Miami vs. Louisiana Tech: Walk-On’s Independence Bowl fearless prediction and game preview.
Miami vs. Louisiana Tech: Walk-On’s Independence Bowl Broadcast
Miami (6-6) vs. Louisiana Tech (9-3) Game Preview
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Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Walk-On’s Independence Bowl
– There was a mini-stretch when this was one of the best bowls going. The 2014 and 2015 games – a 24-21 South Carolina win over Miami, and a 55-52 Virginia Tech win over Tulsa – were fantastic. And then this thing turned into a disaster with three straight blowouts. Last year, though, Duke’s Daniel Jones went from being a guy to a “hmmmmm, Daniel Jones” NFL prospect with a dominant performance against Temple.
There might not be that in this year’s game, but these are two teams that should be interested in coming up with a big win to make their season.
– A bowl win would mean more to Miami than you might think. This might not be the Orange Bowl, and it might not be a battle against a big-name team, but it’s been a rough run of postseason games for the program. The Canes beat West Virginia in the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl, and that’s been it in the last nine games. Once the biggest, baddest bowl team on the planet, it’s just 2-10 in bowls since beating Florida in the 2004 Peach. On the flip side …
– Louisiana Tech has been an amazing bowl program lately. It went 5-0 under Skip Holtz and is 6-1 in its last seven since 2008. Overall, the program is 7-3-1 in bowls since 1977 after making the rise up to the big ranks. This year’s team might actually be the best in Conference USA, but ill-timed suspensions killed the campaign with two big losses late in the season. This is the chance to make amends, finish with ten wins, and come up with the big win over a name team that was missing all year.
CFN Podcast: Independence Bowl discussion, picks
Why Louisiana Tech Will Win
– The Louisiana Tech passing game is good enough and sharp enough to give the Miami D a problem. The much-celebrated Turnover Chain is a must for the Hurricanes – they need the momentum to help out a struggling offense – but Louisiana Tech QB J’Mar Smith doesn’t make mistakes.
He has thrown just four picks all year with 17 touchdown passes, but he was suspended for two key games down the stretch – the Bulldogs lost them both. He’s a sharp veteran who has thrown for 210 yards per game and averaged over eight yards per throw. The Bulldogs are 9-1 when he starts, only losing the opener against Texas.
– Third … down … conversions. Helped by Smith, Louisiana Tech led Conference USA in third down conversions connecting on 42% of its tries, and was 32nd in the nation defensively at coming up with stops. Miami? Dead last in college football, converting a mere 26% of its third down tried. There’s no consistency to the Cane offense and there aren’t enough long, sustained drives.
– The Louisiana Tech offensive style fits. Miami dominates defensively with one of the nation’s best pass rushes, but Smith is able to get the ball out of his hands in a hurry. The Bulldogs will give up a few sacks here and there, but they don’t allow too many plays behind the line and they don’t make enough mistakes overall to matter. On the other side, the Bulldog D is great at taking the ball away – the turnover margin might be dead even, or in Louisiana Tech’s favor. But …
Why Miami Will Win
– Yeah, the pass rush. Louisiana Tech might move quickly with the sharp passing game, but the line will give up sacks. The offense hasn’t dealt with anything like it’s about to see with the Miami defensive front that was sixth in the nation in sacks and fourth in tackles for loss. At the very least, the Hurricanes are going to bring consistent pressure to make J’Mar Smith hurry more than normal.
– As much as Louisiana Tech lives and works with its passing attack, it’s the running game that helps make the O go. The offense failed to run for 100 yards four times. Three of those came in the three losses, the other was a way-too-close win over a bad Rice team, but there were two rushing scores.
The Bulldogs ran for just one touchdown in the three losses, and 25 in the nine wins. Now they have to deal with a Hurricane run defense that allowed fewer than 100 rushing yards six times and gave up multiple rushing scores just three times.
– This has to be the game that propels Jarren Williams into a big 2020. The idea of a good bowl game carrying over into the next season is a wee bit overblown, but in this case it would set the tone. Williams is the young star of the Miami O, showing enough at times to look like a playmaker to work around for the next few years.
A bad game might open up the battle for the QB gig in spring ball, but if he’s amazing and Miami wins, he’ll be the face of the franchise for the next eight months. He gets to bomb away against a pass defense that got whacked for 248 yards per game.