Southern Miss will wrap up their 2017 season today in the Independence Bowl against Florida State, and they have a chance to put an exclamation point on their season with their fourth straight win and their ninth overall.
The Golden Eagles have a realistic shot at taking down a Seminole team coming in off a down year, finishing 6-6 after losing starting QB Deondre François in the season opener against Alabama. FSU is now without longtime HC Jimbo Fisher who left the team to become the head coach at Texas A&M. Defensive stars for FSU including safety Darwin James, DE Josh Sweat, and LB Matthew Thomas will all be sitting the game out to prepare for the NFL Draft. This comes as good news to QB Kwadra Griggs who will now have three of FSU’s best players on the sideline rather than trying to stop the USM offense. Griggs threw just 2 INTS during the season, and he must keep that turnover-free style of play going if the Golden Eagles hope to pull the upset.
Ito Smith is playing in his last game as a Golden Eagle and has the chance to show NFL scouts what he is capable of. Smith has over 1,300 rushing yards in his senior season, and bowl games are always great ways to get noticed, especially while going up against a team with national recognition like FSU.
For the FSU offense, they have struggled to protect freshman QB James Blackman all season, and the USM defense can make plays. The unit finished second in C-USA with 94 tackles for loss on the season, and first in tackles for loss per game averaging just under 8. If the USM defense can hold the Seminoles early and build a lead, they may find a winning formula to take home the Independence Bowl trophy.
While USM has won three straight to close the season, FSU comes in as a heavy favorite with the line currently sitting at 15.5 in favor of the Seminoles. ESPN’s FPI gives USM just a 14 percent chance to win the game.
Kick off from Shreveport, Louisiana is set for 12:30 CT.