Chick-fil-A Bowl preview: FSU (9-4) vs. South Carolina (9-4)

Here’s a quick preview of Florida State’s game against South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl:

WHO TO WATCH: FSU’s quarterbacks. If Christian Ponder is the starter, it will be interesting to see how he plays after a lengthy layoff that included missing the ACC championship game and surgery because of his elbow injury. If EJ Manuel is the starter, he already has a Gator Bowl MVP performance to build on. Ponder is more accurate and obviously has a better grasp on the offense because of his experience, but regardless of who is under center, the Seminoles should find some success against a secondary that ranks No. 107 in the country in pass defense.

WHAT TO WATCH: FSU’s defense on third downs. Virginia Tech was successful on 13 of 18 third-down conversions against FSU in the ACC title game, and the Seminoles will have to do much better than that against a team that features standout playmakers Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore. They’ll take advantage of every mistake.

WHY TO WATCH: Florida State and South Carolina are both coming off appearances in their respective conference championship games, and there’s no love lost between Florida State fans and former Florida coach Steve Spurrier. This will mark the first time the Chick-fil-A Bowl has featured both the ACC and SEC runners-up, and it is one of only three non-BCS bowls with two ranked teams competing.

PREDICTION: South Carolina 28, Florida State 24. The Seminoles defense still has something to prove after its performance in the ACC championship game, and it will struggle to stop the Gamecocks’ top playmakers much like it did the Hokies.