2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl - FSU vs. So. Carolina

Posted Dec 30, 2010

2010-2011 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl - Florida State vs. South Carolina

2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl

Florida St
(9-4) vs. South Carolina (9-4)

Friday, December 31st, 7:30, ESPN  

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By Richard Cirminiello

It's the battle of the runner-ups, as South Carolina and Florida State look to shake off championship game losses with a win in Atlanta.

The ‘Cocks and the ‘Noles both won their divisions, the SEC East and the ACC Atlantic, respectively, but fell short of a BCS bowl game at the beginning of the month. South Carolina was completely out classed by top-ranked Auburn, 56-17, in the same Georgia Dome that it'll descend upon on New Year's Eve night. Florida State hung around with red-hot Virginia Tech in Charlotte, but was never quite able to get over the hump, falling 44-33. The Seminoles haven't played the Gamecocks in 19 years, and of greater significance, will be facing former antagonist Steve Spurrier for the first time since a blowout loss in 2001.

Statistics In Yards
FS    SC
5,030 Total
4,538 Total
31.8 Scoring
19.8 Scoring
2,182 Rushing
1,663 Rushing
2,848 Passing
2,875 Passing
0.00 Turnover Margin 0.31
Position Rankings
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
4 QBs 4
3.5 RBs 4.5
3.5 WRs 4
4 O Line 3
3.5 D Line 3.5
4 LBs 4
4 DBs 2.5
4 STs 3
4 Coach 5
CFN 2010 2011 CFN Bowl Previews & Confidence Picks
- New Mexico - BYU vs. UTEP
- Human. - Fresno St vs. NIU
- New Orleans - Troy vs. Ohio
- St. Pete - UL vs. So Miss
- Las Vegas - Utah vs. Boise St
- Poinsettia - SDSU vs. Navy
- Hawaii - Tulsa vs. Hawaii
- Little Caesars - Toledo vs. FIU
- Ind. - Air Force vs. GT
- Champs - NC St vs. WVU
- Insight - Iowa vs. Mizz
- Military - Mary. vs. ECU
- Texas - Illinois vs. Baylor
- Alamo - Ok St vs. Arizona
- Armed Forces - SMU vs. Army
- Pinstripe - SU vs. KSU
- Music City - UNC vs. Tenn
- Holiday - Neb vs. Wash
- Meineke - USF vs. Clemson
- Sun - Miami vs. ND
- Liberty - UCF vs. Georgia
- Chick-fil-A - FSU vs. USC
- TicketCity - NW vs. TT
- Outback - PSU vs. Florida
- Capital One - MSU vs. Bama
- Gator - Mich vs. Miss St
- GoDaddy - MU vs. MT
- Cotton - A&M vs. LSU
- Compass - Pitt vs. UK
- Kraft - BC vs. Nevada
- Rose - UW vs. TCU
- Fiesta - OU vs. UConn
- Orange - Stan. vs. VT
- Sugar - Ark. vs. OSU
- BCS Champ. - Aub. vs. Oregon
Regardless of the outcome on Dec. 4, this qualifies as a breakthrough season for South Carolina and for Spurrier in Columbia. The Gamecocks won the highly competitive East Division of the SEC for the first time in school history and are a win away from tying a school mark for victories in a season. While they had an up-and-down quality throughout the fall, there were red-letter wins along the way for the nation's No. 20 team.

In September, South Carolina raised expectations with a win over ranked Georgia. In October, there was the stunning upset of No. 1 ‘Bama that reverberated throughout the nation. And in November, the ‘Cocks blew out Florida to wrap up the division and crushed rival Clemson … both on the road. It was a memorable campaign, but the best may be yet to come for a program littered with talented underclassmen and a rare tailwind at its back. For a program that's just 1-3 in the postseason under Spurrier and laid an egg against Connecticut in last year's PapaJohn's.com Bowl, a win here could prove to be the perfect catapult into 2011.

Florida State had a rocky season of its own in Jimbo Fisher's debut as the successor to Bobby Bowden. A streaky and unpredictable team, it had a knack for following up tough losses with impressive runs. After getting throttled by Oklahoma in Week 2, the Seminoles reeled off five straight games, including a 45-17 beatdown of Miami in South Florida. After dropping a pair of heartbreakers to NC State and North Carolina, they bounced back with three consecutive wins, getting a break at the end of the regular season to earn a spot in the ACC championship game.

Fisher made progress in his first season, even if it wasn't up to the glory days standards in Tallahassee. The defense was noticeably better under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops and the offense ran the ball with authority behind a veteran offensive line. There were enough hints of a revival for Seminole fans to have a positive outlook for the future. The extra 15 practices in December have been especially important for sophomore E.J. Manuel, the heir apparent at quarterback in 2011.

Both Florida State and South Carolina had dreams of a January bowl game right up until the first weekend of December. Hey, it's not the same, especially the purse, but at least both schools can take solace in the fact that the Chick-fil-A gang runs its operation like a BCS bowl game. For schools after a tenth win and a bump into next season, avoiding a two-game losing streak before the ball drops will be the top priority in Atlanta.

Players to Watch: If Stoops' D is going to carry any momentum into the offseason, it'll need to contain South Carolina's dynamic duo of RB Marcus Lattimore and WR Alshon Jeffery. A couple of underclassmen with next-level trajectories already, they're loads to contain, especially with a month of rest. Although only in his first year out of high school, Lattimore has shown a penchant for flourishing on bigger stages, running for no less than 182 yards versus East rivals Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. Jeffery is a man-sized phenom, with 79 catches for 1,387 yards and nine touchdowns as Stephen Garcia's favorite target. His match up with corners Greg Reid, who's just 5-8, and Xavier Rhodes, who's just a true freshman, will go a long way to determining the outcome of the game.

Florida State's best answer on defense will come from a front seven that helped fuel the nation's No. 2 sack unit. The ‘Noles got to the quarterback 46 times, almost half of which was provided by ends Brandon Jenkins and Markus White. Jenkins, in particular, was a revelation, collecting 19.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks, flashing tremendous quickness and tenacity in backside pursuit. Garcia is the kind of quarterback who can be forced into mistakes and errant throws if flushed from the pocket. It'll be up to Jenkins and White to win the battles with tackles Jarriel King and Hutch Eckerson in order to take some heat off its own secondary.

So who gets the ball from Fisher on the opening series for the Seminoles? Christian Ponder is the clear-cut starter, but he's been saddled with shoulder and elbow injuries and has had two minor surgeries in the last month. He's not expected to practice until just a few days before the game. If he's not at full-strength, Florida State will once again turn to Manuel, who threw a touchdown and two picks in the ACC title game. Either way, it's less than an ideal situation for the passing attack, even against a South Carolina D that's missed its mark all year in pass defense and ranks last in the SEC.

At defensive end, Florida State boasts Jenkins and White. South Carolina will counter with Devin Taylor and Cliff Matthews, a pair of All-SEC second team selections. The pair has combined for 18.5 tackles and a dozen sacks, with Taylor blossoming into a bona fide star as a sophomore. He goes 6-7 and 250 pounds, using his long arms to swim around opposing tackles and obstruct the quarterback's field of vision. In general, the Gamecock defensive line, including feisty DT Melvin Ingram, versus the Rodney Hudson-led Seminole O-line will be a trench battle worth the price of admission.

South Carolina will win if ... : it protects the ball.

The Gamecocks have the better all-around team, but that edge will evaporate in a hurry if they become sloppy with the ball. In South Carolina's four losses this season, it's turned the ball over 13 times, including eight interceptions from the quarterbacks. That simply cannot be tolerated against a quality opponent. If the Gamecocks are careful with the ball, they'll win this game. If they're +1 or +2 in takeaways, it could be lopsided. The ‘Cocks want to play their game, setting up the pass with the running of Lattimore and not being forced into too many third-and-long situations. If they can control the tempo of the game and not make any costly turnovers, Florida State will be put in the unenviable position of playing from behind throughout the evening.

Florida State will win if ... : it can run the ball effectively for all four quarters.

In light of the troubles at quarterback, the Seminoles might not have a lot of success throwing the ball in the Georgia Dome. More than ever, it's going to lean on a running game that disappointed down the stretch. The ‘Noles need to revive a sagging running game that was routinely cranking out more than 200 yards at the end of September and early October. The offensive line is experienced and the backfield is deep, two key elements to solving a South Carolina defense that ranks ninth nationally against the run and is allowing just 3.2 yards a carry. This will have to be a total team effort, which means well-rested Jermaine Thomas, Ty Jones, and Chris Thompson might all need to make something happen on Friday night.

What will happen: For Spurrier, even after all these years, it never gets old beating Florida State.

Spurrier is the better coach in this game, but he also has the better team, a combination that'll be tough for the Seminoles to overcome. This shapes up as a big game for the South Carolina offense, which will throw a healthy Lattimore, a dangerous Jeffery, and a capable Garcia at an inconsistent Seminole defense. Lattimore, in particular, will have a huge night, slicing through the defense and making his first audition for the 2011 Heisman race. If Ponder was at 100%, Florida State might be able to keep up in a higher scoring game on a fast surface. However, with No. 7 as a question mark, the ‘Noles will struggle to rally from behind. The Gamecocks will treat this like a BCS game, understanding how important it is to close strong and elevate beyond their last visit to Atlanta four weeks earlier.

CFN Prediction: South Carolina 34 … Florida State 23 ... Line: South Carolina -3
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Chick-fil-A Bowl History
2009 Virginia Tech 37, Tennessee 14
2008 LSU 38, Georgia Tech 3
2007 Auburn 23, Clemson 20 OT
2006 Georgia 31, Virginia Tech 24
2005 LSU 40, Miami 3
2004 (Dec.) Miami 27, Florida 10
2004 (Jan.) Clemson 27, Tennessee 14
2002 Maryland 30, Tennessee 3
2001 North Carolina 16, Auburn 10
2000 LSU 28, Georgia Tech 14
1999 Miss State 17, Clemson 7
1998 (Dec.) Georgia 35, Virginia 33
1998 (Jan.) Auburn 21, Clemson 17
1996 LSU 10, Clemson 7
1995 (Dec.) Virginia 34, Georgia 27
1995 (Jan.) NC State 28, Mississippi State 24
1993 (Dec.) Clemson 14, Kentucky 13
1993 (Jan.) North Carolina 21, Mississippi State 24
1992 East Carolina 37, NC State 34
1990 Auburn 27, Indiana 23
1989 Syracuse 19, Georgia 18
1988 (Dec.) NC State 28, Iowa 23
1988 (Jan.) Tennessee 27, Indiana 22
1986 Virginia Tech 25, NC State 24
1985 Army 31, Illinois 29
1984 Virginia 27, Purdue 24
1983 Florida State 28, North Carolina 3
1982 Iowa 28, Tennessee 22
1981 (Dec.) West Virginia 26, Florida 6
1981 (Jan.) Miami 20, Virginia Tech 10
1979 Baylor 24, Clemson 18
1978 Purdue 41, Georgia Tech 21
1977 NC State 24, Iowa State 14
1976 Kentucky 21, North Carolina 0
1975 West Virginia 13, NC State 10
1974 Texas Tech 6, Vanderbilt 6
1973 Georgia 17, Maryland 16
1972 NC State 49, West Virginia 13
1971 Mississippi 41, Georgia Tech 18
1970 Arizona State 48, North Carolina 26
1969 West Virginia 14, South Carolina 3
1968 LSU 31, Florida State 27

Pick ATS: South Carolina   Confidence Score: 117
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 29 out of 35

Pete Fiutak: Pick ATS - Florida State   Pick Confidence - 3
- The battle of big game losers, South Carolina is licking its wounds after being erased by Cam Newton and Auburn in the SEC Championship, while Florida State couldn't handle Tyrod Taylor and Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship. However, both teams have had tremendously successful seasons with the Gamecocks showing they can play with the elite of the elite, while the Seminoles rebounded well in the first season under Jimbo Fisher.

Richard Cirminiello: Pick ATS - South Carolina  Pick Confidence - 24
- If coordinator Mark Stoops has truly made progress with the Florida State D, he'll slow down a South Carolina offense that has RB Marcus Lattimore, WR Alshon Jeffery, and almost a month for Steve Spurrier to prepare.

Matt Zemek: Pick ATS - South Carolina  Pick Confidence - 21
- If only Bobby Bowden had stayed one more year…. then again, it's very likely that without the staff changes made by Jimbo Fisher, Florida State wouldn't have made a bowl game of this caliber. Where are Peter Boulware, Reinard Wilson and Danny Wuerffel when you really need them?

Russ Mitchell: Pick ATS - South Carolina  Pick Confidence - 27
- Both programs are coming off ugly Championship games. The difference is that deep down inside, no one really expected SC to beat Auburn, while the loss to Va Tech stings. Still, FSU's defense is not good enough to stop SC's offense. Going to be a close one, with the Gamecocks slipping through in the end.

Barrett Sallee: Pick ATS - South Carolina  Pick Confidence - 24
- Good matchup between two regional conference championship game losers. Both of these teams are on the rise, and can set the tone for the 2011 season with strong performances in the Georgia Dome.

Gabe Harris: Pick ATS - South Carolina  Pick Confidence - 7
Brian Harbach: Pick ATS - South Carolina  Pick Confidence - 24
Matthew Smith: Pick ATS - Florida State  Pick Confidence - 23
Billy Gomila: Pick ATS - South Carolina  Pick Confidence - 10
Clucko (A coin flip): Pick ATS - South Carolina   Pick Confidence -  6