Tag Archive for Preview/Prediction

Notre Dame Offense Will Power Fighting Irish Victory in Champs Sports Bowl

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


Washington vs. Baylor: Robert Griffin III’s NFL Decision Hinges on Alamo Bowl

The year 2011 has been a banner year for Baylor Bears Quarterback Robert Griffin III.

He led the previously second-class Bears to an impressive 9-3 ranking, and set an eye-popping 46 school records in the process.

Despite possessing one more year of eligibility, the Heisman Trophy winner will likely go pro barring a horrific performance on Thursday against Washington in the Alamo Bowl.

Right now he is projected to be a Top 10 pick. Yet he may reconsider his option with a no-show in his biggest collegiate game to date.

The good news for Griffin III is that he will be facing a Huskies defense that ranks 116th out of 120 schools in pass defense, allowing 283.8 YPG.

So, what does it mean for a Baylor offense that has a quarterback in Griffin III who has thrown for 3,998 yards, 38 touchdowns and six interceptions?

That’s as close to perfection as it gets in a powerhouse conference like the Big-12. And it’s going to spell doom to the Huskies.

The Bears primarily utilize three-and-four receiver sets that keep Griffin III in the shotgun. ESPN’s Scout Inc., talks about how a defense must adjust to the formation: 

Communication and discipline are critical for defensive backs when facing this group. The Bears use a lot of screens and quick-hitting throws underneath, so corners and safeties become anxious to get an early jump toward the line of scrimmage. Once the Bears see that, Griffin will mix in a pump fake (in any number of directions) before going up top to a receiver on a double-cut route. Washington safeties Nate Fellner and Sean Parker have shown a tendency to gamble at times rather than reading and trusting their keys, so don’t be surprised if the Bears’ offensive game plan incorporates more play-action, misdirection and double moves than usual.  

Considering the Bears haven’t been to consecutive bowl games since the 1991-1992 season, this is a big deal for Baylor. Expect them to bring maximum effort in what will likely be RGIII’s final game donning dark green.

With millions of dollars hanging in the balance—expect Griffin III to go out with a bang.

Prediction: Baylor 38 Washington 24


2011 Bowl Predictions: 5 Players Who Will Light Up Champs Sports Bowl

The Florida State Seminoles and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish both entered the season looking to make it to a BCS bowl, but neither of them made good on their potential.

So the Champs Sports Bowl will have to do. Not exactly ideal, but certainly better than nothing.

Because both of these defenses are strong and both of these offenses are weak, the Champs Sports Bowl is probably going to be a hotly contested low-scoring affair. Both teams are going to need some key individual players to step up.

And some will. Here are five players that I anticipate showing up in a big way in the Champs Sports Bowl.


Andrew Hendrix

Yup, I’m calling it right here and now. Andrew Hendrix is going to outperform Tommy Rees on Thursday night.

The word from CSNChicago.com is that Rees is going to start, but that Hendrix will see some time under center off the bench. Because Rees has a tendency to struggle, and because Hendrix played pretty well against Stanford in late November, I anticipate Hendrix being the more productive of the two.

It’s not going to be easy, mind you. Florida State’s pass defense is not as strong as its rush defense, but it’s still pretty strong. Hendrix will have his work cut out for him.

But hey, he’ll have a better game than Rees, and he’ll have a better game than EJ Manuel. It’s all relative. 

Brandon Jenkins

Why do I anticipate Rees struggling?

Primarily because he’s going to have Brandon Jenkins chasing him around. Jenkins is a beastly pass rusher, and he can be downright dominant on a good night.

For example, you can go back to Florida State’s loss to Virginia in mid-November. It was a lousy night for the Seminoles, but it was a great night for Jenkins. He had 2.5 sacks and six tackles.

Against a Notre Dame offense that has had its issues with pass protection, Jenkins will have the upper hand. He’ll get after Rees, but it will be slightly harder for him to track down Hendrix, who is a more mobile and elusive.

Manti Te’o

Manti Te’o is a beast. Had he chosen to go pro, he probably would have been the first inside linebacker taken on draft day.

But Te’o is staying at South Bend to terrorize the college ranks for another year. He’s looking to end his career on a high note, and that process will start on Thursday night.

I don’t see why Te’o wouldn’t have a big game against Florida State. He’s a lock for eight or more tackles every game, and the Seminoles aren’t going to be able to avoid him. Even if Florida State makes an effort to avoid Te’o, he’ll find a way to assert himself.

Nigel Bradham

We go from one stud linebacker to another.

Though it’s in Notre Dame’s best interest to pass the rock against Florida State, the Irish will undoubtedly look to establish the run anyway. That’s where Nigel Bradham, the Seminoles’ leading tackler, will come into play.

Bradham won’t let Cierre Wood gain an inch. In addition to being Florida State’s leading tackler, Bradham is third on the team in tackles for loss. He knows how to be right in the thick of things, and that won’t change against Notre Dame.

Michael Floyd

There’s no stopping Michael Floyd. He only had a couple bad games in 2011, and that’s not an accident. All Notre Dame’s quarterbacks have to do is chuck it up for grabs, and Floyd will come down with it.

Hendrix knows that. I assume he’s also well aware that Floyd was money in the Sun Bowl last season against Miami. He caught two early touchdown passes, setting the Irish up for a rout.

The Irish aren’t going to rout the Seminoles, but Floyd is going to play a big role in this game. Like I mentioned, all Hendrix will have to do is throw it up for grabs, and Floyd will go up and get it.

In fact, don’t be surprised if plays like those account for the bulk of Notre Dame’s offense.