No. 13 Florida State (9-3, 5-3 ACC) is set to make its bowl debut under head coach Mike Norvell, facing off against the Oklahoma Sooners (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) in the Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando.
FSU, which has already posted its best record since 2016, is looking to secure 10 wins on the year and momentum ahead of what is building up to be a potentially major 2023 season.
While it’s been under different bowl sponsors, Florida State has taken part in three previous iterations of this game — in fact, it played in the inaugural one, facing off against and beating the Penn State Nittany Lions.
The Seminoles hold a 3-0 record in the game, having also faced off against the Wisconsin Badgers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish when it was called the Champs Sports bowl.
Ahead of Florida State vs. Oklahoma, let’s take a quick trip down memory road and revisit games of Cheez-It (formerly Russell Athletic, formerly Champs, formerly Mazda Tangerine, formerly Micron PC, formerly Carquest, formerly Blockbuster) Bowl past.
1990: Florida State vs. Penn State
Seminoles 24, Nittany Lions 17
The year was 1990 — people were getting phones installed in their cars and thinking it was the peak of mobile phone technology, the Berlin Wall officially began being demolished, masses upon masses realized that girl was poison and Blockbuster was on top of the world.
Firmly established as the nation’s largest video rental chain, the company decided to take a foray into sponsoring a college football bowl game. Wanting to make a splash in its debut year, it committed to offering a payout to teams that rivaled the country’s oldest and most prestigious games.
It managed to snag one of the best possible matchups in its inaugural year, pitting two of college football’s giants in Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden inside Joe Robbie Stadium (now known has Hard Rock Stadium). Paterno had already won his title, while Bowden was still seeking his.
“I can’t believe there’s a better football team in the country than Florida State,” Paterno said ahead of the game, with the Seminoles entering in at 9-2 after losing 31-22 to Miami and 20-17 to Auburn.
We might be playing the best team in the nation _ unless Penn State’s playing the best team in the nation,” Bowden said. “I can’t wait to see who wins it.”
The Seminoles managed to jump out to a 14-point lead, holding off a Nittany Lions comeback attempt to win 24-17. Running back Amp Lee was named MVP of the game after he ran 21 times for 86 yards, caught five passes for 32 yards and scored two touchdowns while quarterback Casey Weldon threw for 248 yards and ran for a score.
Champs Sports Bowl
2008: Florida State vs. Wisconsin
Seminoles 42, Badgers 13
FSU’s selection to the Champs Sports Bowl, which had been renamed in 2004, gave the Seminoles and Bobby Bowden the nation’s longest bowl streak, one that would continue to run until 2018 and set an NCAA record.
In what would be Bobby Bowden’s second-to-last bowl game as Florida State’s head coach, the Seminoles dominated the Bret Bielema-led Badgers in the second half, winning 42-13 to finish with 9 wins for the first time in four years. Quarterback Christian Ponder completed 18 of 31 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns, while both Derek Nicholson and Dekoda Watson returned fumbles for touchdowns.
“It looked like the old Florida State out there,” Bowden said after the game. “Not that we’re there, but we looked like we used to.”
The best part, and definitely the best trivia fact, of the win? Lou Grouza Award winner Graham Gano became the second punter ever to be named an MVP of a bowl game, averaging 48.2 yards on 5 punts while going six for six on extra points.
*added, after being dutifully reminded by the comment section.
2011: Florida State vs. Notre Dame
Seminoles, Fighting Irish
A game that helped set the tone for the Seminoles’ ACC Championship in 2012 and eventual national title run in 2013, Florida State faced off against Notre Dame to conclude a season that itself had begun with championship hopes.
As injuries spread through the team, a three-game losing streak early in the season ended the high expectations for the year at the jump, and a late-season loss to Virginia only deepened that wound. After a win over Florida, however, the Seminoles had an opportunity to snag a win against a high-profile opponent in an in-state matchup.
Quarterback EJ Manuel, who later was revealed to be playing the game on a broken leg, managed to lead a team loaded with true freshman to a come-from-behind victory. Trailing 14-3 at the start of the fourth quarter, Manuel threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes — an 18-yarder to Bert Reed and a 15-yarder to Rashad Greene — to take a 15-14 lead, one further padded on by a Dustin Hopkins field goal.
Greene scored the winning touchdown, but that wasn’t his only moment of the night. All in all, he put up 99 yards and a score on five catches, winning MVP and making the first of his many marks on Florida State.
“It was all trying to make plays for my team,” Greene said. “EJ gave me a chance and I made it for the team.”
Florida State vs. Oklahoma kicks off Thursday, December 29 at 5:30 p.m. ET at Camping World Stadium and will be broadcast live on ESPN.
FSU last faced off against the Sooners in 2011, a 23-13 loss for the Seminoles. Oklahoma leads the all-time series 6-1.
It’s FSU’s first game vs. a Big 12 opponent since its 2014 season opener vs. the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
According to DraftKings, FSU is currently a 9.5-point favorite over the Sooners with the over/under set at 65.5.