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  • Brandon Wimbush will reportedly start in place of Ian Book on Saturday against Florida State. Wimbush was 3-0 as a starter before Book took over prior to Notre Dame's matchup against Wake Forest. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

Thursday, November 08, 2018 3:00 pm

Book hurt, Wimbush to start for Notre Dame against Seminoles

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Multiple sources reported Thursday morning that Brandon Wimbush will start at quarterback Saturday for Notre Dame in place of Ian Book, who reportedly suffered a rib injury against Northwestern.

On the apparent play in question, Book scrambled and attempted a late head-first dive to avoid contact. A Northwestern defender who was getting ready to tackle the quarterback tried to adjust for the dive, but ended up pushing his knee into Book's ribs. It looked painful in real time and I was personally surprised Book didn't take at least a few plays off to get looked at on the sideline. The play was in the first quarter, so the junior QB was able to play the rest of the game with the injury, but the problem appears to have worsened this week. 

Here is a video of the reported injury:

Assuming these reports are true, Wimbush will be the starting quarterback against Florida State on Saturday night, with No. 3 Notre Dame's undefeated record on the line. That might tempt some fans to panic and assume the sky is falling, but I don't see that being true. Remember, the Irish were 3-0 with Wimbush as the starter early in the season, including a victory over Michigan, which we now know fields one of the best defenses in the country. Notre Dame was also 8-3 last season in games Wimbush started and finished (since Book finished the Citrus Bowl). 

Of course, there were reasons Brian Kelly made the decision to go with Book as the starter in the first place: the Notre Dame offense underachieved against Ball State and Vanderbilt. Wimbush completed 55.3 percent of his passes for 7.8 yards per attempt in his three starts, while Book has completed 74.5 percent of his throws for 8.9 yards per attempt. The decision to go to Book was clearly the right one.

On the other hand, Wimbush will now have the luxury of handing off to Dexter Williams, who missed the first four games of the season, but is averaging 6.1 yards per carry and has run for 100-plus yards three times in five games. That will take some pressure off Wimbush as a runner and make the Irish's run-pass option plays more dangerous. 

In addition, Kelly said earlier in the week that Wimbush has remained engaged and focused in practice since he was moved to the backup role.

"He's been such a big part of our success this year," Kelly said of Wimbush. "He's got to stay ready. Who knows what happens, right? Every week we remind him. He knows that he's one step away from going back out on the field."

"He's practiced really well. I think that's the biggest thing more than anything else, is it's easy to lose your edge when you're not starting. He's fought that. So he's just been a great teammate and he's kept himself prepared."

Now that preparation becomes important. Florida State is holding opponents to just 2.9 yards per carry, so Notre Dame will probably have to throw to win this game. Look for more deep shots than usual this week as the Irish try to tailor their game-plan to Wimbush's strengths. Book thrived on short and medium throws, but Wimbush has a stronger arm and can push the ball down the field more often. 

The Notre Dame offense will look different against the Seminoles, but don't expect it to slow down much.