Following Flynt - Tradition Tuesday

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When Notre Dame and Florida State meet on Thursday in the 22nd Champs Sports Bowl, the game will not have the BCS implications that many may have suspected at the start of the 2011 season. Ranked No. 16 and No. 6 respectively in the preseason Associated Press polls, both the Fighting Irish and the Seminoles fell short of expectations. Still, this week's game at the Florida Citrus Bowl has particular intrigue because the winning program will have momentum and a leg up on preparation for the 2012 season.

But the future is not the only reason this matchup is being discussed as one of the more interesting non-BCS bowl games of 2011. It is also about the past. Over the long history of college football, Florida State may only be a blip on the radar. They started playing football in 1947 and have won two national championships, compared with Notre Dame's eleven titles.

However, the Seminoles are one of the most accomplished teams of the last quarter-century. They won ten or more games in 14 consecutive seasons from 1987-2000, and this season marks their 30th straight year playing in a postseason bowl.

Florida State and Notre Dame have played six times, with the Seminoles holding a 4-2 advantage. The teams met most recently in 2003 (a 37-0 FSU victory), and most notably, a decade earlier, in 1993.

ESPN's College GameDay took its show on the road for the first time, visiting South Bend for the "Game of the Century" between the top-ranked Seminoles and No. 2 Fighting Irish. NBC began the broadcast with nearly a three-minute segment narrated by Bob Costas, considered by many one of the greatest pregame introductions ever. (Speaking of which, I would love for NBC to bring back this music from that game for its current Notre Dame broadcasts. So 90's.)

And somehow, with all the hype, the game itself did not disappoint. The Irish jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead and led by two scores late in the fourth quarter. However, eventual Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward would not back down. The Florida State quarterback hit Kez McCorvey for a touchdown to make it 31-24 and the Seminole defense forced a three-and-out on Notre Dame's next possession.

Ward drove the Seminoles deep into Irish territory, but on the game's final play, Notre Dame defensive back Shawn Wooden batted down his pass near the end zone to preserve the victory.

Notre Dame seemed to be in the driver's seat for the national championship, but the Irish lost to Boston College the following week, and it was Florida State who had the last laugh, going on to defeat Nebraska in the Orange Bowl and claim its first title.

In the 1996 Orange Bowl, Bobby Bowden and Lou Holtz's squads met again. Notre Dame built a 26-14 lead, but Florida State scored the game's final 17 points to win 31-26. It was the Seminoles tenth-straight bowl victory and the second of nine consecutive bowl losses for the Irish.

In 2002, No. 6 Notre Dame visited Tallahassee, Fla. as a double-digit underdog. On the first Irish play from scrimmage, Carlyle Holiday hit Arnaz Battle for a 65-yard touchdown pass. In the third quarter, Notre Dame forced three turnovers over a four-minute span and opened up a 27-10 lead and went on to defeat the No. 11 Seminoles, 34-24.

In recent years, neither team has achieved the level of success it aspires to reach, but Thursday marks the beginning of a new chapter in this young series. Both Florida State and Notre Dame are on the rise, so do not be surprised if we see the Seminoles and Fighting Irish battling for postseason supremacy again sometime in the near future. The winner of the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando moves one step closer to being back among college football's elite.

- Josh Flynt ('11)

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