The college football bowl season continues on Thursday with the Champs Sports Bowl, pitting two classic programs together in Notre Dame and Florida State. The game is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. start time and will be televised nationally on ESPN. Currently the odds have Florida State favored from 3 to 3.5 points with the total being set at 47 points. Both teams had national championships aspirations at the beginning of the year but ended the season at 8-4.
Free Analysis: Both teams had major national title buzz at the beginning of the season, especially Florida State, who was the real sexy pick to win the BCS National Championship. However, the Seminoles fell on hard times with early losses to Oklahoma, Clemson and Wake Forest. Notre Dame also lost some key games early in the season to South Florida and Michigan. The Noles are making their 30th straight bowl appearance. Brian Kelly and the gang in South Bend are coming around to where they want to be and this game could prove big dividends for the Irish. Florida State's defense finished the year at ninth in sacks, fifth in tackles for loss, fourth overall in scoring defense and the sixth overall defense in the country. Speed, speed, speed. The Noles are coming in off a 21-7 rivalry win over Florida in their last appearance that saw them rack up an impressive 95 yards of offense. Irish QB Dayne Crist decided to mail it in and transfer to Kansas so that gives Tommy Rees all the bells and whistles. He'll have big targets tonight in wideout Michael Floyd and tight end Tyler Eifert. Both pose a threat to the Seminole defense and could be bigtime problems tonight for Florida State. Floyd earned the team MVP for the second straight year and set a single-season school record with 95 receptions while leading the Irish with 1,106 yards and eight TDs. ND is playing an ACC team for the fourth time in a bowl game and they currently hold a 3-0 record in the previous contests. As we mentioned with Florida State's defense, the Noles were tops in the ACC and fourth in the country in allowing 15.2 points per game, including 9.4 over the last five, against far inferior opponents. The Seminoles allowed an FBS-low 2.3 yards per carry and 81.8 per game to rank second nationally, and they'll look to shut down Cierre Wood — Notre Dame's first 1,000-yard rusher since Darius Walker in 2006. Wood is a great back out in the flats at catching screens as well.
Free Pick: I think Florida State is going to be a little overrated in this contest and I like the Irish getting the points, especially if it's at 3.5 or so. Florida State's defense has been great this season, no doubt, but I like Brian Kelly getting almost a month of preparation time. If I'm a Nole backer in this game, I have to hope that EJ Manuel beats the Irish with his arm. We all know he can be a very elusive QB but I'm just not positive he'll have the type of game through the air that's needed to beat Notre Dame. I like Kelly's offensive approach and ND should be able to move the football against Florida State. If they do, they win.
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