Florida State was a fumble away from going to the ACC Championship Game and Wisconsin had to pull out their all to eek out a 36-35 win over Cal Poly. The two teams have never met before, but the match-up has already been played. The quick, fast southern team versus the big, powerful northern team. The Badgers ended their season on a three game winning streak and the Seminoles felt the wrath of BCS National Championship-contender Florida in a 45-15 rout.
Both teams want to end their season on a high note. Florida State wants to achieve a nine-win season and the hopes of regaining national prominence.
FSU will win if...
When Ponder is healthy, Ponder is dangerous. When Seminoles signal-caller Christian Ponder has both options available (run or pass), he can scramble out of the pocket and make a first down or pass on the run.
Florida State also has a healthy rotation of running backs featuring senior Antone Smith—who leads the team with 14 rushing touchdowns—and freshman Jermaine Thomas, who averages 7.2 yards per carry.
The 'Noles can use their offensive speed to create mismatches with reverses to some of their speedy wide receivers (Bert Reed or Preston Parker).
Defensively, if Everette Brown gets even an inch of space on his blocker, Wisconsin's quarterback has about a second to get that ball off or face a sack. Brown is third in the nation with 12.5 sacks and third again with 22 total tackles for a loss.
FSU will lose if...
The Badgers can take the run away. Wake Forest, Boston College, and the Gators all took the run away from Florida State, and those games resulted in losses. Ponder has not matured enough yet as a quarterback to be relied on just for his passing ability. When he is forced to throw consistently, he has turned the ball over consistently.
When the Seminoles only have their passing option, it slows down their offense and forces them to make critical passing plays.
The Badgers can use the Florida State defense's speed to the their advantage. When the Seminoles over-pursue, it can result in big plays. Boston College ran right at Florida State towards the end of the game to eat up nine minutes of clock and kick the game-clinching field goal.
The X Factor
Health. Antone Smith has had injuries this season. So has Christian Ponder. When they are not at full capacity, the offense must rely on the passing game.
Since there will have been a month between Florida State's last game against Florida by the time the Champs Sports Bowl against Wisconsin kicks off, all of the Seminoles should be in full health. Preston Parker has had some ankle problems since the Florida game but it should not affect the offense.
Florida State will start off slow but eventually establish a nice rush on first and second down, and then pass on third down to get a groove going. The defense may have some rust in the first quarter, but the adjustments will be made by Mickey Andrews to stop the rushing attack of Wisconsin.
FSU 27 - Wisconsin 14