Matchup with Notre Dame a great one

LB Nigel Bradham (US Presswire)

While 2011 might not have gone as well as Florida State would have liked, a matchup with Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl is going to get the fans excited and turn on a lot of television sets.

For the Seminoles (8-4), playing Notre Dame in a bowl game was the best of their limited options.

It may improve team and fan interest for the Dec. 29 Champs Sports Bowl at Orlando's Citrus Bowl Stadium. Ironically, the team FSU played in last year's Chick-fil-A Bowl, South Carolina, will also be in Orlando, but preparing for the more attractive Citrus Bowl game on Jan. 2.

The Seminoles were hoping that win 12 months ago would springboard this season into a BCS Bowl or run at the national title. All of that ended with consecutive losses to Oklahoma, Clemson and Wake Forest that ruined this season.

But after beating Florida, albeit in a defensive stalemate, the Seminoles feel better about their future.

Coach Jimbo Fisher is hoping the allure of Notre Dame will get his team emotionally ready to play.

"As a coach in your lifetime, it's one of the games you'd like to play and a team you'd like to coach against in appreciation for what Notre Dame has accomplished in its history," he said.

The Seminoles were either heading to Orlando or a return trip to Atlanta. What was stunning on bowl selection Sunday was Virginia Tech getting a BCS bid, despite its woeful performance against Clemson in the ACC title game. It's the first time the ACC has ever had two teams play in BCS bowls in the same year.

Equally stunning, considering that development, was the Chick-fil-A Bowl opting to take Virginia, rather than the Seminoles. The feeling was that if Virginia Tech was not available, the Seminoles were headed to Atlanta. But the Cavaliers beat FSU and there was likely some sentiment in the ACC that Virginia (8-4) should be the No. 3 bowl choice, given that road win in Tallahassee.

This will be FSU's first game against Notre Dame since winning in South Bend in 2003. The teams have split their last four meetings, which began with their epic "Game of the Century" meeting in 1993 in a pairing of No. 1 vs. No. 2, won by the Irish.

"We think this is a special year," Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan said. "We couldn't be more excited to have this game this year. We're going to give the fans a heck of a show."

NOTES AND QUOTES

QB E.J. Manuel struggled in his last two starts against Virginia and Florida, but he remains the key to this offense. The hope among the Seminoles is that Manuel can use the month-long rest to better heal his shoulder injury and be strong enough for one last game before the medical issue gets re-addressed in the offseason. With Manuel's struggles has come a drop in confidence. ...

WR Rashad Greene was FSU's most dangerous receiver before a mid-season injury caused him to miss some games, and he never regained his form. But with extra practice time and the break to refresh and recharge, Green could be in position for a big game against a Notre Dame defense that has not seen the array of receiver depth and talent FSU possesses. ...

LB Nigel Bradham was FSU's leading tackler and stepped up his performance and leadership after the trio of midseason losses. Bradham, a senior, should be excited to play a bowl game against Notre Dame as his final collegiate game. He has proven to be a vicious tackler and can create big plays. ...

P Shawn Powell would have been the nation's leading punter with a 47.0-yard average, but he does not have enough attempts. Still, he has enabled FSU to lead the nation in net punting. Powell has dropped 43 percent of his kicks inside the opponent's 20. He changed the game against Florida with booming punts that led to FSU's defense being in great field position to thwart the Gators offense.

BOWL HISTORY: Florida State is 22-14-2 in bowl games and has won its last three, including a 42-13 victory in 2008 against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl. The Seminoles continue their streak of attending a bowl game every year since 1982.

QUOTE TO NOTE "When you play Notre Dame, everybody recognizes the name. Great tradition. Great history. They're gonna bring a lot of attention to the game, a lot of fans to the game. They're a quality opponent, one of the great names in college football, like Florida State is. And it brings a great marquee matchup of two big names with some outstanding young football players." -- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher on his team's bowl matchup with Notre Dame.

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