The No. 26 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4) will play the No. 25 Florida State Seminoles (8-4) in this year’s Champs Sports Bowl.
Date: Dec. 30th 2011
Kickoff: 5:30 PM
Site: Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, Orlando, Florida (70,000)
Television: ESPN (ESPN Radio)
Coaches: Notre Dame Brian Kelly (16-9, second season) Florida State-Jimbo Fisher (19-8, second season)
The Fighting Irish and the FSU Seminoles are no strangers to each other. Florida State has the edge overall the Irish in its six meetings (4-2). The two teams last squared off in Florida in Miami at the 1996 Orange Bowl that saw Florida State under Bobby Bowden down the Lou Holz-led Fighting Irish 31-26 back on January 1st of 1996. This rivalry is best known for its “game of the century” meeting in 1993 in a pairing of no.1 vs. no.2 won by the Irish.
Notre Dame looks to regroup after a humiliating end of regular season loss to the Stanford Cardinals. The quarterback drama appears to be settled as Tommy Rees is given the OK to start for the Irish after misgivings by Coach Kelly. Andrew Hendrix will be the only other option at quarterback as the team’s initial seaon starter, Dayne Crist. Asked for his official release from the team this week. And will not appear in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Notre Dame Passing Offense vs. Florida State Passing Defense
Tommy Rees looks to bounce back from a terrible performance against Stanford and improve upon his 19 touchdowns this year. Luckily his main target is one of the best in the country in WR Michael Floyd who finished the season with 95 catches for 1,106 yards and eight touchdowns.
They face a very dangerous Seminole defense that is ranked 4th in scoring defense and the number 6 total defense in the country. In their last five games the Seminoles forced 14 turnovers. The unit unfortunately has not come up big in crucial situations and has given up substantial passing plays to their opponents in fourth quarter situations.
Notre Dame Rushing Offense vs. Florida State Rushing Defense
The Notre Dame rushing attack has suffered two major blows. First its vaunted offensive line has been severely weakened by the season ending loss of starting center Braxston Cave, The Fighting Irish also finds itself without the injured RB Jonas Gray forcing the team to start WR Theo Riddick at the running back position. Gray had scored TDs in nine straight games. This will be an opportunity for the usually reliable Cierre Wod to bounce back from a subpar 41 yard rushing effort against Stanford.
The Seminoles boast a defensive line among the nation’s best and are ranked number two in rushing defense and led by defensive tackles Timmy Jernigan and Everett Dawkins. The group only allows 81.8 rushing yards per game and has only allowed 8 rushing touchdowns all season. The linebacking corps is led by the team’s leading tackler Nigel Bradham.
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Florida State Passing Offense vs. Notre Dame Passing Defense
The Seminoles are helmed by the competent Junior QB E.J. Manuel who led the ACC in passing efficiency. He threw for 2,417 yards and 16 touchdowns. Manuel is a threat on the ground as well having gained 163 yards and recorded four rushing touchdowns. Dangerous WR Rashard Green (497 YDs. 4 TDs), lost to a midseason injury, is back as the Seminoles deep threat. The passing attack is ranked 34th in the nation.
The steady Fighting Irish secondary is ranked 34th in the country against the pass. The defensive backfield has witnessed a substantial decline only netting 8 interceptions this year from 18 a season ago. They are trying to recover from a game that saw them get torched for 233 yards passing and 4 touchdowns against Andrew Luck and Stanford.
Florida State Rushing Offense vs. Notre Dame Rushing Defense
The Florida State Offensive line could be the team’s Achilles heel. It fails to protect its quarterback in allowing 35 sacks to rank 106th nationally in that category. The line is also responsible for the team’s 99th-ranked rushing offense. The rushing offense is only averaging 3.5 yards a carry and failed to gain 100 yards rushing in five of its games.
The Fighting Irish Defensive Line should feast on this line the whole game. Watch for DE Aaron Lynch to have a superb effort. Star LB Mantei Teo gave a sign of confidence that he’ll be a ready to go for the bowl game inspite of a nagging ankle injury.
The Seminoles are one of the league’s leaders in this category. P Shawon Powell averages a whopping 47.0 yards an attempt. FSU leads the nation in net punting. Powell has dropped 43 percent of his kicks into the opponents 20 yard line. PK Dustin Samuels is also standout player and first team All-ACC selection.
K David Ruffer has improved of recent indpite of a poor game against Stanford. P Ben Turk is no slouch himself averaging 40.2 yards a kick. The Punt return game for the Irish has been non-existent with only three yards gained on ten returns. Not a good stat when facing one of the nation’s premiere punters.
This will be a defensive battle of will and determination. Florida State will prevail in this closely contested match up with its superior special teams.
Florida State 14 Notre Dame 10
2011 Chap Sports Bowl Preview