With 70 bowl appearances between them, Notre Dame and No. 25 Florida State are two of the best teams in the history of college football.
Countless pros have come from the two schools with the traditions and loyalty that are quite unique in the sport.
But who is the better team in 2011?
Thursday’s Champ’s Sports Bowl features two teams that failed to meet their preseason expectations—both holding a disappointing 8-4 record.
Having such a long layoff can be a curse for some teams, and it’s the Seminoles that have fallen victim. Junior cornerback Avis Commack and freshman linebacker Arrington Jenkins were arrested and charged with theft and will not be suiting up (via Fox Sports Florida).
To add insult to injury, the team’s second-leading rusher, Jermaine Thomas, is ineligible after failing to pass a class during the fall semester.
While the losses on defense aren’t substantial, the distraction is a big one, and I’d imagine the Seminoles will get off to a sluggish start because of it. How many other players were committing crimes only to not get caught? How focused are the non-seniors going to be for this game that really doesn’t hold a ton of meaning in the grand scheme of things?
The Seminole defense is fourth in the nation—allowing a mere 15.2 points per game, but they were susceptible to the pass.
Enter Tommy Rees and Michael Floyd.
Rees doesn’t have to worry about Dayne Crist breathing down his neck anymore, and expect his play on the field to show. The sophomore can head into the offseason with a boatload of confidence if he can end the season with a win in a bowl game. He completed 66 percent of his passes this season and threw for over 2,700 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Eight touchdowns and 1106 yards of that was to Floyd, a future first-round pick looking to solidify a spot in the Top 20. Floyd, named team MVP for the second straight year, set a single-season school record with 95 receptions in 2011.
The 6’3″, 225-pound senior is the best player on the field, and will use his size to physically dominate a smaller Seminoles’ secondary.
That’s really the difference in the game. The Rees to Floyd combination is going to put up points, and it remains to be seen what E.J Manuel (2,417 passing yards, 16 TDs) can do against a Fighting Irish that hadn’t given up more than 21 points before allowing 28 to No. 4 Stanford in the regular season finale.
No player on the Seminoles has more than 527 receiving yards or 531 rushing yards. The lack of explosive playmakers is going to be very tough to overcome.
Norte Dame is going to put up more than three touchdowns, and I don’t think the Seminoles offense is capable of mustering as much.
Expect a tight game that comes down to the team with the super-star playmaker, and the team that is distraction-free.
Prediction: Notre Dame 24 Florida State 17