Chick-fil-A Bowl preview

3 storylines

Can Florida State rattle South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia? FSU's 3.54 sacks-per-game average is second in the country. If they can rough up Garcia and upset the Gamecocks' timing, FSU will go a long way toward limiting South Carolina's options. A player on the spot will be South Carolina left guard Terrence Campbell from South Cobb High, largely a special-teams player this season. He will start in place of second-team All-SEC pick Garrett Chisolm, out with a knee injury.

What will be FSU quarterback Christian Ponder's valedictory? Hampered with an injured elbow for the second half of the season and forced to miss FSU's ACC title-game loss to Virginia Tech, Ponder is back from surgery and has been whistling the ball in practice. The fifth-year senior will face a South Carolina defense that has been prone to strafing. The Gamecocks were last in the SEC in passing yards allowed.

Who can find their groove after getting thumped in their conference title games? It's been four weeks since Virginia Tech dropped FSU 44-33 and Auburn rolled South Carolina in the Georgia Dome 56-17. While both teams appear excited about playing in the game, Friday's game may be an indication of which team let the loss linger and which was able to move forward and get a jump on the 2011 season. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier changed up his team's routine from past bowl practices after two beatings in its past two bowls.

A South Carolina win would:

  • Give the Gamecocks their second 10-win season in school history. The first was in 1984.
  • End its bowl-game losing streak at two.
  • Ensure a spot in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2001.

A FSU win would:

  • Give the Seminoles their first 10-win season since 2003.
  • Be the second win in a row for the ACC in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
  • Improve FSU's record against South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier to 9-5-1.

Keep an eye on …

For FSU: Cornerback Xavier Rhodes. A consensus freshman All-American and the ACC defensive rookie of the year, Rhodes likely will have his share of one-on-one time with Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina's All-American wide receiver. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Rhodes won't give up too much size to Jeffery (6-4, 233). If Rhodes and the secondary can hold their own, it would free the Seminoles to pay more attention to South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.

For South Carolina: Defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye. A Banneker High grad and a team captain, Ajiboye often will line up against All-American guard Rodney Hudson. Ajiboye's efforts (41 tackles) helped South Carolina lead the SEC in rushing defense. Ajiboye's ability to hold the point and collapse the pocket will go a long way in determining the Gamecocks' success.

The numbers game

0

Number of times South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore has fumbled in 248 carries.

1-3; 0-2

South Carolina's record against teams in the current AP poll; FSU's record against the same.

5.7; 3.2

FSU's yards-per-carry average in its first eight games; its average in the five games since.

4-1

South Carolina's record in its past five games against ACC teams.

130-61; 169-67

South Carolina's cumulative first-quarter scoring; Florida State's cumulative second-quarter scoring.

History book

Last meeting: FSU won 38-10 on Nov. 9, 1991, in Tallahassee.

Series record: FSU leads 15-3. The two teams played nine out of 10 years from 1982-91 when both schools were independents.

The bottom line

Here's a bit of a problem for FSU. The Seminoles are 4-1 when they have a 100-yard rusher, but they didn't have one in their past four games. Further, South Carolina's greatest strength might be its run defense. Likewise, FSU gives up 3.3 yards-per-carry on defense. Whichever team can achieve balance -- South Carolina seems the more likely candidate -- will take control of the game.