Notre Dame-Florida State Needs to Channel from the Past


The long-awaited Notre Dame-Florida State tilt is almost here. This is the crown jewel of the Fighting Irish’s agreement with the ACC, guaranteeing the conference five games a season against one of college football’s most iconic programs.

And, likewise, Florida State is certainly the most iconic of the ACC’s ranks. The Seminoles approach, if not match that level of college football lore the Fighting Irish occupy.

It doesn’t hurt that this year’s Notre Dame-Florida State matchup has national championship implications. For children of the ’90s such as myself, this just feels right; certainly more so than a luke-warm CHAMPS Sports Bowl encounter.

Their 2011 postseason matchup aside, this is a rematch 21 years in the making. Many of the undergrads in the Florida State student section Saturday night weren’t even born yet when these teams met as No. 1 and No. 2 in 1993. But for grizzled veterans such as myself, Notre Dame-Florida State ’93 was our first “Game of the Century.”

In a way, it still sets the bar for every affair since bestowed that title.

Memories of the epic 1993 encounter take me back to a time when my biggest concern was beating Ecco The Dolphin on Sega Genesis–which I never did, if you were wondering–and the inundation of information we’re exposed to today didn’t exist.

Barring a repeat of Notre Dame-Florida State 1993, right down to the baffling impact on the national championship, I probably won’t remember this year’s installment as fondly.

Yet another example of why growing up sucks.

There’s plenty to be excited about Saturday, no question. Quarterbacks who helped their teams to the last two national title games are squaring off, one of whom is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and the other is a leading contender for this year’s.

Both are ranked in the Top 5 nationally, and the winner has an inside track on the College Football Playoff. The loser may very well be eliminated, giving this a true single-elimination atmosphere.

But, as scrutiny of Winston mounts, attention is diverted from the on-field implications of Saturday’s game. Winston faces a hearing at Florida State pertaining to the allegations of sexual assault levied against him almost two years ago. Winston is also being investigated for memorabilia being sold with his autograph; a hot-button issue right now, after Todd Gurley’s suspension at Georgia.

For plenty of Florida State fans, Notre Dame Week has quickly devolved into #BlameJameis Week. Spend enough time on the internet this week, and it seems the Fighting Irish are secondary opponents this week, taking a backseat to ESPN and Clay Travis.

Sadly, this makes sense considering that more Jimbo Fisher soundbites concern the various investigations into Winston than they do Notre Dame–not by his choice, surely.

Winston’s various indiscretions–alleged or proven–are fodder for material like the “Catholics vs. Criminoles” T-shirt above. This retread of the 1988 “Catholics vs. Convicts” game pitting Notre Dame against Miami may be ill-conceived: Golson missed the 2013 season due to academic integrity, four Irish players were bounced from this year’s team for their academic missteps and Notre Dame had to deal with its own sad case of sexual assault allegations.

If Saturday’s game is going to borrow from Miami-Notre Dame, which was played 26 years ago today, more of the on-field product and less of the name-calling is in order.