Champs Sports Bowl Picks & Predictions: Notre Dame vs. FSU 12/29/11

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In the first of two bowl games on the year in Orlando, the Champs Sports Bowl odds will be contested between the Florida State Seminoles and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

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Champs Sports Bowl Matchup: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Florida State Seminoles
Champs Sports Bowl Date/Time: Thursday, December 29th, 5:30 ET
Champs Sports Bowl Location: Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL
Champs Sports Bowl Odds: Florida State -3
Champs Sports Bowl Total: 46.5
Champs Sports Bowl TV Coverage: ESPN, ESPN3.com

Florida State and Notre Dame both had very similar 8-4 seasons when you look at the whole body of work. The Noles lost four games this year, two of which seemed absolutely excusable (@ Clemson, vs. Oklahoma) and two of which they should have won (@ Wake Forest, vs. Virginia). Notre Dame lost three games that it probably was supposed to drop (vs. USC, @ Stanford, vs. Michigan) and one absolutely inexcusable defeat (vs. South Florida).

That being said, Florida State really played well this year until the end of the season with QB EJ Manuel in the lineup. He led the team to a 6-0-1 ATS mark and a 7-0 SU mark in games in which he played from start to finish. The end of the year though, those games against the Cavs and the Gators, he and the rest of the team were just awful offensively. The defense was consistent over the course of the last seven games of the year though, holding teams down to 19 points or fewer in all of its games. On top of the that, the defense and special teams were able to get into the end zone quite often, mostly thanks to DB Greg Reid, who also had a big bowl game last year against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

Notre Dame started off the year with QB Dayne Crist at quarterback, but he was benched in that first game against South Florida in favor of QB Tommy Rees, and now, he is transferring out of the university. That leaves just Rees and QB Andrew Hendrix on the roster to throw the football, and against a nasty Florida State team that can get to the quarterback in a hurry, that could prove to be problematic. When Rees is dialed in with WR Michael Floyd, the Irish have a great offense. He has the ability to put together some huge games, and he is going to finish up career with a tremendous test against Reid and Noles defensively. Many forget about the power of this running game as well. RB Cierre Wood had 1,042 yards this year, and RB Jonas Gray had 791 yards. The two combined for 21 TDs on the ground.

That being said, Notre Dame hasn’t been all that great in bowl games of late, going 2-6 ATS in its last eight trips to the postseason. Florida State, which has the longest active streak of years going to a bowl game, is 6-0-1 ATS in its last seven bowl appearances. The Seminoles, in the end, are the stronger team, and they are going to be in better shape playing in a de facto home game against a team that they have played well against. Remember that Notre Dame does have a win in recent history in 2002 in Tallahassee, but in fairness, the very next season, the Noles came up to South Bend and shut out the Golden Domers in their backyard.

Free Champs Sports Bowl Pick: Florida State -3

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Lou Palumbo is the founder and part owner of the Cappersinfo.com Sports Handicapping Community. He's been writing and posting free picks and sports handicapping strategies on the Cappersinfo forums and website for 15 years now. He enjoys handicapping just as much as he did from the very first day he built the original Cappersinfo website.

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