When I sat down to figure out what Notre Dame had in front of them come Saturday, it was pretty straight forward. Then, everything changed.
Multiple sources tell The Athletic that quarterback Ian Book will be out Saturday night against Florida State following a rib injury suffered against Northwestern.
— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) November 8, 2018
Notre Dame now has a whole different issue to focus on with Florida State coming to town. This is not the most ideal situation, but it isn’t the end of the world.
Notre Dame Offense Under Wimbush
We know what we get with Wimbush under center since he held the spot for 16 games. There is a reason Wimbush was benched after starting 3-0 and beating now number four ranked Michigan. The offense was only averaging 23 points per game and seemed to struggle throughout no matter the opponent.
Wimbush also struggles passing the ball and I wouldn’t expect a miraculous turnaround since his benching. This is where the biggest issue comes in for Notre Dame. Florida State has been bad this season, real bad. The lone bright spot for the Seminoles has been their rush defense. This comes at a time when the Notre Dame rushing attack has been in a bit of a slump. Notre Dame only had 121 yards rushing against Northwestern last week. To make matters worse, Florida State has only given up 2.9 yards per carry this season.
A Wimbush led offense needs to be a run first offense because he is around a 50 percent passer. Now the Florida State defense has a strong run defense but the have given up 106 points the last two weeks against NC State and Clemson. Wimbush may not be as talented in the aerial attack but this is a defense that is in the bottom third of the country and lets up big plays. You can’t say Wimbush doesn’t have the ability to make big, electric plays.
The sky isn’t falling with Book missing this game. The rumor was it was a precautionary thing so he will be available for Syracuse next week. It isn’t great that it comes on Senior Day but this is Notre Dame football, you never know what is coming next. Wimbush isn’t the ideal starter but he is talented. He was a starting QB at Notre Dame with a 13-3 record and beat Michigan. We as fans were not expecting to see Wimbush, but neither was Florida State. You spend a week prepping and this changes everything because these are two totally different QB’s.
Truthfully, Notre Dame doesn’t need much from Brandon Wimbush to walk away with a win. This was looking like the game Notre Dame gets their blowout win but it might have to wait another week. Wimbush simple has to manage the game and not turn the ball over. He will break his big runs and keep the defense confused. Don’t give up good field position and the defense is going to have a big night.
Notre Dame Defense Vs a Lack of an Offense
This right here should put all your worries to rest. Florida State is an absolute disaster on offense at the moment and their weaknesses play to Notre Dame’s strengths.
Florida State has a bit of a QB controversy of their own as James Blackman looks to be taking over for Deondre Francois. Francois missed last week with a rib injury and Blackman took his first start. He preformed better then the struggling and now injured Francois has this season. Now Francois is said to be healthy enough to play but may be ruled the back up against Notre Dame.
It isn’t all Francois’ fault as the offensive line for the Seminoles has been atrocious. Just last week, Florida State gave up five sacks and the running game was a mess. Florida State averages 2.4 yards per carry on the season and can’t keep the QB upright. The Notre Dame defensive line is going to put a highlight reel together Saturday night.
The Seminole receiving core has some talent but with a QB constantly under pressure and no fear of a run game, I expect very little. Willie Taggert also gave up his play calling duties to offensive coordinator, Walt Bell. To say the Florida State offense has been a bit of a mess would be fair to say the least. This should be a total domination by the Notre Dame defense Saturday night.
There are concerns every week as a Fighting Irish fan and this week is no different.
The last two weeks Notre Dame has fumbled the ball on the first possession. This offense can’t afford an early turnover, or any turnover for that matter this week. A one-dimensional Brandon Wimbush offense can’t make up ground or points like Ian Book. Notre Dame was lucky last week that Northwestern missed a field goal to blow the opportunity. An early turnover could give a slumping Florida State team confidence and put the Irish in a tough hole to climb out of.
Another concern has been the defense wearing down at the end of games. This defense has been lights out but has shown signs to wear down in the second half. Whether it is fatigue or just the second unit defensive line not playing to their potential, it has been noticeable. What has made Notre Dame great is the offensive ability to bail out the defense at the end of games. When needed the offense drove down the field against Pitt and scored a touchdown late. After a blocked punt in the Northwestern game, Notre Dame drove the ball 89 yards and scored to put the game away. If it comes down to a close game, Wimbush might not have that same Book magic to bail out the defense at the end.
The last major concern is the special teams. What they need to do to fix it, I’m not sure. But same as not turning the ball over, missed field goals and shanked punts can’t keep happening. Florida State is bad, but they also have big athletes on their team. Most likely the Seminoles won’t motor up and down the field consistently, but big plays are a possibility. Don’t help them out and make it easy with a short field.
Before the Ian Book news, I saw this game around 42-17. Now I don’t feel so comfortable with that score. Vegas and ESPN felt confident that Notre Dame would win big even with the QB change, I’m not so sure.
This will be a big game with a lot of emotion as Wimbush gets likely his final, meaningful playing time on Senior Day. There is also a forecast of snow for Saturday which helps against a Florida team.
With everything we have had to process today, it was enough stress until Saturday when there is bound to be WAY more.
Final score 28-20 Notre Dame
Started Saturday Tailgate in 2018. Covering all things college football and talking Notre Dame on Twitter.