ACC: 2011-Champs-Bowl-preview

Notre Dame has been a thorn in the ACC's side since it beat Miami in last year's Sun Bowl and reeled off three straight wins against the league this year. Overall, though, Notre Dame is 1-3 against the ACC in postseason play. Here's a quick preview of Florida State's matchup against Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl:

WHO TO WATCH: Florida State’s defensive ends. The Seminoles’ defense has been outstanding this year, and it all starts up front. During the final seven regular-season games, Florida State racked up 22 sacks. This season, defensive end Brandon Jenkins has seven sacks and defensive end Bjoern Werner has six. FSU enters the bowl game No. 2 in the nation in rushing defense and held its final seven opponents to just 2.29 yards per carry. FSU is No. 9 in the nation in sacks and No. 5 in tackles for loss. Notre Dame is No. 17 in the country, though, in sacks allowed with just 1.08 per game.

WHAT TO WATCH: Florida State’s offensive line. It’s been the weak link this season, and as a result, the running game ranks No. 99 in the country and the Noles are No. 111 in sacks allowed. The Seminoles beat Florida in the regular-season finale with only 95 yards of total offense. They had four offensive touchdowns in the final three games, including just one against Miami and one against Virginia.

WHY TO WATCH: Because it’s the ACC’s best hope at a win over the Irish this year, and because it’s still Florida State and Notre Dame. Both programs had BCS bowl expectations heading into this season, but they are still two of nation’s most storied programs, rich in history and tradition. They haven’t played since 2003, when Florida State won 37-0 in South Bend. Notre Dame, though, has had the edge over the ACC this year, beating Wake Forest, Maryland and Boston College in a three-week span in November. Can the Noles stop that streak?

PREDICTION: Florida State 21, Notre Dame 17: This is significantly below the 30 points both teams are averaging this year, but Florida State’s defense will again be the difference. Even if the Noles can’t get things going again offensively, Florida State’s defense and special teams are good enough to offset it against the Irish. Notre Dame is No. 116 in the country in turnover margin, and Florida State is capable not only of forcing quarterback Tommy Rees into a turnover, but also of scoring on it.

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