Leftovers & Links: Like a bye or a bowl, Florida State awaits Notre Dame

Jordan Travis
ACC Media

In 132 years of football, there is little without precedent for Notre Dame. Going three full weeks between games, for example, will not be a first for the Irish. (Knock on wood Saturday’s game against Florida State kicks off as scheduled at 7:30 ET on NBC.)

Notre Dame went five weeks between games during the 1918 pandemic, but that was only one game into the season. In Knute Rockne’s first season, the Irish beat up on Case Tech, 26-6, on Sept. 28 before biding their time into November and a 67-7 trouncing of Wabash.

Playing two games, and thus getting decently into the season, before taking multiple weeks off is unprecedented for Notre Dame, and Irish head coach Brian Kelly knows as much. It is unprecedented in much, if not all, of college football.

“Nobody has played two games and then taken two weeks off, so this will be unchartered territory from that perspective,” Kelly said Thursday. “… There’s going to have to be a little bit of bowl game preparation here.”

Perhaps with the exception of facing Rutgers in the 2013 Pinstripe Bowl, bowl game opposition is typically a bit stronger than this floundering version of Florida State, a version that fell behind FCS-level Jacksonville State 21-7 before a quarterback switch spurred the Seminoles to a 41-24 victory this weekend, a version that opened the season with a 16-13 loss to Georgia Tech, a version that has already given up 11 sacks through three games. But under Kelly, Notre Dame’s postseason results have been mixed, no matter the metric in question.

The Irish have gone 5-4 in Kelly’s nine bowl game appearances, and 4-5 against the spread. Most recently, though, the resurgence since 2016’s bowl-less conclusion has included a bit better showings, Trevor Lawrence-exception assumed.

2017: Favored by one against No. 17 LSU in the Citrus Bowl, won 21-17.
2018: A 10.5-point underdog to No. 2 Clemson in the College Football Playoff, lost 30-3.
2019: A 3.5-point favorite against Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl, won 33-9.

If this absurd version of unwanted scheduling ends up having more the feel of a typical idle week, Notre Dame may be in better shape. Kelly has gone 11-2 following idle weeks since arriving in South Bend in 2010, and 8-5 against the spread. Since 2017 …

2017: Favored by three against No. 11 USC, won 49-14.
2018: Favored by 24 at Navy, won 44-22.
2019: Favored by 34 against New Mexico, won 66-14.
2019: A 1-point underdog at No. 19 Michigan, lost 45-14.

One way or another, there should finally be a game Saturday.

“Once the game gets going, this group has played a lot of football, I’m pretty confident we’ll be able to get up to snuff pretty quickly,” Kelly said.

Knock on wood. Cross your fingers. Avoid black cats. So on and so forth. But only two games were postponed or canceled this weekend, Rice at Marshall and Troy at South Alabama. 32 games were played.

It is only one week, and that is still two games more than would be expected in a normal season, but this window of success bodes well for this season continuing at a decent pace.

In other words, the last major — both in numbers and perception — coronavirus outbreak in college football was indeed Notre Dame’s.

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