Independence Bowl Preview: Southern Miss Golden Eagles vs. Florida State Seminoles

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, I don’t feel like rewriting this entire preview to reflect the fact that the Southern Miss Golden Eagles are playing a 5-6 FSU team that hook-slid their way into a bowl game, and aren’t going to pay for it. Just drop it, man.

LETS GO TO SHREVEPORT!!! This was the exclamation of so many Southern Miss fans once the regular season concluded. So, what is going on in Shreveport? I think there is a pretty big Bass Pro Shop (with a Sonic inside) and a couple of casinos. This must mean Shreveport is a destination bowl!

Okay, maybe not, but Golden Eagles fans lobbied hard for the Independence Bowl. Why? Because the Golden Eagles have the chance to take on a privileged 5 school and an old Metro Conference foe in Florida State, who lost their head coach to Texas A&M, has had some significant injuries, and has had their best defensive player, Derwin James, declare for the draft and forego the bowl game.

Lets take a look at the series history. The Seminoles lead the all-time series with a record of 13-8-1, which is better than I thought, as a USM alum. The last game was a 54-14 drubbing of the Golden Eagles in 1996. The last win for Southern Miss in the series was a memorable one. It was the 1989 season opener for Southern Miss when Brett Favre and the Eagles defeated the then #6 Seminoles on a game-winning touchdown pass. This particular game is viewed as one of the best in USM’s history and caused the eyes of professional football teams to start paying attention to Mr. Favre(I think that worked out pretty well, if you ask me).

The Golden Eagles are wanting to write more history in Shreveport, and this is as good a time as any to do so. They are coming in on a three game winning streak and all things seem to be clicking, for the most part.

Since Kwadra Griggs returned as the starting QB, the offense has averaged a little over 45 points a game. After what seemed to be just an anomaly at Rice, the Golden Eagle defense seems to have found their footing again.

Not only is USM coming in to the Independence Bowl playing pretty good football, they are also facing a Florida State team that has had a tough going this season. The Seminole starting QB, Deondre Francois is out for the year after suffering an injury in the first game of the season against Alabama. Jimbo Fisher is out as head coach and has since taken the head coaching position at Texas A&M.

This season has not gone as expected for this team, but that does not mean they are an easy win. They still have the likes of talented RB’s Cam Akers and Jaques Patrick, along with an ever-maturing QB in James Blackman. Florida State showed this by crushing ULM in the last game of the season 42-10.

X’s and O’s

Florida State may not be having its best season, but this team is no pushover. The aforementioned Cam Akers has 930 rushing yards and seven touchdowns this season. His counterpart Patrick has 687 yards and six touchdowns, but is also a threat in the passing game with 19 receptions for 145 yards. If Southern Miss is to have a chance in this game, they must slow down the Seminole run game.

The 17th ranked Golden Eagle defense have proven tough throughout the season. If they can hold back the Florida State running game, the Southern Miss secondary is good enough to contain the receiving corps of Florida State. The Seminoles are 106th in total offense, so I believe the Southern Miss defense will fair pretty well in Shreveport.

What I am interested in seeing is the Golden Eagle offense against Florida State. Southern Miss has extremely talented weapons, that include RB Ito Smith and WR Korey Robertson. The Seminoles may be 6-6, but their defense has had some success as they are 24th in total defense. I have to believe that Florida State will put much of their focus on containing Smith, who has rushed for over 1300 yards with 13 rushing TD’s.

Oh, and he also 36 receptions for 370 yards. With this being the case, it will be important for the Golden Eagle offensive line to protect Kwadra Griggs. If Griggs can get some time, his receivers have the skill and ability to get open and make plays.

Florida State definitely will be the more talented team in Shreveport, but there is a great opportunity for Southern Miss to try and take advantage of when the two teams meet.

PREDICTION

I think this is one of those “old college try” games for USM. There are opportunities and matchups for them to win, but they’ll need to win every matchup and capitalize on every opportunity to hang with Florida State for four quarters; even a subpar FSU team is still ful of very talented athletes.

I think it’s close early, and maybe still close late, but Florida State seals the deal eventually. Even my poor Southern Miss homer heart can’t in good conscience pick my team to win

Florida State 38, Southern Miss 24

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