Florida State (6-6) vs. West Virginia (9-3)
Jan. 1, 1 p.m., (CBS)
In the end, Gator Bowl president Rick Catlett got what he wanted, but will the product on the field match the off-field drama? Probably not. This is still a 6-6 Florida State team with one of the nation’s worst defenses. That hasn’t changed just because it will be the last game of Bobby Bowden’s career.
Considering that offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has already begun to build his staff, it could be an awkward preparation period for those assistants who know their time in Tallahassee is coming to an end. If the staff isn’t on the same page heading into this game, how are the players supposed to be? And those are just the off-field issues.
Rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel, who took over late in the season for injured star Christian Ponder, will be making his first appearance in a bowl game. Sure, FSU has proven it can score, but the last time it was on the field, it suffered a humiliating 37-10 loss to rival Florida.
The Noles’ defense is ranked 108th in the country in rushing defense, 113 in pass efficiency defense and 110 in total defense, and 98 in scoring defense. West Virginia, led by Noel Devine, has the No. 2 rushing offense in the Big East, and leads the conference in pass efficiency defense.
This might be not turn out to be the celebratory sendoff Bowden supporters would like to see.