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NCF Nation: 2012 Champs Bowl

Predictions: ACC bowls

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
11:00
AM ET
I finished the regular season with a picks percentage of 74.2, but I missed the one that mattered most and failed to pick the upset in the ACC championship game. That’s why they call it an upset. My grand total for the season stands at 72-26 heading into bowl season. Plenty of room for improvement, but there are a lot of tough calls and games that can go either way this bowl season. Here are your picks for the non-BCS bowls:

Advocare V100 Independence Bowl -- Missouri 31, North Carolina 28: The Tar Heels will get an inspired performance in interim coach Everett Withers’ last game, but Missouri is a better team than its five losses indicate. North Carolina will make one or two costly turnovers, and the Tar Heels’ defense won’t be able to make enough stops in the red zone.

Belk Bowl -- NC State 28, Louisville 21: Both quarterbacks will need to get better protection than they have for most of the season, and both teams have seen their defenses improve, but NC State has done a tremendous job this year of forcing opposing quarterbacks into mistakes, and Teddy Bridgewater will find that out quickly. The difference will be NC State’s front seven on defense.

Champs Sports Bowl -- 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.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl -- Wake Forest 24, Mississippi State 21. The Demon Deacons have too many difference-makers on both sides of the ball for the Bulldogs to overcome. It’s been a record-setting year for Price and receiver Chris Givens, and freshman cornerback Merrill Noel leads the nation with 20 passes defended. The difference will be Wake Forest’s passing game and its ability to protect the ball.

Hyundai Sun Bowl -- Georgia Tech 28, Utah 24. The Utes couldn’t handle a floundering Colorado team that had just one league win in the regular-season finale, and this will be a much more difficult challenge. Those within Georgia Tech’s program are tired of hearing about the six-game losing streak, and coach Paul Johnson is at his best when he’s got something to prove. Georgia Tech will catch Utah off-guard with several big plays, control the clock and in turn the game.

Chick-fil-A Bowl -- Virginia 24, Auburn 21: The Tigers lost both coordinators in a span of a week, and leading rusher Michael Dyer has been suspended for the bowl game for a violation of team rules. Without those three components, Virginia has an edge. Plus, Auburn is a shadow of its 2010 national championship team, while Virginia has made a dramatic turnaround this year. Statistically, Auburn has one of the worst offenses in the country, and the defense has been at the bottom of the SEC.

Champs Sports Bowl

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
11:16
PM ET
Florida State Seminoles (8-4) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4)

Dec. 29, 5:30 p.m. (ESPN)

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.

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