Invitations were accepted by Florida State and Notre Dame to play in the contest on December 4. It was FSU's second Champs Bowl, and Notre Dame's first. Notre Dame was invited through an option in the Big East tie-in. The game sold out on December 7, marking the Champs Sports Bowl's first ever sellout.
Florida State won six of its last seven games. The Seminoles were rated as the No. 6 defense in the nation with a No. 2 rushing defense (81.83 yards per game). The team topped the nation in opponent yards per rush (2.32 yards per carry), and limited opponents to 15.2 points per game, 4th best in the country.
December 25, 2011 Notre Dame had won four of its last five games, but lost 28–14 to then No. 4 Stanford to close the regular season. The team featured one the nation's best receiving combos in wide receiver Michael Floyd, who had 7.92 receptions per game for 92.17 yards per game, and tight end Tyler Eifert, who had 57 receptions for 713 receiving yards.