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Fighting Irish fighting for national respect vs. Florida State

The college football season is essentially in the midway point of the season, and there is still no real certainty over where we are heading. The college football season has been unpredictable in a number of ways so far with Mississippi State elevated from the pool of unranked teams to the top of the polls in a span of five weeks, and Ole Miss not far behind. There is no question the college football world has been buzzing about the developments coming out of the state of Mississippi, but this week the focus shifts to the defending national champions facing off with one of college football’s most iconic programs.

Florida State, winner of 22 straight games and the defending national champions, host Notre Dame this weekend. Both are ranked in the top five in the major polls and they bring a combined record of 12-0 to this weekend’s biggest game. Perhaps surprisingly, each has a little bit of a chip on their shoulder pads this week and something to prove. That may be bad news for the Fighting Irish.

Despite entering the week with an unblemished record and seemingly well on their way to a third straight ACC title, Florida State was knocked off the top of the polls this week by Mississippi State. Florida State did nothing wrong, but the momentum in the voting has swung in favor of Mississippi State based on the strength of three straight wins over teams that were ranked in the top 10 at the time those games were played. Florida State does not appear to have played the kind of A-game that was seen last season. Is Florida State holding something back, or are teams throwing everything they can at the Noles in an attempt to snap the nation’s longest active winning streak?

Florida State has dodged some bullets already this season. They played one game without their Heisman Trophy quarterback, Jameis Winston, and won. They went on the road and avoided an upset by a team letting it all out in NC State. They responded to a challenge from the Big 12’s Oklahoma State in week one. Now, FSU is investigating claims Winston signed autographs for money.

Then there is Notre Dame. The Irish always seem to build hype with a winning season, and this season is no different. Still, Notre Dame is looking for a win that could be considered a signature win for the 2014 season. Notre Dame picked up a home win against Stanford, thanks to a terrific pass from quarterback Everett Golson to the corner of the end zone in the final seconds, and last weekend showed it has the offense to win a shootout. Going on the road to take on a Florida State team that should be ready to put together its best game of the season is a true measuring stick opportunity for the Irish.

Until Notre Dame proves it can beat one of the elite programs in college football on a grand stage, the overall assessment of Notre Dame will be that it is good, but not good enough. Have we seen this before from Notre Dame? Absolutely. But this season appears to be up for grabs with plenty of surprises still to come. Can Notre Dame offer one more surprise?

This was originally published on your local CBS Local website…

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Each week of the season I will be providing a college football commentary for CBS Local. Look for it on your CBS Local website or check here for a quick excerpt and links.

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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