NCAA Football News
Through six games, Florida State doesn't exactly look 2013 good. With so many of the stars of last year's national championship team gone, it's unfair to compare the two teams.
But after a 38-20 win over Syracuse on Saturday, a game in which No. 1 FSU moved the ball at will and often stopped the Orange in the red zone, the Seminoles are finding their rhythm.
Coming off a shaky defensive showing at N.C. State and some offensive struggles against Wake Forest, FSU put together its best effort going into a Top 10 showdown with Notre Dame next Saturday in Tallahassee, Florida.
Subtract two starters on offense, center Austin Barron and tailback Karlos Williams, and FSU still found ways to score at will. FSU put points on the board on five of its first seven drives and ran for 165 yards.
Jameis Winston turned in one of his best games, completing 30 of 36 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns. Winston surpassed 275 passing yards for the fourth time in five games.
FSU won its 22nd straight game and became bowl-eligible for a 33rd straight season. But now the Seminoles turn their attention to Notre Dame.
FSU's offense finding success
For all the criticisms of FSU's offensive line and of how Winston has performed a year after winning the Heisman Trophy, here are some numbers to chew on.
Florida State has scored 37, 23, 56, 43 and 38 points against its five Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. That's an average of 39.4 points.
After struggles on the ground in its first two games against FBS teams, FSU has run the ball well. The Seminoles had 166 yards against N.C. State, 171 yards versus Wake Forest and 165 yards at Syracuse.
And Winston? He has thrown for 1,605 yards and 11 touchdowns in five games, an average of 321 passing yards. While completing 70 percent of his passes, better than the 66.9 percent from his Heisman season.
How does that translate versus Notre Dame? Quite well for FSU.
The Fighting Irish are very good against the run, putting together one of the nation's top 15 rush defenses (95 yards per game allowed going into the UNC game on Saturday). But Notre Dame is just 46th nationally in passing yards allowed, giving up 220 yards per game. Notre Dame has played a majority of its games against teams that succeed against the run (like Rice and Stanford), while FSU has leaned more toward Winston and the passing game while the rushing game developed.
FSU's balanced attack should give Notre Dame plenty of problems on defense.
FSU's defense strong in red zone
Florida State bent on defense in the first half against Syracuse but was at its best in the red zone. Syracuse managed just two field goals in four drives that went inside the 20, with safety Jalen Ramsey coming up with an interception and FSU stopping the Orange on downs with about two minutes to go before halftime.
A game that easily could have been very close was instead 24-6 FSU at the half. This is where FSU's defense is superb: The Seminoles will let a team drive but then find a way to hold opponents to a field goal—or force a turnover—inside the 20.
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher makes sure that the Seminoles are situationally sound, and they are one of the top 20 teams in the FBS in red-zone efficiency. Notre Dame has scored on 19 of 22 trips into the red zone going into the UNC game.
One thing that works in FSU's favor is Notre Dame's struggling ground attack (78th nationally). Quarterback Everett Golson is good enough to beat FSU with his arm and his legs, but Notre Dame is too one-dimensional on offense.
Of course, you probably could have guessed which way Holtz was leaning.
Notre Dame at FSU is shaping up to be one of the best games of the season. Give FSU the early edge because of its balance on offense and ability to force turnovers on defense.
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