Trouble Spot 1: FSU

Trouble Spot 1: FSU

There was no drama at the top of this year's annual Trouble Spots countdown: Florida State is No. 1 on the Irish schedule and in college football for 2014.

The Game Day Situation

Notre Dame enters the contest following back-to-back home tilts against Stanford and North Carolina, and on the heels of three straight games (the Irish face Syracuse, preceding the Cardinal and Tar Heels) following a Sept. 20 bye.

If the season's first six games play out according to our pre-season projections, Notre Dame will be 5-1 entering its October 18 matchup in Tallahassee, with the loss occurring against either Stanford or UNC.

Winners of 16 consecutive contests entering 2014, Florida State should receive two (theoretical) tests prior to Notre Dame's trip south: the Seminoles open in Cowboys Stadium against Oklahoma State, then host Clemson on Sept. 20.

Both FSU and the Irish enjoy a bye week following their Oct. 18 matchup.

Why They're Definitively #1…

Florida State is 27-2 since they met the like-record Irish (8-4) in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl, a game won by the Seminoles 18-14. (The Irish are a solid 21-5 in that same span.) Both teams have played for the national title since, with FSU claiming the game's top prize last season.

Head coach Jimbo Fisher is 45-10 in his four seasons at the helm. FSU was a middling 30-22 in the four seasons that preceded Fisher's ascent to head coach.

Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston returns following an eye-opening 2013 season in which he tossed 40 touchdowns and 4,057 yards while throwing just 10 interceptions, leading the nation in Passing Efficiency by a wide margin.

Winston's offensive line returns four (FOUR!) All-American candidates -- three of whom started as freshmen/redshirt-freshmen vs. Notre Dame in the aforementioned 2011 Champs Sports Bowl.

The Seminoles defense ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense in 2013; No. 6 in 2012; and No. 4 in 2011. Don't expect much of a drop-off for 2014.

Fisher quietly rebuilt the program over his first three seasons -- Winston's greatness took care of the rest en route to a 14-0 season and national championship last fall.

Among pre-season annuals, Athlon's, Lindy's, and Phil Steele each rank the Seminoles No. 1 while The Sporting News places Florida State third behind Oklahoma and Oregon.

Redefining "Signature Win"

For Irish head coach Brian Kelly, this would be it.

Notre Dame has had two eye-opening road upsets since the turn of the century: Tyrone Willingham's 2002 squad that won in Tallahassee as 11-point underdogs, 34-24, and Kelly's 2012 crew that stunned college football with a 31-13 bundling of Oklahoma in Norman as underdogs of 12.5.

Neither the '02 Seminoles nor the '12 Sooners could hold a candle to the talents and overall program power of Winston & Co. this fall.

Whether they're 5-1, 4-2, or a surprising 6-0, Notre Dame will be playing with house money in Tallahassee against the likely undefeated Seminoles, pre-season favorites of an astounding 24 points vs. Kelly and the Irish.

In Summation

62-7. 63-0. 49-17. 41-14. 59-3.

The scores above represent Florida State's results vs. FBS foes that traveled to Tallahassee last season.

Their road/neutral results vs. similar foes -- 41-13, 48-34, 51-14, 59-3, 37-7, 45-7 -- were no less impressive.

Only Auburn threatened the Seminoles for 60 minutes, losing 34-31 in the BCS Championship game after taking a 21-3 early lead en route to a 21-10 halftime advantage -- courtesy, it appears, the infamous sign-stealing opening stanza in which Florida State inexplicably did not change its sideline calls despite the presence of a former Seminoles assistant coach on the Tigers sideline.

An upset win by Notre Dame on October 18 would cause a seismic shift in power, just 10 days prior to the initial release of the newfound Selection Committee poll. (The Coach's, Harris, and AP polls carry no weight in college football's new playoff system.)

Even in defeat, a strong showing by Notre Dame -- plus 11 regular season wins -- would likely be enough to place the Irish among college football's Final Four at season's end as the Seminoles are unlikely to lose twice.

Trouble Spot #2: USC

Trouble Spot #3: Stanford

Trouble Spot #4: Arizona State

Trouble Spot #5: North Carolina

Trouble Spot #6: Michigan

Trouble Spot #7: Navy

Trouble Spot #8: Louisville

Trouble Spot #9: Northwestern

Trouble Spot #10: Syracuse

Trouble Spot #11: Rice

Trouble Spot #12: Purdue

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