Present Iteration: Champs Sports Bowl
Past Iterations: Mazda Tangerine Bowl, Visit Florida Tangerine Bowl, MicronPC.com Bowl, MicronPC Bowl, Carquest Bowl, Blockbuster Bowl, Sunshine Classic
Toasting Town: Orlando, Florida
Combatants: Florida State (8-4) vs. Notre Dame (8-4)
Holiday Equivalent: Getting an awesome present, you already own.
This looked like a plausible matchup preseason, for the Orange Bowl. Both teams returned talent and second-year coaches, sparking hope of return to their 1990s form. Both doused expectations with early losses. Notre Dame turned the ball over 10 times in its first two games, losing to South Florida and Michigan. FSU lost its first three competitive games, after drubbing two patsies. By the time they balanced themselves, it was too late. The winner here can save a bit of face.
Florida State Seminoles [SRS 24]
Best Wins: Florida (37), Miami (41)
Losses: Oklahoma (6), at Clemson (27), at Wake Forest (72), Virginia (68)
Famous Alum: Burt Reynolds
Florida State was two different teams. Their defense and special teams were nasty. They have one of the best and deepest front sevens in college football. They finished No. 4 in yards allowed per play, and were No. 1 against the run. They also were 10th in sacks, with 37. Football Outsiders’ formula rated them No. 1 in special teams efficiency. Their offense, however, was terrible, largely the result of offensive line injuries. They couldn’t run the ball (No. 100 nationally) and could not protect the quarterback (No. 106 with 35 sacks allowed). The stats were bad and trended downward toward the season’s end. They managed just 95 total yards in their win against Florida.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish [SRS 17]
Best Wins: Michigan State (15), Pittsburgh (50), Air Force (63)
Losses: at Stanford (5), at Michigan (9), USC (10), South Florida (50)
Famous Alum: Regis Philbin
Brian Kelly’s team had a solid offense and a solid defense, unfortunately underwhelming quarterback play and a self-destructive tendency plagued them. Crist had tools but no chutzpah. Rees had chutzpah but no tools. Andrew Hendrix showed flashes me may have the right combination of both, but had no seasoning. Not beating themselves is cliche, but for the Irish that can’t be reemphasized enough. They had a -11 turnover margin in their four losses. They’ll need a huge game from stud wide receiver Michael Floyd, who is so good he doesn’t miss game time after his second alcohol-related arrest.
Key: Notre Dame’s offensive line against Florida State. Of all the units, Florida State’s offense is the weak link. To stay in this game, the Seminoles need to bring Notre Dame down to their level. They will have to penetrate a good offensive line (just 13 sacks allowed in 12 games) and terrorize Tommy Rees.
For Recreational Purposes: Notre Dame (+4)