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Thursday, December 29, 2011
Champs Sports Bowl keys

By Matt Fortuna

The prediction is in the books. Now let's look at the keys for Notre Dame in Thursday's Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

1. Stay disciplined. Fair catch the punt if you have any doubt. Channel that edge after the whistle. Defense and special teams are the name of the game for FSU, and Notre Dame will play right into the Seminoles' hands if it can't protect the ball or aids the Seminoles offensively with penalties.

2. Protect Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix. FSU's defense is ranked sixth nationally and fourth in scoring. It also ranks ninth in sacks, averaging three per game. The Irish offensive line has to withstand the Seminoles' lethal pass rush, and Rees and Hendrix have to show a strong presence in the pocket and get rid of the ball when they're in trouble.

3. Bring the rush. Ethan Johnson said he's 110 percent after resting the sprained right ankle that sidelined him for four games this season. Stephon Tuitt appears to have recovered from an illness that forced him to miss the past two games. Florida natives Louis Nix and Aaron Lynch (an FSU decommit) are pumped to play in their home state against a team from Florida. And did we mention FSU's offensive line? The Irish pass rush should have a field day against a Seminoles offense that amassed just 95 total yards in its regular-season finale against Florida.