Miami v. South Carolina
Independence Stadium — Shreveport, LA
December 27, 2014 — 3:30 pm Eastern (ABC)
Why You Should Watch
Apparently you can’t spell “Shreveport” without S-T-E-V-E, as plenty of people have been happy to note after years of Steve Spurrier’s ribbing other teams with wordplay. The Independence Bowl has been an annual staple of the bowl calendar since the Bicentennial year of 1976, when it became the 12th bowl game on the postseason schedule. This will be the 39th season that the same bowl has been played in the same stadium, something few other long-lasting contests can boast. You probably won’t see another blizzard, but wet weather could make this another interesting edition of a historic game.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Miami lost three of its first six games as a youth movement went through growing pains, but a three-game winning streak ahead of the Florida State showdown gave people false hope about this team’s chances for upsetting the Seminoles. The bid faltered in the fourth quarter, but a four-point loss to the defending national champions made people even more aware of the Hurricanes’ potential. But the FSU loss was really the start of a three-game losing streak to end the regular season, as the Hurricanes regressed in November. Duke Johnson broke the career rushing record at Miami, putting up seven yards a carry to get to 1520 for the season. Freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya threw for nearly 3000 yards, and the defense — while nowhere near its national championship vintages — still allowed just 24 points per game.
The Gamecocks were supposed to challenge for the SEC East this season despite the loss of players like Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney. Instead they were blown out at home by Texas A&M in the season opener, the first of six games they’d drop during the season. But those numbers are slightly misleading. Aside from losses to A&M and Clemson in the finale, the other four defeats were all by a touchdown or less. The defense experienced the worst regression, ranking just outside the bottom quartile in the country while allowing over 31 points per game. The passing attack survived the loss of Shaw thanks to experienced replacement Dylan Thompson, and the rushing attack was serviceable if not quite at the level it was a few years ago when Marcus Lattimore was toting the rock.
What is Likely to Happen
It’s a game where the SEC team can’t play defense to save its life and the ACC opponent can actually pull off a stop or two. This could come down to a duel of running backs, with Duke Johnson and South Carolina’s Mike Davis taking pressure off their respective quarterbacks in what is likely to be the final college game for both tailbacks. The matchup between the Gamecocks offense and the Miami defense will be one to watch, as they’re well-matched units. The real difference could come down to the fact that the Hurricanes’ offense is far better than the South Carolina defense. That disparity should make the difference as Brad Kaaya wins his first bowl game as a freshman.
Miami 31, South Carolina 24