Champs Sports Bowl 2011: Florida State Defense Ready to Battle with Notre DameDecember 12, 2011
When the 2011 college football season began, many believed that a Notre Dame vs. Florida State match-up would be a BCS bowl game.
However, since neither team lived up to their preseason expectations, both finishing with identical (8-4) records, they will meet instead in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 29.
Florida State University is looking for its fourth straight bowl victory and is making its third appearance in the Champs Bowl. Notre Dame is making its first appearance.
This will be the seventh meeting between the two teams, and the second meeting in a bowl game. They played in the Orange Bowl in 1996 with Florida State winning 31-26. Florida State leads the series 4-2. Florida State won the last meeting in 2003 by a 37-0 score.
Florida State and Notre Dame both got off to slow starts this season, but finished strong. The Seminoles ended the regular season with a win against their in-state rival Florida Gators. The Fighting Irish lost to Stanford, but managed to win six out of their last seven games.
Both teams are evenly matched offensively, with Florida State averaging 31.6 points per game and Notre Dame averaging 30.5. But Florida State's defense ranks high nationally and will be the key to giving the Seminoles a slight edge over Notre Dame.
Florida State ranked sixth in the country in defense (274.6 yards per game), fourth in scoring defense (15.2 points per game) and second in rushing defense (81.8 yards per game).
Their secondary should also pose problems for the Fighting Irish and whichever quarterback Notre Dame chooses to go with. FSU's secondary is ranked eighteenth in the country against the pass and they average at least one interception per game. They are also ninth ranked nationally in sacks.
The Seminole defense is lead by defensive end Brandon Jenkins, who's been sensational this season. He had 13 sacks to go along with 21 tackles.
That alone should make it difficult for Notre Dame, which has struggled with turnovers and difficulties at the quarterback position all season.
Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly has used a tandem of sophomores at the QB position, Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix.
Coach Brian Kelly has said that sophomore Tommy Rees will get the start, but look for Kelly to insert fellow sophomore quarterback Andrew Hendrix if Rees struggles, or if the Irish fall behind.
For Florida State to be successful, they must contain Notre Dames’ star wide receiver Michael Floyd. Floyd is eighth in the nation with 95 receptions, 1,106 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. The senior will look to end his college career on a high note.
Floyd is joined by tight end Tyler Eifert, who is the teams' second leading receiver with 57 catches and 713 yards.
Both players will be a challenge to cover, but the young, fast defense of the Seminoles will look to shoot down the run and cover Floyd and Eifert with their superior speed.
This match-up is not only about two marquee programs trying to regain prominence, but also about two young coaches with something to prove. Both coaches are in their second year, and have previously won their bowl appearances.
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State's head coach, comes in with an overall record of 18-8, while Brian Kelly, coach of the Fighting Irish, has a record of 16-9 at Notre Dame. Kelly previously served as head coach at Central Michigan and Cincinnati.
The winner of the 2011 Champs Super Bowl will be determined by how well each team handles the others strength. If Florida State can contain Michael Floyd, who is arguably one of the best receivers in college football, they may win. If Notre Dame can disrupt the potent defense of the Seminoles and hold on to the ball, they should come out on top.
Kickoff for the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl is 5:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, December 29 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The game will be televised on ESPN.