Champs Sports Bowl Preview: Florida State, Notre Dame and Getting Back to Good

Champs Sports Bowl, December 29, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

What it is: One of approximately seven bowl games played in Orlando each year

The Sponsor: A sports apparel company owned by Foot Locker

The Teams: Florida State and Notre Dame

How Florida State got here: In disappointing fashion. The Seminoles came in as a trendy pick to be a national title contender, before they followed up dual annihilations of their initial cupcakes with three straight losses to Oklahoma, an underappreciated (at the time) Clemson team, and -- Wake Forest? Florida State would go 6-1 from that point forward, but the damage to the team's season was done. But the season had another very odd aspect to it. The Seminoles lost the games to Clemson and Wake Forest by identical 35-30 margins, then won their next two games at Duke and against Maryland by 41-16 scores. And the scores of the opening game against Louisiana-Monroe and the eighth game against N.C. State were both 34-0 in Florida State's favor. In any case, quarterback E.J. Manuel's relative efficiency and the stout defense couldn't make up for one of the worst running games in the country, and N.C. State would end up being the Seminoles' only win against a team with a winning record at the end of the regular season.

How Notre Dame got here: By winning eight of its last ten games. The Irish's 97th RETURN TO GREATNESS (TM) was quickly dashed with the opening-day loss to South Florida. The next week's loss to Michigan pretty much sealed things until Notre Dame bounced back to defeat every opponent left on the slate except Southern Cal and Stanford. The wins weren't always impressive -- the score against Pitt was 15-12 -- but they were wins enough to give Notre Dame its second straight eight win season under Brian Kelly, the first time that had happened since 2005-06. (Oh, and they actually defeated Wake Forest along the way.) The Fighting Irish were actually decent across-the-board on offense and defense, but special teams and a tendency to turn the ball over caught up to them too often. Notre Dame was tied for the third-worst turnover margin in the nation.

College football fans care because: One of these teams is going to be a preseason favorite for the national championship, so you might as well get used to it now.

SEC fans care because: You're an SEC fan. You're contractually obligated to hate Notre Dame.

Watch this game if...: You like gold helmets.

The result: Notre Dame 30, Florida State 23

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