All Eyes On Tallahassee

Steve Phillips, Special to

Seminoles in national spotlight at home against Notre Dame

GREENSBORO, N.C. ( – The ACC kicked off the college football weekend with Thursday night’s Virginia Tech-Pitt game, and second-ranked Florida State will bring it to a close on Saturday evening when it plays host to fifth-ranked Notre Dame.

The 8 p.m. battle of unbeaten teams will be televised nationally on ABC. Saturday will begin with ESPN’s GameDay making its second appearance of the season in Tallahassee and its fourth in the last eight FSU home games. The current ACC schools have hosted GameDay a combined 33 times.

Defending national champion Florida State held the No. 1 spot in both major polls but slipped to No. 2 last week despite a 38-20 ACC road win at Syracuse. That doesn’t concern head coach Jimbo Fisher as the Seminoles prepare to face the Fighting Irish in a game that could have eventual College Football Playoff implications for this season.

“All of those things wash themselves out as the season goes on,” Fisher said. “You can go up and down. If we win (against) Notre Dame, that’s going to put us right back up there again. We’ve beaten two Top 25 teams – us and Mississippi State are the only two teams that have wins over two currently ranked Top 25 teams. We have an excellent opportunity to showcase our ability this week against Notre Dame.”

FSU and Notre Dame last met at the end of Fisher’s second season as head coach, with the Seminoles claiming an 18-14 win in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl at Orlando, Florida. Both programs have since participated in a National Championship Game.

“I thought we had a chance to be a very good team in the future, and they played us extremely well so we thought they would be a very good team,” Fisher said in recalling his last up-close look at the Irish. “That was a heck of a football game. You knew they had good players and guys that went to the draft, and you’re expecting to be where they are.”

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly had the same feeling as he watched from the opposing sideline.

“You could tell that both teams were definitely ascending, and that better things were definitely in front of us,” Kelly said. “It was definitely going to be ‘what's next’ for these programs moving forward in a positive way. That's kind of how I saw it after that game … and, of course, we played for the National Championship a year later, and Florida State won one (a year after that).”

Among Florida State’s incidental goals on Saturday night will be continuation of the Seminoles’ ACC-record and national-best active winning streak, which sits at 22 games.

“These are the kind of teams that we want to challenge ourselves against,” Kelly said. “We want to be challenged nationally against the very, very best. I think that that's probably more significant than anything else – these are the games that we want to play. We want to be relevant, playing the very best at this time of the season.”

The game will be three of four Notre Dame plays this season against ACC teams as part of an agreement that will see the Fighting Irish face each of the league’s 14 football members over a three-year period.