CFN Analysis - FSU Picks Off Notre Dame
Posted Dec 29, 2011

The CFN Instant Analysis on Florida State's win over Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl

CFN Analysis   

FSU 18 ... Notre Dame 14

By Pete Fiutak

- It's easier said than done, but bowl games with real, live fans at them are different. This game felt like it mattered, because it did.

- If your quarterback isn't making the right looks or the right reads, that's on the head coach. The time to teach a player how to see something on the field isn't during the heat of the battle when he's trying to make something happen; it's in the film room before and after the game. Notre Dame's Tommy Rees didn't get better this year. That's Brian Kelly's fault.

- I'll never question whether or not a guy is hurt, especially a college player, and there's no question whatsoever that a player should be kept on the sidelines if there's even a thought that he might have suffered a concussion. But if I'm an NFL scout and I see Michael Floyd on the sidelines in the biggest drive of the season because he got "hit in the gut," as was reported, I need to know more – a LOT more – before I take down that red flag.

- How absolutely fitting that Notre Dame's season basically ends on an interception.

- The mistakes didn't stop from the opener to the bowl game.

- Again, Brian Kelly's fault. The head coach is the one getting paid the millions of dollars.

- Florida State, it's time to get really, really fired up. The returning team for 2012 is loaded with 17 starters expected back, and no way, no how will there be the same problems with the O line faced.

- Congratulations, Irish message boards. You have a full eight months of conversation about the quarterback situation. Rees is the guy if he can learn to not keep giving the ball to the other team, but Kelly really seems to want Andrew Hendrix to be better in a hurry.

- The bowl game is half full. The Notre Dame defense did its job. 290 yards of total offense, a forced fumble for a score, and holding the Noles to 3-of-14 on third downs – there's your reason to be excited for next year.

- The Noles might have only finished with 48 rushing yards, but those were as effective a net-48 as you'll see. When the FSU front five had to generate a push, it did.

- I've been a Notre Dame apologist all season long. I think the talent is in place to do big things, and Kelly has a track record of doing a lot more with a lot less. However, take a look at the 2012 schedule with road games at Michigan State, Oklahoma, and USC and home games against Michigan, Stanford, Pitt, Purdue, and Wake Forest – throw Miami into the mix, and 10 of the 12 teams next year finished with at least six wins – and good luck seeing any real improvement.

- E.J. Manuel isn't ready for the NFL, but if Landry Jones really does stay around, and with Matt Barkley coming back, he needs to at least see with the advisory board where he stands. He has the skill set to be the No. 1 overall pick in 2012 if he takes a big leap forward, but someone could take a first round flier on him this year.

By Richard Cirminiello 

You're Notre Dame, with Brian Kelly at the helm. Shouldn't you expect a lot more than former walk-on Tommy Rees as your starting quarterback? Rees is a great kid to have in your locker room, and a fine No. 2, but Notre Dame needs to upgrade the position before it can even think about being a serious contender for future BCS bowl berths.

You could argue that no one in America is in need of breakthrough 2012 more than Florida State QB EJ Manuel, the former five-star recruit who's had a relatively quiet career in Tallahassee. With that in mind, the junior delivered exactly the kind of second half that he needed to propel him into the offseason.

Huge win for the Seminoles, but let's not get too carried away by the meaning of the Champs Sports Bowl victory. Yeah, there will be a lot of returning starters for head coach Jimbo Fisher, but this program still has a ton of work to do, especially on the offensive side of the ball. After this past season's letdown, a more conservative approach toward Florida State is recommended until proven otherwise.

It was a fitting end of the season for the Irish, which were hamstrung by turnovers from the opening weekend loss to South Florida. If this sort of generosity continues into 2012, can Kelly maintain his sanity? The coach appears to be perpetually unhinged on the sidelines.

Florida State has a budding superstar at wide receiver in true freshman Rashad Greene … finally. The Seminoles have been pining for a consistent playmaker on the outside for years, and Greene appears capable of being that guy. And not just for the spectacular second-half plays he made in the comeback win over Notre Dame. No, before getting injured midway through the season, he was abusing defense on a weekly basis.

If you're a highly-regarded prep tight end, regardless of your location, do whatever is possible to get a scholarship offer from Notre Dame. No school in the country does a better job of attracting, coaching up and preparing tight ends for the NFL than the Irish. A year after Kyle Rudolph leaves for the pros, where he's excelling with the Minnesota Vikings, Tyler Eifert is already a superstar at the position after just two seasons of action.

By Matt Zemek

Let's cut through the muck, the subtext, and the sidebar stories and get to the heart of the matter: Will Notre Dame have a top-shelf quarterback during the Brian Kelly era? The Fighting Irish won't have an elite quarterback in the fold for 2012. Andrew Hendrix couldn't take hold of the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl, giving way to Tommy Rees and witnessing the Irish's fourth-quarter implosion. If Notre Dame wanted a breakthrough performance under center on Thursday night, it certainly didn't get one. A single offseason does not seem like enough time to turn Hendrix into a prime-time passer.

Then there's the much bigger question: After seeing Brian Kelly tear into his current quarterbacks with more (mind-numbing) regularity, why would an elite high-school prospect want to have his eardrums blasted and his psyche regularly confronted? Steve Spurrier lit into Terry Dean in 1993 at Florida, but two differences existed in that situation: First, Spurrier had already won two conference championships in Gainesville (an unofficial/stripped one in 1990, an official one in 1991), thereby delivering results amidst the madness of his younger days. Second, a guy named Danny Wuerffel was waiting in the wings when Dean was benched. There's no such track record of results – and no Wuerffel-like savior – in South Bend. Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick needs to take Kelly by the collar and tell his coach to stop turning into a turnip after each mistake by his quarterback rotation. Otherwise, the Irish won't get the gunslinger they need for Kelly's offense.

--- As for Florida State…

… the Seminoles, given the four freshmen on the offensive line and all the injuries they were dealing with, have to be happy with their ability to bounce back. This is not a program-transforming win or any kind of seminal Seminole success story. Florida State has questions at quarterback and at head coach (Jimbo Fisher is not turning heads, to say the least… or if he is, not in a good way…), making 2012 a very uncertain season. However, after the wrenching nature of the Virginia loss and the ugliness of the win over Florida, this fourth-quarter rally will give FSU something it needed heading into the offseason: confidence. That can matter; it will need to if this program is to fulfill its potential in the years ahead.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

- Brian Kelly is going to turn a brand new shade of red talking to quarterback Tommy Rees in the locker room. I feel bad for Rees. but there is no explanation for the red zone turnovers that Notre Dame has committed this season. None.

- How come Notre Dame can't find a quarterback? It's NOTRE DAME.

- Rashad Greene, have a day. The freshman wide receiver for Florida State had a coming out party in the second half. Greene made a statement for the future, and led his team to a comeback win in the process.

- If Michael Floyd was in the game late, would it have been different? Maybe, but he doesn't play defense. He is going to be a fantastic NFL wide receiver though. "Character issues" (which are overblown) aside, he's got all of the tools to play a big role at the next level.

- Seriously, I think I can hear Brian Kelly yelling from 400 miles away.

- Based on name alone, the winner of this game was going to be the recipient of an unnecessary amount of preseason hype. Florida State is going to have to find a competent running game if its going to legitimately contend for a conference title though.

By Terry Johnson
Please follow me on Twitter @TPJCollFootball

- Florida State deserves a lot of credit for winning this game. The Seminoles had to start four freshmen on the offensive line due to injury. After struggling through the first half, they gave EJ Manuel plenty of time to throw in the fourth quarter, resulting in three FSU scoring drives.

- The game ball goes to Seminole WR Rashad Green, who exploded in the second half with 5 catches for 99 yards, including the game-winning TD.

- Once again, defense won the game for Florida State. The Seminole D harassed Notre Dame QBs all night long, producing four sacks, and forcing three interceptions. They also held the Irish to a pedestrian 92 yards rushing.

- After watching the FSU defense's last two games, it should come as no surprise that Mark Stoops name has surfaced as a candidate for the opening as Auburn's DC. The real question is – why didn't he get some consideration as a head coach somewhere?

- While tonight's win virtually guarantees that Florida State will open the season in the Top 15 next year, they still have plenty of work to do before they are ready to play in a BCS bowl. The Seminoles averaged only 3.5 yards per carry this season – their worst total since 2005. They will also lose some of their top defenders as well.

- Notre Dame continues to struggle with turnovers. The Irish ranked 117th nationally in turnover margin heading into this game. After turning the ball over three more times today, they could potentially finish last in FBS depending on how SMU handles the ball against Pittsburgh.

- Even though they lost the game, Notre Dame's defense played just as well as FSU's. The Fighting Irish recorded 5 QB sacks, allowed only 41 yards rushing, and scored the game's first touchdown.

- After just two seasons at the helm, Brian Kelly will enter the 2012 season on a very hot seat. Yes, he has posted 8 wins in back-to-back seasons – but the Irish faithful expected a much better record this season. In addition, he has done nothing to help his cause this year with his sideline theatrics and quarterback rotations. Unless Kelly wins 10 games next season, he could be looking for another job next year at this time.

Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

- Now we're talking. Right about now, the bowl games start to heat up, and generally speaking the Holiday Bowl and this one--the Champs Sports Bowl kick off some of the big boy teams. In this one, it was two teams with deep ancestry playing a highly entertaining game.

- Was this game a microcosm of Notre Dame's season or what? If the Irish could squash all of the turnovers they could likely play with anyone. In this one, prior to being careless with the ball, they were in control--once the QB position decided throw completions to the other team, things went south in a hurry.

- Two years are now in the books for Brian Kelly and this is right about time when the golden dome natives begin to get restless. Kelly came in promising the world--much like Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham, and the genius himself Charlie Weis. Kelly better have a serious jump in wins next year or his seat is going to warm to scalding levels.

- Did Notre Dame give up to soon on Dayne Crist? We may just get a shot to find out now that he has been airlifted out of jungle to be reunited with Charlie Weis at Kansas. It'll be a one shot deal, but interesting nonetheless. The QB play after he was benched has not been much better.

- This game was not just a product of two good defenses. Both offenses have struggled with inconsistency all year. This game followed suit as neither team could crack either the 300 yard total offense mark, nor garner enough ground momentum to top 100 yards.

- Consider this game the consolation prize for two teams that failed to come close to meeting pre-season hype and expectations. By winning though, FSU has set up some momentum heading into next year and has a much better outlook on this season than what the Fighting Irish do. For Notre Dame, this season has been a very bitter pill to swallow--again.

- How much different could this year have been if the Seminoles had not had to absorb so many injuries? If there is a silver lining, the MASH unit at least gave some younger players the opportunity to play extensively. With a lot of the skill position players coming back, this on the job training may just result in a flag planting season in 2012.

- I have to admit that I miss the aww shucks, good ‘ole boy post game quotes of Bobby Bowden. He was as honest of an interview and demeanor as you'll ever find. You gotta believe he was watching this one, drinking some sweet tea, and cursing at the action with superlatives and descriptions that only a country boy could put together.

- Okay Jimbo Fisher, it's time to light the fuse on this program. You took the reigns to get the Seminoles back among the elite. It's BCS Bowl or bust next year.