Miami Hurricanes (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (6-6 SU, 4-8 ATS)
Duck Commander Independence Bowl Preview
Date and Time: Saturday December 27th, 2014. 3:30PM EST
Where: Independence Stadium Shreveport, L.A.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MIA -4/SCAR +4
Over/Under Total: 60.5
A rather surprising matchup awaits this years Duck Commander Independence Bowl when the Miami Hurricanes meet the South Carolina Gamecocks inside Independence Stadium. Before the year began, both the Hurricanes and the Gamecocks had big intentions for 2014. However neither schools hopes for a big season panned out. The Hurricanes were coming off a 9 win season in 2013, the most during Al Goldens tenure. Meanwhile the Gamecocks were coming off their 3rd straight 11 win season and had hopes for another big year. Instead both schools regressed to finish the season with a very disappointing 6-6 record and now look to salvage some of the disappointment with a postseason victory.
The Gamecocks troubles have continued into the postseason in recent weeks. After having the worse defense in the SEC, several rumors spread regarding changes to the coaching staff as fans were calling for the firing of defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward. There were even rumors of Will Muschamp coming in and taking over as defensive coordinator. However the rumors turned out to be untrue as Muschamp landed with Auburn and there were not any changes in the Gamecocks coaching staff. However, South Carolina lost several recruits since their season ending loss against Clemson and they are desperately in need for something good to happen.
The Gamecocks defensive coaching staff will get the chance redeem their 2014 performance when they go against the Hurricanes on December 27th. Miamis offense does not pose an overwhelming threat on paper. However Miamis offense still poses threats to opposing defenses with their balance between the pass and the run. Running back Duke Johnson presents the biggest threat on offense. Johnson finished 2nd in the ACC this season with 1,520 yards on the season that including 10 rushing touchdowns. The Gamecocks defense has been awful against the run this season so expect Miami to put the ball in Johnsons hands early and often.
South Carolina must find a way to stop Johnson to have a chance of winning the football game. The Gamecocks pass defense is worse than their rushing defense. Therefore if Johnson finds room to run between the tackles, expect Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya to find big opportunities down the field. Kaaya has been pretty decent this year throwing for 2,962 yards with 25 touchdowns and 11 picks. Miamis quarterback should have at least a few opportunities to make big plays against South Carolinas defense so it will be interesting to see if those opportunities will be capitalized.
The good news for South Carolina fans is that if they can just get some defensive help, they have an offense that can post big numbers. Despite the defensive woes this season, the Gamecocks offense was pretty strong averaging 33.1 points per game. Quarterback Dylan Thompson piloted a passing attack that averaged 281 yards per game through the air (21st in FBS). The Gamecocks actually have playmakers all over the field. Thompson is a veteran quarterback while running back Mike Davis will be playing his last game before he declares for the NFL draft. Additionally, sophomore wide receiver Pharoh Cooper is perhaps the biggest playmaker of them all. Cooper is just 34 yards away from eclipsing the 1,000 yard receiving mark as the Gamecocks leading receiver. Cooper also lines up in the Gamecocks Wildcat formation quite often and he is an effective rusher in those situations as well. Needless to say, South Carolina does not lack star power on the offensive side of the ball. However the offensive efforts have been overshadowed this season by the awful play of the defense and it will be interesting to see if that trend continues against Miami.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I have watched this South Carolina team all year and have yet to see any improvement. In fact the offense seems to have regressed as well. Expect Miami to have their way on offense and control the game. Take Miami -4