Florida State take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: As far as preseason expectations go, this is not where Florida State wanted to be or was projected to be.
Considering the turn the season took, though, it’s exactly where the Seminoles should be. Florida State, which was ranked No. 6 in the AP preseason poll and predicted by the media to win the ACC title this year, enters the game against Notre Dame struggling offensively. FSU is No. 99 in the country in rushing offense, and No. 111 in sacks allowed.
Florida State has thrived this year, though, on its defense and special teams. FSU is No. 9 in the country in sacks, No. 5 in tackles for loss, No. 6 in total defense, No. 4 in scoring defense, and No. 2 in rushing defense. It also claimed another unofficial “state championship” this year, with wins over rivals Miami and Florida.
This marks the second appearance by FSU in the Champs Sports Bowl, as it defeated Wisconsin 42-13 in the 2008 game. FSU has a 24-14-2 (.625) record in 40 bowl appearances, the sixth-best percentage record by a school with 15 or more bowl appearances. The Seminoles will be facing the Fighting Irish for the seventh time, having won four of the previous six meetings, including a 37-0 win at South Bend in 2003.
Notre Dame take by Notre Dame blogger Matt Fortuna: A season that began with BCS-bowl expectations, a No. 16 ranking and Dayne Crist as a starting quarterback will come to an end in the Champs Sports Bowl, unranked and possibly without Crist.
Notre Dame's 0-2 start made this Dec. 29 trip to Orlando, Fla., almost a foregone conclusion. Losses along the way to USC and Stanford confirmed it. Tommy Rees will start for the Irish against Florida State, his 12th straight start since replacing Crist in Week 1. Crist's release was granted by Brian Kelly, who said Crist's status for the bowl game is uncertain. Andrew Hendrix, who replaced Rees at Stanford, will see some time as well.
The Irish are led by receiver Michael Floyd on offense, as the senior will look to end his career with an exclamation point after rewriting the school record books. On defense, junior linebacker Manti Te'o is projected as a first-round pick and could be making his final appearance in a Notre Dame uniform as well.
The Irish will field a young team next season against a brutal schedule, and they will benefit from the extra practice time a bowl game brings, not to mention a test against one of the nation's toughest defenses in Florida State. A win would be No. 9 on the season and mark at least statistical improvement in year two under Kelly, who went 8-5 last season.