2010 Gator Bowl - W. Virginia vs. Florida St.
WVU QB Jarrett Brown & FSU's Bobby Bowden
WVU QB Jarrett Brown & FSU's Bobby Bowden
Posted Dec 26, 2009

The CFN 2010 Gator Bowl Preview - Florida State vs. West Virginia

2010 Gator Bowl

West Virginia (9-3) vs. Florida State (6-6)

Jacksonville, FL, 1:00 EST, CBS, Friday, January 1

Scroll Down For Bowl Histories & Best Moments

- Free Expert Football Predictions For This Game 
- Get Tickets For The Gator Bowl

Team Pages and 2009 Season
Florida StateWest Virginia 


- 2009 CFN Gator Bowl Preview
- 2008 CFN Gator Bowl Preview
- 2007 CFN Gator Bowl Preview
National Rankings
27th Total Offense 60th
110th Total Defense 34th
39th Scoring Offense 65th
98th Scoring Defense 24th
66th Rushing Offense 32nd
108th Run Defense 29th
16th Passing Offense 83rd
88th Passing Defense 52nd
59th Turnover Margin 66th
Position Ratings
relative to each other
FS 5 highest
1 lowest
2 Quarterbacks 4
2.5 RBs 4
4 Receivers 3
3.5 O Line 4
3 D Line 4
3.5 Linebackers 3
2 Secondary 2.5
4 Spec Teams 4
5 Coaching 4
Gator Bowl History
2008 Texas Tech 31, Virginia 28
2007 W. Virginia 38, Georgia Tech 35
2006 Virginia Tech 35, Louisville 24
2005 Florida St 30, West Virginia 18
2004 Maryland 41, West Virginia 7
2003 NC State 28, Notre Dame 6
2002 Florida St 30, Virginia Tech 17
2001 Virginia Tech 41, Clemson 20
2000 Miami 28, Georgia Tech 13
1999 Georgia Tech 35, Notre Dame 28
1998 North Carolina 42, Virginia Tech 3
1997 North Carolina 20, West Virginia 13
1996 Syracuse 41, Clemson 0
1994 Tennessee 45, Virginia Tech 23
1993 Alabama 24, North Carolina 10
1992 Florida 27, NC State 10
1991 (Dec.) Oklahoma 48, Virginia 14
1991 (Jan.) Michigan 35, Mississippi 3
1989 (Dec.) Clemson 27, West Virginia 7
1989 (Jan.) Georgia 34, Michigan State 27
1987 LSU 30, South Carolina 13
1986 Clemson 27, Stanford 21
1985 Florida State 34, Oklahoma St 23
1984 Oklahoma State 21, South Carolina 14
1983 Florida 14, Iowa 6
1982 Florida St 31, West Virginia 12
1981 North Carolina 31, Arkansas 27
1980 Pitt 37, South Carolina 9
1979 North Carolina 17, Michigan 15
1978 Clemson 17, Ohio State 15
1977 Pitt 34, Clemson 3
1976 Notre Dame 20, Penn State 9
1975 Maryland 13, Florida 0
1974 Auburn 27, Texas 3
1973 Texas Tech 28, Tennessee 19
1972 Auburn 24, Colorado 3
1971 (Dec.) Georgia 7, North Carolina 3
1970 (Jan.) Auburn 35, Mississippi 28
1969 Florida 14, Tennessee 13
1968 Missouri 35, Alabama 10
1967 Florida State 17, Penn State 17
1966 Tennessee 18, Syracuse 12
1965 (Dec.) Georgia Tech 31, Texas Tech 21
1965 (Jan.) Florida State 36, Oklahoma 19
1963 North Carolina 35, Air Force 0
1962 Florida 17, Penn State 7
1961 Penn State 30, Georgia Tech 15
1960 (Dec.) Florida 13, Baylor 12
1960 (Jan.) Arkansas 14, Georgia Tech 7
1958 Mississippi 7, Florida 3
1957 Tennessee 3, Texas A&M 0
1956 Georgia Tech 21, Pitt 14
1955 Vanderbilt 25, Auburn 13
1954 (Dec.) Auburn 33, Baylor 13
1954 (Jan.) Texas Tech 35, Auburn 13
1953 Florida 14, Tulsa 13
1952 Miami 14, Clemson 0
1951 Wyoming 20, Wash. & Lee 0
1950 Maryland 20, Missouri 7
1949 Clemson 24, Missouri 23
1948 Georgia 20, Maryland 20
1947 Oklahoma 34, NC State 13
1946 Wake Forest 26, South Carolina 14
1936 Hardin-Simmons 14, New Mexico State 14

Just how far can emotion carry a team that's won as many games as it's lost and has little to play for at this stage of the year? We'll find out when Florida State meets West Virginia in Jacksonville.

In case you missed it, Bobby Bowden will be coaching the final game of his illustrious career on Friday. While it sure isn't ending the way he'd hoped, it'll still be an emotional and memorable scene when he first trots on the field and when the final gun sounds. More than three decades at the same school will have that type of an impact on the players, fans, and administrators within that family. However, the time is right for Jimbo Fisher to finally go from coach-in-waiting to coach-in-charge. Florida State hasn't been Florida State for a decade. The last ACC title was in 2005. The last 10-win season occurred six years ago. The last time the ‘Noles were a genuine threat for a national title? You have to go all the way back to 2000. As strange as it'll be not seeing Bowden on the sidelines, it's clearly time for a change.

Right from the opener, there were bad omens surrounding this season in Tallahassee. Florida State couldn't hold a fourth quarter lead on Miami or connect on a game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds, dropping a heartbreaker, 38-34. There wasn't much to cheer about over the next three months. Yeah, the Seminoles torched BYU in Provo and rallied to beat North Carolina on national TV, but those didn't become the themes of the season. No, this miserable regular season was more about a close call with Jacksonville State, a home loss to South Florida, and the worst defense in the Mickey Andrews era. Blatantly mediocre, Florida State is hoping to give Bowden one final victory and one more taste of the glory days as a fitting parting gift.

After two seasons without Rich Rodriguez on the sidelines, just where is West Virginia in its continuing quest to be the "it" program in the Big East? The Mountaineers disappointed in the debut of Bill Stewart in 2008 and remained behind Cincinnati, at least, in 2009. Still, this remains a solid Top 25 program that recruits enough talent and overall speed to rekindle the days when Pat White and Steve Slaton were fueling talk of fringe contention for a national championship.

How close were the Mountaineers to actually wearing the Big East crown for the first time since 2007? Well, they only lost by a field goal to unbeaten Cincinnati on Nov. 13 and defeated then-one-loss Pitt by a field goal two weeks later. West Virginia was so close to getting over the hump and into a BCS bowl game, yet never quite seemed to put it all together. Oh, the defense and special teams were just fine, but turnovers and poor execution stalled the offense and heaped more criticism on offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen.

If West Virginia is going to put together its fourth 10-win season in the last five years and move even deeper into the final polls, it'll have to play the spoiler role on Friday afternoon; just about everyone without a connection to the two schools will be rooting for Bowden to ride off into the sunset with a Gator Bowl victory.

Players to Watch: When starting QB Christian Ponder was lost to a season-ending injury in early November, Florida State was forced to break the seal on redshirt freshman E.J. Manuel. As expected, he's delivered iffy results, throwing six interceptions and just two touchdowns in three games. Still, he has an enormous amount of raw ability, and it'll be interesting to see if the 15 practices in December have helped to slow down the game. The ‘Noles won't ask him to do too much, preferring instead to feed RB Jermaine Thomas, the team's offensive MVP in the second half of the year. A native of Jacksonville, he'll be doubly motivated to showcase his big-play ability in front of a large contingency of friends and family.

If Thomas goes for 100 yards for the fourth time this year, he'll have earned it. West Virginia is home to a stingy, veteran defense allowing just 3.5 yards a carry. Five Mountaineers earned All-Big East honors, including DT Chris Neild, linebackers Reed Williams and J.T. Thomas, CB Brandon Hogan, and FS Robert Sands. The biggest concern for the Seminole backs will be avoiding the sure-tackling of Williams and Thomas. A couple of smart and instinctive players, they take good angles and fill running lanes in a hurry. If they're able to help corral the Florida State ground game, it'll put immense pressure on Manuel to keep the chains moving on third down.

With the help of Alric Arnett and Jock Sanders, West Virginia QB Jarrett Brown will be looking to dissect a Florida State D that's been unusually generous this year, ranking 113th nationally in pass efficiency defense. Of course, RB Noel Devine will remain the focal point of the Mountaineer offense. A Florida native, who was hotly pursued by the Seminoles, he's one of the most explosive gamebreakers in the country. With even a crack of daylight, he can cripple opposing defenses with his jets and ability to hide behind linemen until it's too late to locate him. Drawing the assignment of spying Devine will be Nigel Bradham, potentially the next great linebacker in Tallahassee and a unique athlete for a 6-2, 235-pounder.

West Virginia will win if ... : Brown can spread out the Florida State defense with his strong right arm. The senior got off to a flying start, but was grounded by a concussion in the middle of October and never quite fulfilled all of his potential. In fact, over the last eight games, he wasn't much of a factor, throwing just four touchdown passes. With almost an entire month without contact, however, he figures to enter this game refreshed and eager to make the ‘Noles pay for not recruiting him. The talent is there for a big game and the opposing secondary is certainly conducive to a few long ball connections, particularly to Arnett. With all of its problems this season, Florida State is still one of those rare teams on the West Virginia schedule with the team speed to hem in Devine and Sanders. If Brown can send an early warning sign that he needs to be accounted for, the Mountaineer jackrabbits will have more room to operate.

Florida State will win if ... : Manuel has grown markedly since the end of the regular season. The Seminoles will need to be balanced in order to move the ball consistently on the stingy West Virginia defense. That means Manuel will have to carry his weight and provide support to Thomas and the rest of the running game. More than just avoiding turnovers, he has to be more than just a game manager, getting the ball in the hands of receivers Jarmon Fortson, Rod Owens, and Bert Reed. The Florida State staff has taken a good look at the West Virginia film, and what it's noticed is a defensive backfield that will bite on fakes and can be burned over the top on occasion. Take a good look at the Mounties' three losses to Auburn, South Florida, and Cincinnati. In those games, Chris Todd, B.J. Daniels, and Tony Pike combined to throw nine touchdown passes and just a single pick. If Florida State is going to win, Manuel needs to approach that degree of efficiency.

What will happen: So just how far can the emotion of a retiring head coach carry an inferior team? There's no doubt that the Seminoles and the partisan crowd will be all fired up to send Bowden off with a Gator Bowl win. Yet, haven't we seen West Virginia face unique hurdles in the postseason a lot in recent years? Let's see. Four years ago, the Mountaineers were forced to play the Sugar Bowl against Georgia in the Georgia Dome because of Hurricane Katrina. They won. Three years ago, the ‘eers played Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl in front of a pro-Jacket crowd. They won. Two years ago, they faced the impossible task of playing Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl with an interim coach. They won. And last year, they faced North Carolina in Charlotte. And won. If nothing else, this is a resilient program capable of tuning out the noise and focusing on the task at hand. Brown and Devine will come up big in their home state, taking advantage of the myriad holes in the Seminole defense and denying Bowden a happy ending in his final game.

CFN Prediction: West Virginia 34 … Florida State 23 ... Line: West Virginia -3

- Free Expert Football Predictions For This Game  
- Get Tickets For The Gator Bowl

Best Mountaineer Bowl Moment: The postseason had been a horror show for West Virginia…until the 2006 Sugar Bowl and the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. The same program that had lost 11 of its previous 12 bowls jumped all over heavily-favored Georgia in the Georgia Dome, holding on for a 38-35 win that ranks among the most important in school history. Two Januarys ago, the ‘eers, seemingly a rudderless ship, rallied around interim coach Bill Stewart, to stun Oklahoma in Arizona, 48-28, behind the heroics of Pat White and Noel Devine.

Best Seminole Bowl Moment: The ‘Noles' 14-game bowl unbeaten streak from 1982-1998 is one of the most incredible runs of any kind in college football history. The high point of that boon—and there were many—was the classic 1994 Orange Bowl with Nebraska that matched the top two teams in the country. Florida State took an 18-16 lead on a Scott Bentley chip shot with 21 seconds left, but had to watch as a Byron Bennett field goal attempt fittingly sailed wide left before wrapping up the win and the school's first national championship.

Florida State Bowl History (21-14-2)
2008 Champs Sports Florida State 42, Wisconsin 13
2007 Music City Kentucky 35, Florida State 28
2006 Emerald Florida State 44, UCLA 27
2005 Orange Penn State 26, Florida State 23 (3 OT)
2004 Gator Florida State 30, West Virginia 18
2003 Sugar Miami 16, Florida State 14
2002 Sugar Georgia 26, Florida State 13
2001 Gator Florida State 30, Virginia Tech 17
2000 Orange Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2
1999 Sugar Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29
1998 Fiesta Tennessee 23, Florida State 16
1997 Sugar Florida State 31, Ohio State 14
1996 Sugar Florida 52, Florida State 20
1995 Orange Florida State 31, Notre Dame 26
1994 Sugar Florida State 23, Florida 17
1993 Orange Florida State 18, Nebraska 16
1992 Orange Florida State 27, Nebraska 14
1991 Cotton Florida State 10, Texas A&M 2
1990 Blockbuster Florida State 24, Penn State 17
1989 Fiesta Florida State 41, Nebraska 17
1988 Sugar Florida State 13, Auburn 7
1987 Fiesta Florida State 31, Nebraska 28
1986 All-American Florida State 27, Indiana 13
1985 Gator Florida State 34, Oklahoma State 23
1984 Citrus Florida State 17, Georgia 17
1983 Peach Florida State 28, North Carolina 3
1982 Gator Florida State 31, West Virginia 12
1980 Orange Oklahoma 18, Florida State 17
1979 Orange Oklahoma 24, Florida State 7
1977 Tangerine Florida State 40, Texas Tech 17
1971 Fiesta Arizona State 45, Florida State 38
1968 Peach LSU 31, Florida State 21
1967 Gator Florida State 17, Penn State 17
1966 Sun Wyoming 28, Florida State 20
1965 Gator Florida State 36, Oklahoma 19
1958 Bluegrass Oklahoma State 15, Florida State 6
1954 Sun Texas Western 47, Florida State 20
1950 Cigar Florida State 19, Wofford 6
West Virginia Bowl History (13-15)
2008 Meineke Car Care West Virginia 31, North Carolina 30
2007 Gator West Virginia 38, Georgia Tech 35
2006 Sugar West Virginia 38, Georgia 35
2004 Gator Florida State 30, West Virginia 18
2003 Gator Maryland 41, West Virginia 7
2002 Continental Tire Virginia 48, West Virginia 22
2000 Music City West Virginia 49, Mississippi 38
1998 Insight.com Missouri 34, West Virginia 31
1997 Carquest Georgia Tech 35, West Virginia 30
1996 Gator North Carolina 20, West Virginia 13
1994 Carquest South Carolina 24, West Virginia 21
1993 Sugar Florida 41, West Virginia 7
1989 Gator Clemson 27, West Virginia 7
1988 Fiesta Notre Dame 34, West Virginia 21
1987 Sun Oklahoma State 35, West Virginia 33
1984 Bluebonnet West Virginia 31, TCU 14
1983 Hall of Fame West Virginia 20, Kentucky 16
1982 Gator Florida State 31, West Virginia 12
1981 Peach West Virginia 26, Florida 6
1975 Peach West Virginia 13, North Carolina State 10
1972 Peach North Carolina State 49, West Virginia 13
1969 Peach West Virginia 14, South Carolina 3
1964 Liberty Utah 32, West Virginia 6
1953 Sugar Georgia Tech 42, West Virginia 19
1948 Sun West Virginia 21, Texas Western 12
1937 Sun West Virginia 7, Texas Tech 6
1922 East-West West Virginia 21, Gonzaga 13