Prep for bowl game starts up Thursday

P Shawn Powell (US Presswire)

Florida State heads into bowl practices featuring an offensive attack that has misfired both running and passing the last few games, but the defense can be dominant and the special teams are a strength.

BOWL BREAKDOWN

Scouting the running game: It's one of the worst in the ACC, ranking 10th of the 12 teams with a 3.5 yards-per-carry average. The lone saving grace is the Seminoles' 20 rushing touchdowns are fourth best in the conference. But this is a team that has struggled to make short-yardage conversions and failed to gain 100 yards rushing in five of its games.

Scouting the passing game: Junior quarterback E.J. Manuel led the ACC in passing efficiency, throwing for 1,686 yards, 10 touchdowns and just four interceptions in conference play. But Manuel completed only 24 of 44 passes in the last two games for 265 total yards.

Scouting the run defense: It's one of the best in the nation. Teams averaged just 81.8 yards rushing against the Seminoles and scored only eight touchdowns. Both totals were the fewest in the ACC. The Seminoles' recruiting gains to bolster their front four and improved depth paid dividends this season.

Scouting the pass defense: The Seminoles generated 14 turnovers in their last five games, with nine of those turnovers coming on interceptions. This group's only problem, however, was letting teams having passing success in the fourth quarter of games that decided outcomes in all four losses. The Seminoles were not as effective in certain long-yardage situations at critical times.

Scouting the special teams: One of the best tandems in the country with punter Shawn Powell and kicker Dustin Hopkins, both of whom were first-team All-ACC selections. Hopkins' only negative moment was missing a game-deciding field goal against Virginia, following a lengthy timeout. But he was outstanding on kickoffs for touchbacks and dependable on all short-range field goals.

Intangibles: This has not been the season FSU wanted, although the Seminoles did post wins against rivals Miami and Florida for the second straight year. That had not happened since 1998-99, when they went to consecutive national-title games. How big of a factor this will be for a bowl game the Seminoles attended three years ago is uncertain. Playing Notre Dame should help draw a crowd and get the players excited. But playing in a bowl four days after Christmas has its disadvantages, forcing practices on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

ROSTER REPORT

The Seminoles are in good shape heading into bowl practice this week. They should have all of the players that started against Florida back on the field, along with the improved health to their offensive line.

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