Both Miami and South Carolina come into their match up with 6-6 records, and will be looking to create some momentum going into the off-season. Playing well whether it be to impress recruits, or to pacify their fan bases until the excitement of spring football rolls around next season is crucial. A win isn't going to save the season for either program, but neither can afford an ugly loss.
Miami leads the series all time: 8-5-2, but the teams haven't faced each other since 1987. South Carolina will be looking to break Miami's six game winning streak dating back to... a really long time ago... doesn't matter. OK, 1947 for those who were curious.That being said there isn't a ton of bad blood between the teams, but it is a good match up and why bowls are fun. That said, it's more a match up against Steve Spurrier (former UF coach) and the majestic SEC that catches the attention of the MIami fan.
Hey, Dorseyitis why should we watch it if nothing can be gained and there is no real great history between the two teams? Glad you asked, the timing of it isn't ideal. Saturday at 3:30pm smack dab in the middle of the holiday season is a tough sale, but there are some compelling reasons to tune in. Let's see, you probably need a break from family at this point; what better way to distract yourself from your in-laws or annoying cousins than to watch refs persecute your favorite team. Misplace some anger on the announcers because, "bro - they're not even trying to hide that they hate [team name]." You can also "hate watch" - it's your last chance to question the coaching staff and screen shot poor defensive schemes - take advantage. Miami hasn't given much to cheer about these past few weeks, so before we all become numb and stop feeling anything at all, harness that frustration hop on the SOTU game thread and fire away. Just please get creative.
I joke, but there are plenty of reasons to watch. A big one is getting to watch the seniors don the U one last time. Their stint down in Coral Gables hasn't been easy and deserve our support. It's also more than likely the last time Duke Johnson will stiff arm fools for Miami. He's about 240 yards away from breaking the single season rushing record. It's unrealistic to expect 234 yards from a back, but with Duke going against a defense that gives up 214 yards a game rushing stranger things have happened. It's also going to be Standish Dobard's first start. He takes over for an injured Clive Walford, and being the only UM player from Louisiana, it sets up nicely for him to have a big day in Shreveport. Big Homie Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post has a great story about Stan's brief unwanted history with the city of Shreveport. Go read that when your done here.
South Carolina: Comes in with a good offense but issues defensively. They average about 170 yards a game rushing, led by running backs Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds. Davis - who will be going pro after this game - has 927 yards on 186 attempts. He averages 5 yards a carry and has 9TDS on the season. He's only 5-9, but weighs in at 216 lbs so he packs a punch. Brandon Wilds will also get a good share of the carries Saturday. He averaged 5.6 ypc rushing the ball 101 times for 567 yards. At 6-2, 220, I've been having nightmares of the Pitt game - hope Miami has better luck this time around.
QB Dylan Thompson leads the way at QB with 3,280 yards on the season. He is just shy of a 60% completion rate with 24TDs and 11ints. They are a good passing team, which isn't surprising with "the old ball coach" at the helm, but Miami has fared better against pass first teams so hopefully UM can slow the run down early and force them to pass. Thompson will be throwing it to WR Pharoh Cooper and Nick Jones primarily. Cooper leads the team with 60 receptions for 966 yards and 8TDs. He averages about 16 yards per catch so he can stretch the field. Nick Jones (5-7, 174lbs) takes care of more of the underneath stuff, with 39 catches for 490 yards and 5TDs. Miami shouldn't have much trouble with USC's third leading receiver Shaq Roland. Roland decided he's played enough on the college level and quit the team earlier this week.
Defensively the GameCocks have had their issues stopping the run. Something both fan bases can bond over. They rank 103rd nationally against the run giving up 200 plus yards a game. Their passing defense is better though, giving up on average 219 yards a game. They rank 89th overall and have looked better in their last few games. To compare - they gave up 52, 23, and 35 points in their first 3 games and 20, 12, and 17 points in their final 3. They have a stand out player in Skai Moore who leads the defense in tackles with 82; the sophomore linebacker is just one of many South Carolina players that are from South Florida.
Miami is still thin along the O-Line, which obviously makes things hard to predict for Saturday. Miami's strength is rushing, and their opponent's weakness is stopping the run. It would seem simple enough, but if the Oline cannot make holes or give time for the passing game, nothing really matters. The current line will have had plenty of time to get things together and did look good against FSU, so hopefuly that squad shows up. Brad Kaaya and Clive Walford were amazing all year so it will be interesting to see how things work without him in the line up. Standish Dobard will slide over from the 'beat you up' TE position to the pass catching threat position. He looked good in the limited time he filled in against Pitt. Cornerstone players on the offense like Duke Johnson, Erik FLowers, Jon Feliciano and Phillip Dorsett will probably being playing their last games as Hurricanes, so just from pride alone it could be a special night for the offense, regardless of shame.
On the defensive side of the ball Miami tends to do better against pass first offenses. The GameCocks fit that mold but can run the ball. Obviously it's no secret that UM has struggled stopping the run lately, so they should expect South Carolina to come out and try to establish a ground game early. If they can limit Carolina's success early and force them to pass the ball and work for first downs, it should be a good day for Miami fans. If USC comes out and marches down the field at a 7 yards per carry clip in the first quarter, you may want to go shopping or wash your car or something. Miami has had success when playing aggressively, so hopefully having safety Deon Bush back healthy will allow them to take more chances.
Prediction: USC 27 UM 35... or USC 37 UM 14 If you have watched Miami this year you know what I mean.
Seniors that will be playing in their final game:
• Seniors Raphael Akpejiori, Thurston Armbrister, Ricky Carroll, Anthony Chickillo, Hugo Delapenha, Phillip Dorsett, Jon Feliciano, Nantambu Fentress, Ladarius Gunter, Sean Harvey, Jake Heaps, Shane McDermott, Anthony Naser, Denzel Perryman, Olsen Pierre, Ronnie Regula, Jordan Tolson, Clive Walford and Ryan Williams will suit for the final time as Hurricanes in the 2014 Duck Commander Independence Bowl. (add on draft eligable players like Duke Johnson and Erik Flowers and I cannot see the team coming out flat like in the final two weeks of the season)
Watch Info: Saturday 3:30
ABC • Dave Neal, PxP • Andre Ware, Analyst • Laura Rutledge, Sideline Reporter
WQAM 560 AM • Joe Zagacki, PXP • Don Bailey Jr., Analyst • Josh Darrow, Sideline Reporter SPORTS USA • Eli Gold, PXP • Charles Arbuckle, Analyst
RADIO CARACOL 1260 AM • Roly Martin, PXP • Pepe Campos, Analyst • Joe Martinez, Analyst