Updated: 12/24/17: Key Players Sit Out
The Seminoles will have key players sitting out in preparation for the NFL draft. Safety Derwin James, along with linebacker Matthew Thomas and defensive end Josh Sweat will all be inactive. All three players are very important pieces to the Seminoles defense, making the Golden Eagles a very strong play. Senior wide receiver Ermon Lane is also sitting out for the draft.
Seminoles’ defensive line coach Odell Haggins will be the interim head coach for the Independence Bowl. Florida State hired Willie Taggart as their new head coach, and he will be on the sidelines with the Seminoles next season.
Southern Mississippi (8-4; 8-4 ATS; 6-6 O/U) vs. Florida State (6-6; 3-7-2 ATS; 3-8 O/U)
The Florida State Seminoles will clash with the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles in the Independence Bowl on Wednesday, December 27th from Independence Stadium in Shreveport, LA. The Golden Eagles recorded an 8-4 record on the season with a 6-2 mark in C-USA action, while the Seminoles posted a 6-6 record and went 3-5 in ACC play. Florida State leads the all-time series against Southern Mississippi 13-8, and these teams last met in 1996.
Golden Eagles Head into Bowl on Three Game Winning Streak
The Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles will be targeting their second straight bowl victory in this one. They finished the season with three consecutive victories which included a 28-27 road win over Marshall in their regular season finale. The Golden Eagles feature a well-balanced offense that has the ability to do damage both in the air and on the ground. Junior QB Kwadra Griggs had a solid season, recording 1793 passing yards with a dazzling 15:2 TD to INT ratio in nine games. Keon Howard also saw action at QB but has not played in three weeks. The Golden Eagles feature a dangerous running game led by Ito Smith. The senior running back finished the season with over 150 rushing yards in three straight games and collected a total of 1321 rushing yards on the year. They also have a big weapon downfield in Korey Robertson who has the ability to make big plays. The junior wide receiver tallied over 100 receiving yards in three of his last four games and finished with 1070 yards on the year.
The Southern Mississippi defense did falter slightly down the final stretch but are still capable of shutting down an offense. They are only conceding an average of 322 total yards per game, good for 17th in the country and posted two shutouts this season. The Golden Eagles recorded two separate three-game winning streaks this season.
Seminoles Win Final Three Games to Reach Bowl
The Florida State Seminoles head into the Independence Bowl without head coach Jimbo Fisher at the helm after he departed to Texas A&M. Reports indicate FSU is close to naming Oregon head coach Willie Taggart as their new head coach. The Seminoles won their final three games of the regular season to reach bowl eligibility. Star quarterback Deondre Francois was injured in week one, leaving the starting role in the hands of James Blackman. The freshman quarterback did struggle at times, and finished with 1997 passing yards with a 15:11 TD to INT ratio. The Seminoles running game will likely see a lot of action in this one led by Cam Akers. The freshman running back finished the season with 930 rushing yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry. They also feature Jacques Patrick who finish with 687 rushing yards. Florida State’s biggest threat in the air is Nyqwan Murray. The junior wide receiver finished with 604 receiving yards and all four of his TD receptions came in the final seven games. The Seminoles offense turned it on in their final three games however the production came against weak competition.
The Seminoles will be relying on their defense to come through with a big performance against a strong Southern Mississippi offense. They had success against both the pass and run in the tough ACC, and are only allowing an average of 21.9 points per game. Florida State only allowed a combined 38 points in their final three games.
The Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles are:
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up win.
- 10-4 ATS in their last 14 games overall.
The Florida State Seminoles are:
- 0-4-2 ATS in their last 6 games against a team with a winning record.
- 3-7-2 ATS in their last 12 games overall.
I am taking the points with Southern Mississippi in this matchup. While Southern Mississippi does play in the C-USA conference, they are still a talented team on both sides of the ball and they will give Florida State all they can handle. The Golden Eagles defense is outstanding, and they are only allowing an average of 132 rushing yards per game, and they also posses the 24th ranked pass defense, so they should at least contain the Seminoles offense. Furthermore, Southern Mississippi also owns a strong offense that should move the ball with some success. The Golden Eagles’ potent running game is averaging 189 yards per game led by Ito Smith who has accumulated 1321 rushing yards on the season, and they should do enough on both sides of the ball to keep this one close.
Pick: Southern Mississippi
Both teams feature a strong defense, and I don’t see either team scoring big points in this matchup. The Seminoles are not a high scoring team and lack big time playmakers, and the Golden Eagles are holding opponents to only 321 total yards per game, good for 17th in the Country. The under is 5-0-1 in the Golden Eagles last six non-conference games. Also, the Golden Eagles will be facing one of the best defensive teams they’ve faced all season, and while I do expect some production, they won’t put up their usual numbers, and the under is 4-1 in the Seminoles last five games after allowing less than 100 rushing yards in their previous game.