Florida State vs. Notre Dame: 5 Things We Learned from the Champs Sports Bowl
Both teams will be tagged with similar story lines heading into 2012.
But the question that must be asked is, will either team deliver?
For now, follow along to find out what we learned from the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl.
5. Notre Dame's Defensive Line Is the Real Deal
If there's one positive to be taken from Notre Dame's performance in the Champs Sports Bowl, it was the play of its young, but talented, defensive line.
Aaron Lynch, Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt will be the mainstays of the line next season, and each played a critical part in tonight's game.
With some added depth arriving in South Bend next fall in defensive tackles Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day, the line will be stabilized for a long run of terror.
This season served as a learning experience for Lynch, Tuitt and Nix, so next season should be a tremendous one for all three. The experience can only help.
Before this evening's contest, the line had yet to truly hound an opposing quarterback, but they were able to do so tonight against Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel.
4. Florida State Is a Serious 2012 National Title Contender
After beginning the season as the nation's sixth-ranked team, things didn't work out as expected for the Seminoles. Three consecutive losses to Oklahoma, Wake Forest and Clemson derailed any of the team's BCS aspirations, similar to the trajectory of Notre Dame's season.
However, the Seminoles have 17 of 22 starters returning next season, setting up Jimbo Fisher's squad for a serious run at the BCS National Championship next year.
Young players such as Rashad Greene, Devonta Freeman and the nucleus of the offensive line truly shined in the Seminoles' 18-14 victory against Notre Dame. Having starting quarterback E.J. Manuel returning for his senior season will be a large factor in what could be a very special 2012 season for Florida State.
3. Notre Dame's Offense Will Struggle Without Michael Floyd
It's no mystery that Notre Dame's offense will be hurting without the presence of Michael Floyd on the field next season. Brian Kelly has made it clear that his offense has been predicated on Michael Floyd's abilities ever since Kelly was named head coach in December of 2009.
Will the Irish be able to find a playmaker to help fill Floyd's absence?
It's doubtful at this point in time; incoming freshman Deontay Greenberry is the closest thing to an answer. But even if Greenberry contributes next season, he won't have the same kind of impact on the game that Floyd was able to provide.
And if Tyler Eifert decides to enter the NFL draft, Notre Dame's offense is in trouble.
2. Brian Kelly Must Solve the Quarterback Controversy
The debate as to who should be Notre Dame's starting quarterback has been a season-long one.
It began with Brian Kelly's decision to bench Dayne Crist after one half of action against South Florida on Sept. 3. From there, Tommy Rees took over as starter, but his deficiencies became apparent very quickly, leading to unrest among the vast fanbase.
Rees' weaknesses were shining this evening in Orlando, so it's about time that Brian Kelly takes a long, hard look at this entire controversy.
The solution isn't a difficult one, though.
Kelly has two ideal quarterbacks for his spread system on the roster in Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix. One of those guys is likely to take the season's first snap against Navy in Dublin, Ireland on Sept. 1, 2012.
1. Notre Dame Won't Be in the BCS Conversation Next Season
If you take a look at next season's schedule, you'll come to the realization that Notre Dame should not and will not be in the BCS conversation next year.
The Irish face a daunting schedule with games against Michigan, at Michigan State, at Oklahoma, at USC and versus Miami, among others.
Against that type of elite competition, Notre Dame's many weaknesses will be exposed—especially its young and inexperienced secondary.
And if the quarterback situation isn't settled, we're in for another season chock-full of untimely and inexcusable turnovers.
Expect to see the Irish piece together a regular-season record of 8-5 or worse in 2012.
The sad truth is that this program is far from BCS-worthy.