Date: Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Kickoff Time: 12:30 PM CT
Location: Shreveport, LA
Stadium: Independence Stadium
Series Record: FSU leads 13-8-1
Last Meeting: FSU won 54-14
Betting Line: FSU -16.5
Conference USA will wrap up its 2017 bowl season on Wednesday as the Southern Miss Golden Eagles (8-4, 6-2 C-USA) head to Shreveport to face the Florida State Seminoles (6-6, 3-5 ACC). Southern Miss has to win this game in order for C-USA to finish 2017 with a winning bowl record, but the Golden Eagles are three score underdogs to the Seminoles.
Southern Miss is 2-0 in Louisiana in 2017, previously beating ULM in Monroe and rival Louisiana Tech in Ruston. Can they make it 3-0?
As for the Noles, they haven’t had a losing season since Bobby Bowden’s first season as head coach in 1976. They’ve never had one as an ACC member. Florida State is expected to finish with a winning record yet again, but they’ll have to get through Southern Miss.
Southern Miss Overview
The Golden Eagles come in on a 3-game win streak, but they fell short in their prior two games against P5 teams this season. Southern Miss, however, should have a bit more consistency on offense with Kwadra Griggs under center this time around. In eight combined quarters against P5 teams thus far, Griggs only played three of those quarters.
He has some reliable targets in Allenzae Staggers and Korey Robertson, but if USM wants to win, they’ll need Ito Smith to have a big game. The senior already has 1321 rushing yards, and he is basically the entire run game for Southern Miss.
If you compare the quarterbacks, they have pretty similar stats with one key exception: although both have tossed 15 touchdowns, FSU’s Blackman has thrown 11 picks. Griggs has only thrown two. Southern Miss has only intercepted nine passes this year, but if they can grab a couple more against Florida State, that could go a long way to helping them win.
The biggest key defensively will be slowing down the run game from FSU. The Noles have run the ball 418 times this year as compared to just 316 passing attempts. If they can stop Akers and get a couple of turnovers, USM might just be able to pull this off.
Florida State Overview
This season has obviously been a letdown for Florida State, but this is still Florida State. The loss of Deondre Francois is obviously huge, but James Blackman has done a decent job filling in. The freshman quarterback just needs three yards to reach 2000 passing yards on the season. His problem, as mentioned above, is that he turns the ball over a bit too much. He’ll have to protect the ball if FSU looks to avoid the upset.
But with Francois out, this team relies heavily on the run game. Cam Akers could reach 1000 yards this season if he can find 70+ against Southern Miss. Jacques Patrick is behind him with 687 yards. The two have combined for 13 scores this year. Look for FSU to try to run through the Southern Miss defense.
Obviously, we have to address the coaching change. We’ve already seen a team in transition show up flat this season, but don’t expect the same from Florida State. Interim coach Odell Haggins is an FSU guy through and through. He played his college ball in Tallahassee and was a ninth round NFL draft pick in 1990. After three years in the league he took a year off and then returned to his alma mater, where he’s been an assistant since 1994. The players will definitely be ready to play for him. Levonta Taylor, a sophomore defensive back, called Haggins “a father figure.” They’ll be ready to play.
Some of FSU’s best players like Derwin James won’t be appearing in this game as they prepare for the NFL draft, so that could be a hindrance for the Noles, but they have plenty of talent ready to go.
If this were any other 6-6 ACC team, I’d think Southern Miss could very well come out victorious. However, this is Florida State. They played teams like Miami and NC State very close, and handled business on the road against Florida. They’ve got plenty of talent and will be ready to go. The absence of some of their better players, the question of motivation, and the coaching transition could keep this interesting, but in the end FSU will just out-talent Southern Miss.
FSU 24, USM 17