Tim O'Malley (Publisher)Will either team score three touchdowns? Will either team enjoy third-down offensive success? Can either team forge a consistent rushing attack? Which team can turn red zone visits into seven points rather than three?
Look for the third-lowest scoring game of the Irish season (Notre Dame's 15-12 win at Pittsburgh and their 16-14 struggle over Boston College will have featured less offense), with both defenses applying too much second and third-down pressure to allow either offense a rhythm.
I've felt FSU would prevail since the matchup was announced, but I can't shake how well-prepared Brian Kelly's Irish were for last year's Sun Bowl. I expect the first and fourth quarters to feature most of the scoring in a 20-19 Irish victory.
Brian Dohn (Recruiting Reporter)This is Notre Dame's chance to post a nice win and enter the off-season with momentum, and it has the offense to do it. Florida State has tremendous speed and will challenge the Irish's athleticism.
FSU 21 ND 20
Dave Berk (Recruiting Analyst)An inexperienced Florida State offensive line seems like the perfect medicine for Notre Dame's bowl success in the Champs Sports Bowl. However, while there is sure to be pressure placed on the Seminoles passing attack, questions surrounding the Irish offense are too big to ignore.
Look for a few wrinkles out of Brian Kelly's offense as the Seminoles will look to force the Irish to throw the football. However, Kelly will somehow find enough offense and Bob Diaco's defense will step up again to help the Irish win their third straight bowl game for the first time since the 1991-93 seasons.
Final score 21-17 Irish
Christian Zavisca (Staff Writer)Motivation always seems to be the buzzword when we talk about bowl matchups, particularly those that aren't upper-tier tangles. Thus, we have to wonder: Which team will be more motivated?
Notre Dame-Florida State seems to be even in that regard. Both have relatively new coaches, and both team's players have been talking a good game as they prepare in Orlando, Fla., for the Champs Sports Bowl. As for the on-field matchup, the Irish know what they have to do: prevent big plays on defense, get the running game going and keep it going, and convert in the passing game, especially on third down.
We know how Notre Dame performed last year in a similar bowl circumstance. I give ND the edge overall, but there's so much that's hard to predict: Will Hendrix play early and often? Will the Irish quarterbacks put Floyd and Eifert in position to make good plays? Will the defense turn it loose?
Just enough will go right for a Notre Dame victory.
Notre Dame 27 Florida State 23
GaviND (Moderator)Entering the 2011 season both Florida State and Notre Dame had their sights placed firmly on BCS bowl games. Both teams were ranked favorably in the preseason polls and many expected that this would be the year where both programs ended years of frustrating play and place themselves back on the map.
It didn't happen.
At 8-4, both teams failed to meet their expectations and as a result, the two storied programs will meet in the Champs Sports Bowl.
With little riding on the result of this year's battle, pride will, in my opinion, play the greatest role in deciding the outcome.
For Notre Dame, this is an opportunity for the seniors to walk out being undefeated in bowl games. After a decade-plus losing streak in postseason play, you'd have to think that the seniors will have this in mind.
Beyond pride, the play of both offensive lines should play a pivotal role in the game as well. Notre Dame comes into the game healthy beyond Braxston Cave's season ending injury but they will also be tested by way of athleticism and speed the likes of which they have not seen this year.
F$U, on the other hand, features an offensive line that is in disarray. Four freshmen are expected to start for the Seminoles along the offensive line Thursday night, so I would expect the Irish defensive front seven to cause some major problems.
As has been the case most of the year, Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix need to take care of the ball and not put the defense in any precarious situations. If the Irish can win the turnover battle and manage to maintain an efficient and balanced offense, I expect a victory for the boys from South Bend.
ND 24 F$U 17
Morrissey79 (Moderator)This will be a defensive battle.
Florida St is very athletic, but has struggled offensively, specifically the offensive line. They have some talent at RB and WR, but it is inexperienced. They will be starting four freshmen on the O-line, which should allow ND to pressure Manual well.
ND must take care of the football, and Hendrix must make an impact. Having Riddick in the backfield should help the running game, and Eifert and Floyd should be able to produce even against this very good defense. I expect FSU to play a lot of man on Floyd out of pure self confidence, and at least once he will make them pay.
Low scoring battle, whoever limits mistakes and doesn't turn the ball over wins.
ND 24 FSU 17
SeattleNDFan (Moderator)With Florida State strong on defense and with major issues on their offensive line, I see no reason why this game wouldn't play out very similar to ACC opponents Wake Forest and Maryland and future ACC member Pittsburgh.
Look for Notre Dame to rely on its defense to contain the Seminole attack while Florida State will likely force the Irish to prove they can consistently execute and dink and dunk their way down the field, as this is the history of FSU Defensive Coordinator Mark Stoops. When Hendrix comes in, we might see Stoops let loose the hounds and if Hendrix has mastered the nuances of blitz recognition and protection calls since the Stanford game, he could well take advantage of blitzes by the Seminoles.
With Jonas Gray out and Michael Floyd and Tyler Eifert both potentially one game away from NFL paydays, I think both coaches play this one very conservative and the final score will be in the teens.
Notre Dame 17 Florida State 10
BNolan (Moderator)I'm drinking out of my 1993 "The Reality Bowl" coffee mug this morning on purpose. Hopefully Kelly has utilized this travesty, and other bits of Criminole history, to inspire the lads.
Plenty of time to game plan for FSU. FSU is talented, they always are. Fast.
But they aren't invincible, especially this year. And then... there is the Jekyll & Hyde Irish... which team shows up?
If the good guys show up, we win. If we look like Keystone Kops, we don't.
I'll hope my coffee mug mojo works.
Irish 23 FSU 20