameis Winston & Florida State Offense


This is it. Notre Dame’s national championship dreams all come down to this game against the Florida State Seminoles.

Previously ranked number one, the number two Seminoles will host the fifth ranked Irish in Tallahassee Saturday night with ESPN’s Game Day  in town. After last week’s disappointing performance in their win over North Carolina, several college football experts have the Irish falling to the Seminoles by a touchdown or more. It’s obvious that the Seminoles are no joke after winning the national championship last season behind Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, but I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to think that Notre Dame has a chance to pull off the upset in Tallahassee.

Last week, Florida State took down Syracuse with relatively little resistance from the Orange scoring 38 points. Florida State has talent all across their roster, and in order to win, the Irish need to play a perfect game and shut down the high-octane Seminole offense.

Offensive Line

It starts with getting past Florida State’s talented offensive line. The anchor of the line is without a doubt redshirt senior left tackle Cameron Erving. Last season, NFL draft analysts projected Erving to be one of the top linemen in the draft if he would have declared. Instead, Erving decided to return to Florida State to help the Seminoles make a run at another national championship. At the end of last year’s championship run, Erving received All-ACC first team honors, first team All-American honors from USA TODAY, Sporting News and He’s also a candidate to win the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award this season. Playing on the same line as Erving is arguably the best right guard in college football, senior Tre’ Jackson. The guard, like Erving, is a candidate to win the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award. The other two seniors on the line, Josue Matias and Bobby Hart are both also contenders to win All-ACC honors. The only possible weak point on the line is at the center position where redshirt freshman center Ryan Hoefeld has taken over for last year’s Rimington award winner, Bryan Stork.

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Running Back

The backs are just as lethal as the offensive line. All three running backs on Florida State have over 200 yards and at least three touchdowns. The majority of the load falls on the shoulders of senior running back Karlos Williams. In six games, Williams has 351 rushing yards and five touchdowns along with 100 yards receiving. Freshman Dalvin Cook has the second most yards on the team with 250 yards and three touchdowns, and redshirt sophomore Mario Pender has 200 yards rushing on the year with four scores on the ground and one receiving touchdown. The key for the Irish defense against the run is to limit the number of yards each ball carrier gets on every hand off. As long as the Seminole running backs aren’t picking up more than four yards a carry and contained at the goal line, the running game shouldn’t be too much of a factor against Notre Dame defense.

Wide Receivers

In terms of the Seminoles’ receiving corp, Notre Dame’s secondary has one job to do and that’s to stop senior receiver Rashad Greene. Last season, Greene led the team in receptions and yards in each of his first two seasons, and through six games, Greene has 44 receptions, which is 20 receptions more than any other receiver on the team, for 683 yards and three touchdowns. Greene can pretty much do it all for the Seminoles. He can line up in the slot and catch passes over the middle and in traffic, he can line up outside the numbers and outrun the opposing defensive backs and he can jump up and catch the ball in a one-on-one situation. In 2011, when the Seminoles played the Irish, Greene caught five passes for 99 yards and a score, so he has already shown that he can make plays against Notre Dame. Winston’s other receivers include senior tight end and John Mackey Award candidate Nick O’Leary and sophomore Jesus Wilson.

Infamous Jameis Winston

Of course the number one weapon on the Seminoles offense is last year’s Heisman winner Jameis Winston. Last year, Winston was unstoppable throwing for over 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns. On top of his elite passing ability, his athleticism and large stature allows him to be a dual threat quarterback, especially in the red zone. Through six games this year, he has completed 70% of his passes for 1,605 yards and 11 touchdowns to five interceptions to go along with two scores on the ground. Notre Dame’s defense has to spend every possible hour left until game time preparing for how to stop Winston if the Irish want to have a chance at winning this game. He’s a game changer, and without him, the Seminoles aren’t the same team, which brings me to my next point.

Winston is being investigated for receiving money for signing autographs under the same company Georgia’s Todd Gurley was suspended for, and according to several sources, Winston’s status for Saturday’s game is questionable. If Winston is pulled from Saturday’s game, the Irish will have to play against sophomore quarterback Sean Maguire, who in his one start against Clemson, showed that he isn’t the most efficient passer. In the overtime win against the Tigers, Maguire completed about half of his passes for one passing touchdown and two interceptions.

In a top-five matchup, this game promises to be one of the better contests of the year. If Notre Dame can pull out a win Saturday, their chances of being given a spot in the College Football Playoffs are almost certain.