December 26, 2011 - by
4 Downs: FSU vs. Notre Dame

Dec. 26, 2011




ORLANDO, Fla. — With Florida State’s 2011 season finale just a few short days away, the Seminoles.com crew tackles four questions leading up to Seminoles’ showdown with Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl.

1. What’s the one thing that FSU must do to beat Notre Dame?

Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com Senior Writer: Florida State has to play sound up front — a task that has been easier said than done throughout much of the year. FSU’s issues on the offensive line have been well-documented this season and Thursday’s game against Notre Dame is the next chapter in what has been a story defined by inconsistency and injuries. It’s likely that the Seminoles will start four true freshmen in the front five, including Josue Matias (left guard), Austin Barron (center), Tre Jackson (right guard) and Bobby Hart (right tackle) and they have to grow up fast and play well if the ‘Noles want to win.

Ryan Pensy, Assistant Athletics Director for Digital Media: The Seminoles must find a way to slow down Michael Floyd. Floyd has 1106 receiving yards this season. He is an NFL receiver that has caught 35% of all of the passes for the Fighting Irish. If the Seminoles hope to win this game they will have to slow him down. This will take an effort similar to the one they had last year in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Alshon Jeffery.

Scott Kotick, Assistant Director of Digital Media: FSU can’t beat themselves. We’ve got to limit the turnovers, uncharacteristic penalties, and play our game. Three of the four losses this year have been directly due to our own mistakes. If we stay true to the brand of football that we play and don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, Notre Dame shouldn’t pose any sort of challenge whatsoever.

Layne Herdt, Seminoles.com Video Producer: Florida State must protect EJ Manuel. I don’t think Notre Dame is going to be able to score on the Seminoles defense so it will come down to the offense being able to put points on the board. If Manuel gets time to throw he’s proven he will hit the open receiver and it that happens FSU will win and win convincingly. If Manuel has to run for his life, or gets sacked like against Florida, the fans will be chewing on their nails in the fourth quarter when the score is 10-10 and one team is driving for a game winning score.

EJ Manuel struggled in his last game at Florida but has looked good at practice recently.

2. If FSU wins, who will be the MVP and why?

BM: From what I saw of him last week at practice and now down in Orlando, EJ Manuel looks healthy, confident and ready to play. FSU’s redshirt-junior quarterback has been throwing the ball really well at practice and that should carry over to the bowl game where he could put up big numbers and earn the MVP trophy.

RP: Xavier Rhodes. It will be a team effort from the secondary but Rhodes has the skill set to cause matchup problems with Michael Floyd. This is an important game for Rhodes who didn’t have the banner season that he did in his freshman campaign. Look for Rhodes to win the MVP and carry that performance into a positive off-season.

SK: In order to beat Notre Dame, we’ve got to rush the passer with reckless abandon. The Irish have given up only 13 sacks this season, while we’ve got to the opposing QB 36 times. One of those will have to give.  I think it will be the first, because FSU’s Front 4 has dominated nearly every game they’ve played this season. So my MVP will go to the Front 4: Bjoern Werner, Everett Dawkins, Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Jenkins.

LH: If I follow the logic from my first question it would have to be Manuel or one of his receivers. Since the quarterback gets the lion’s share of the credit or blame with victory or defeat I will go with Manuel. You could argue that a defensive guy could earn this honor, but that would take one great individual performance and the strength of Seminole defense all season has been their ability to shut down other teams as a unit. I will go out on a limb and say Manuel has two TDs passing and one rushing leading the ‘Noles to a big win.

3. Who is a player on FSU’s roster that perhaps Notre Dame may be overlooking and why?

BM: Lonnie Pryor is FSU’s unsung hero on offense and he is someone that could be overlooked by the Fighting Irish simply because he hasn’t frequently been in the mix offensively this season. Pryor has just 27 carries for 74 yards in 2011 but has the ability to be a weapon out of the backfield on any play. He could catch a long pass off a wheel route like he did at Clemson as a freshman or drag defenders into the endzone like he did earlier this year on any offensive snap.

RP: EJ Manuel with a big game on the ground. Notre Dame gave up nearly 200 rushing yards in their last game vs. Stanford. Freeman should get the bulk of the carries with Jermaine Thomas missing the game. 

SK: I’m going with Christian Green. Most teams don’t realize how good he is with the ball in his hands: out in space or catching those slant routes. FSU will have to get the ball in the hands of their talented playmakers, and Green should be a big factor in this game. Everyone knows that Rodney Smith and Rashad Greene can make big plays every time, but no one knows how good Green can actually be.

LH: I’m going with someone at one of the most overlooked positions in football, tight end Nick O’Leary. O’Leary’s been awfully quiet of late and I think getting the tight end more involved is a great way to help a struggling offense. All of the talk coming into the game is about Notre Dame’s big tight end Tyler Eifert, but after the game a lot more people may be talking about O’Leary. Maybe Jack Nicklaus was right, get that man’s grandson the ball!

4. Of the starting seniors (Zebrie Sanders, Bert Reed, Nigel Bradham, Terrance Parks and Mike Harris) playing in their final game Thursday, what current backup are you most looking forward to seeing next year as their replacement?

Backup middle linebacker Telvin Smith could move into the starting outside linebacker spot that Nigel Bradham will vacate.

BM: I think that we see Terrance Brooks take over for Parks at safety alongside Lamarcus Joyner in 2012 and I have enjoyed seeing his progression this year in the secondary. Brooks has the ability to play safety and cornerback and his skills at both make him a versatile and valuable player moving forward. I’m also really looking forward to an increased role for cornerback Nick Waisome, who will do his best to help fill the void at the nickel back position once Harris leaves.

RP: This one is easy for me, Rashad Greene. Before being hampered with injuries this season, Greene was on his way to becoming a household name. For the Seminoles to be competitive next season they will need to have dynamic weapons in their receiving corps. Greene can lead a unit that should be competitive with anyone in the ACC next season. 

SK: Telvin Smith. I assume that he’ll take over for Nigel Bradham after this game as the SAM linebacker. Smith is awesome to watch play in space, and he just has that knack for always being around the football. Whenever there’s a big play to be had, it’s almost like No. 22 is the pile or aroundthe ball. His addition to the starting lineup next year alongside Vince Williams and Christian Jones should make that a very fun unit to watch.

LH: I have a feeling a lot a people will say Telvin Smith so I’ll go in a different direction and say Terrance Brooks. I think that kid has a lot of upside at the corner position and could be a nice player here at FSU. With that said, if Brandon Jenkins happens to try his luck in the NFL then I’m all about Cornelius Carradine. He’s gotten better as the season’s progressed and he had a monster game against Florida forcing the game clinching pick six with his unrelenting pressure. Even if Jenkins comes back, I expect Carradine to have a big year in 2012.

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