Expect Florida State to be Seminal Against Southern Miss

independence bowl

Rainman M.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 7:59 PM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017 7:59 PM UTC

Southern Miss (8-4) plays Florida State (6-6) on Wednesday, December 27, at 1:30 p.m. ET in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Seminoles are favored by just more than two touchdowns.

Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Florida State

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Free College Football Pick: Florida State -15.5Best Line Offered: Heritage

The best argument for Southern Miss backers will emphasize points regarding the Seminoles' motivation to play in the Independence Bowl and their mentality following the departure of head coach Jimbo Fisher. Neither point holds water.

It is true that Florida State had hopes of making the playoffs. Compared to its initial goal of a national championship, the Independence Bowl is indeed a drastic disappointment. Southern Miss backers are wrong, however, to think the Seminoles will not be motivated for this game.

Their playoff hopes were destroyed early -- essentially in Week 1, when they lost to Alabama and lost their starting quarterback to a season-long injury. The Seminoles then experienced one disaster after another, culminating in a humiliating 35-3 loss to Boston College. Nine games into the season, with a 3-6 record, the Seminoles overcame their disappointment and showed they wanted to make a bowl. They decimated Delaware State 77-6, rolled to a two-touchdown victory at rival Florida, then beat UL Monroe 42-10 to clinch bowl eligibility.

The other point for Southern Miss backers addresses Fisher's departure. Long-time assistant coach Odell Haggins showed he had the respect of the players and that he could lead them when he was interim coach in the season finale against UL Monroe. Haggins again will lead the team against Southern Miss. With Willie Taggart named FSU's next coach, Seminole players will want to prove themselves to him by making a strong impression in the Independence Bowl.

Florida State is a run-first team, ranking 54th in run-play percentage. The Seminoles are led by Jacques Patrick's 5.8 yards per carry, 6.2 against non-conference competition. Freshman Cam Akers, who went to high school near Southern Miss, has been progressing throughout the season, averaging 5.6 YPC with four touchdowns in November. The Golden Eagles rank 30th in opposing YPC, but six of their opponents rank outside the top 50 and three rank outside the top 100 in YPC. And most of those teams' statistics are inflated by their soft competition.

Southern Miss relies primarily on its running game, ranking 50th in rush-yards percentage. The Golden Eagles' running game also has critical betting significance because they are 1-4 ATS when they run for less than than 200 yards. The Seminoles, steeled by ACC competition, rank 37th in allowing 3.9 yards per carry and 38th in allowing 147 yards per game.

The Golden Eagles have disappointed against Power-5 competition. They backdoor-covered at home against an all-around sloppy Kentucky team in Week 1 and were lackluster in a 24-10 defeat in a non-cover at lowly Tennessee in the Vols' one win since September 23. The Seminoles, even without future first-round draft pick Derwin James, are on another plane than any opponent Southern Miss has faced.

The Verdict

Expect the Seminoles to run over the Golden Eagles and stop their rush attack. They will be motivated to keep dominating lower-tiered competition and extend their three-game cover streak on our College Football Picks.

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