Miami vs. South Carolina: Independence Bowl preview
Miami (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
Dec. 27, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
• Reason to watch: Al Golden and Steve Spurrier will both have chips on their shoulders heading into this matchup. Miami and South Carolina have fallen short of expectations lately, albeit for different reasons. Golden has gone 28-21 in four seasons in Coral Gables, but that mark includes an 8-10 record since reaching No. 7 in the AP poll midway through the 2013 season. With the ‘Canes sitting at 6-6, the natives are getting restless with a program that’s won five national championships. Spurrier, meanwhile, took a preseason top-10 team to only six wins this season; he’d won 11 games in each of the last three years. Both coaches will be on the lookout for an exclamation point in Shreveport, La.
• Keep an eye on: South Carolina’s defense. A unit that allowed only 20.3 points and 350 yards per game in 2013 has been much more susceptible this season. This year the Gamecocks ranked 93rd in the country by giving up 31.2 points per game and 433.6 yards per game. Spurrier’s defense won’t hang around in this game if it can’t contain Miami running back Duke Johnson, who finished second in the ACC in rushing yards (1,520) and first in yards-per-carry (7.0). Indeed, nine players rushed for at least 100 yards against South Carolina this season.
• Did you know: Miami has 18 bowl victories in its history, but it hasn’t won a bowl since 2006. That year the Hurricanes topped Nevada, 21-20, in the MPC Computers Bowl. Since then the program has lost four straight bowls, including last season’s 36-9 rout by Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl. South Carolina, meanwhile, is seeking its fourth-straight bowl victory while making the program’s seventh consecutive bowl appearance. The Gamecocks went to just three bowls in the 16 years prior to Spurrier’s arrival.
• Final analysis: There’s plenty of offensive talent on both sides of this matchup. Miami has Johnson and freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya, who set a Hurricanes freshman record with 2,962 passing yards this season. South Carolina running back Mike Davis and receiver Pharoh Cooper will keep the Hurricanes' defense honest, as well. But the Gamecocks’ defense has been their Achilles heel all season long. Expect Kaaya and Johnson to spearhead an offensive showing that snaps Spurrier's postseason winning streak.
• The pick: Miami 31, South Carolina 17