WHO: Miami (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
WHAT: The 39th Independence Bowl
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET Dec. 27 on ABC
THE SKINNY: In a battle to see which team emerges with less of a disappointing season than the other, the underachieving South Carolina Gamecocks face the Miami Hurricanes in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.
Both teams entered this season with aspirations of winning their divisions. Instead, both are 6-6 with one team leaving Shreveport, Louisiana with a record over .500.
Steve Spurrier‘s Gamecocks limped their way through a worse overall season. The program was expected to compete for the SEC East with the Georgia Bulldogs to eventually play in the SEC Championship Game. After finishing 11-2 the previous three seasons and opening the 2014 campaign ranked ninth overall, expectations remained sky high. Instead, the Gamecocks feel flat by losing five of their last eight games.
When South Carolina was successful, though, the Gamecocks offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. Running backs Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds combined for 1,494 rushing yards. Davis already stated he will leave Columbia after this year to join the NFL ranks. The junior will likely be showcased in his final game with the program.
Likewise, Miami’s best weapon is running back Duke Johnson. Johnson, who is also expected to leave Miami after this season for the NFL, is the barometer for the Hurricanes’ success. During a six-game stretch through the middle of the season, the running back ran for over 100 yards in each contest. Miami finished 4-2 during that stretch. The program is 2-4 in the games when Johnson ran for less than the century mark.
As the program’s all-time leading rusher, Johnson’s success is vital for Miami to emerge victorious.
But the Gamecocks can take over a game with its talented offensive line. Those big eaters up front should give South Carolina a slight advantage in a game that pits two of the nation’s most inconsistent teams against one another.
Spurrier succinctly summed up exactly what’s on the line, “They’re 6-6 just like us, so somebody is going to be a winner and someone is going to leave a loser. So, a lot on the line for this game.”
THE PREDICTION: South Carolina 24, Miami 21