Blog Entry

Champs Sports Bowl Key Matchup

Posted on: December 19, 2011 3:52 pm

Posted by Tom Fornelli

A look at the key matchup that could decide the Champs Sports Bowl

E.J. Manuel vs. The Notre Dame secondary

E.J. Manuel's first season as a starter for Florida State had its ups and downs. He was injured in the Oklahoma game early this season, and it wasn't a coincidence that the Seminoles lost three games in a row at the same time as Manuel was dealing with his injury. Still, when he's been healthy, Manuel has been solid for the Seminoles.

And Manuel will need to be solid if Florida State is going to beat Notre Dame to finish its season.

There's plenty of reason to believe he will, too. Notre Dame finished 78th in the country with only 20 sacks this season, which is good news for a Florida State offensive line that allowed more sacks than all but 9 FBS schools in 2011 with 35. So provided he gets time to throw, Manuel should find room to work against the Notre Dame secondary.

The Irish are allowing only 201.7 passing yards per game on defense, but it's not a unit that's very prolific at forcing turnovers. In fact, Notre Dame has only intercepted 8 passes this season while allowing 21 touchdowns through the air. Which means that as long as Manuel is patient and doesn't make bad decisions, he's going to find open receivers to throw to.

If he can do that, then there's plenty of reason to believe that Florida State will pick up its ninth win. If not, then the Irish will have the advantage.

For a look at the keys to the game for both schools, click here, and check out the rest of's coverage at the Champs Sports Bowl Pregame. 
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