Ryan Mayer

The college football bowl season is upon us. With 39 games spread out over the next two and a half weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline. Find all our picks here. All lines are as of the date of publication.

Independence Bowl

Southern Miss (8-4) vs. Florida State (6-6)

Spread: Florida State -16.5

Total: 49

Spread: Florida State’s season didn’t exactly go as expected. Entering opening weekend against the Tide, the Seminoles were expected to be a contender for the playoff. But, that all ended when Deondre Francois went down in that game with a torn patella tendon. True freshman James Blackman stepped in as the new starter and FSU went 2-4 over the next six games including a 35-3 blowout to Boston College. Since then, they’ve won four of five with the only loss coming against Clemson. The offense started to figure things out down the stretch, but only averaged just under 27 points and 343 yards per game on the year. Blackman and true freshman running back Cam Akers both showed flashes of brilliance and could shine in the bowl game. The defense has been good (21.9 PPG 337 YPG), but there are five guys listed as questionable on that side of the ball going into this game and their best player, Derwin James, is skipping the bowl game after declaring for the draft.

For Southern Miss, their defense has been the strong suit as well, giving up just 23 points and 321 yards per game this season. They’re led on that side of the ball by defensive backs Tarvarius Moore and Jomez Applewhite and linebacker Racheem Boothe. The trio has combined for 204 tackles, 14 TFL, 3 sacks and 4 INTs. On offense, running back Ito Smith is the player that makes the engine run as he surpassed 1,300 yards on 5.7 yards per carry this season. The QB spot has been a bit unsettled with Keon Howard and Kwadra Griggs splitting time as starter. Griggs finished out the season starting the final three games and he has the better touchdown to interception ratio by far (15-2 vs. 8-5). With James out and a pair of other defensive backs banged up, they could find some holes in this Seminoles secondary.

FSU was terrible ATS this year, going 3-7-2 while Southern Miss was very good at 8-4 including 3-1 as an underdog. The biggest gulf here is in the talent gap. The Seminoles are clearly the more talented team, but they’ve got a new coach and are missing multiple players. They’ll win, but USM can cover. Southern Miss +15.5

Total: Florid State’s record in this category was actually worse than their record ATS (3-8-1). Southern Miss was an even .500 at 6-6. Both teams like to run the ball (USM 39 attempts, Florida State 34 attempts) which could lead to a quicker game and fewer points on the board. Particularly considering the strengths of these two defenses being stopping the run. Under 49.

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