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Bowl Predictions 2014-2015: Indpedence Bowl to Liberty Bowl

Brad Kaaya
Independence Bowl: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana, on December 27th
South Carolina Gamecocks (6-6) vs. Miami Hurricanes (6-6)

While it has been a pretty disappointing year for both programs, a win in the Independence Bowl would give one program serious momentum entering 2015, important especially for Miami, who is hoping to speed up the development of young but improving QB Brad Kaaya. Although Kaaya is still prone to mistakes and still lacks the dangerous deep arm, the 'Canes offense needs, there is no denying how good he has been in his first year in Coral Gables. Kaaya has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns and is a legitimate Heisman candidate entering next year. Duke Johnson has been fantastic after healing from his ankle injury that cost him the last couple games of 2013. Johnson and freshman Joseph Yearby have combined for nearly 2,000 yards on the ground and they should give a struggling South Carolina rush defense serious problems. Add in dynamic receiver Phillip Dorsett and the 'Canes offense has all the tools to put up points in bunches, as usual. But, they struggle to close out games, and their defense has been shaky all season, despite the leadership of linebacker Denzel Perryman. South Carolina has a dangerous runner of their own in powerful Mike Davis, who is among the nation's best when healthy (and like Johnson, has announced he will go pro following this game). Quarterback Dylan Thompson has also put up great numbers this year, tossing the ball for over 3,000 yards in his debut, after a long backup role behind Connor Shaw. And, South Carolina also has a dangerous receiver Pharoh Cooper along with Nick Jones. Add in a strong offensive line, especially in the interior, and you wonder how South Carolina lost six games. While it all had to do with their defense. The losses of Jadeveon Clowney and others amounted to a defense without much leadership, and one that has been dismal against the pass all season. Kaaya should get plenty of opportunities over the top with Dorsett, and tight end Clive Walford is a superb tight end underneath. While Miami is stumbling into this game following a rough stretch, they have the pieces to give a Gamecocks' defense fits. Unless Davis can lead them to victory in a shootout, Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks could fall under .500.
Miami, 39 South Carolina, 28

Pinstripe Bowl: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York on December 27th
Boston College Eagles (7-5) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (6-6)

It has been an odd season for both the Nittany Lions and Eagles and it should culminate in an interesting Pinstripe Bowl. Following a 4-0 start in the James Franklin era, Penn State's offense lost it's touch and the defense struggled, forcing them to a 2-6 record down the stretch that included a number of embarrassing conference losses. Meanwhile, Boston College appeared to be a major player in the ACC race following a huge upset over USC, but could not recapture the magic of that night throughout the course of the season, though they nearly upset Florida State. Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg began his sophomore season on fire, but has struggled down the stretch. He hasn't had much help from his line, but he has made poor decisions and has forced throws. DaeSean Hamilton was a bright spot all season at receiver for the Nittany Lions, and those two could give BC's secondary some problems. Defensively, linebacker Mike Hull and defensive back Adrian Amos are studs, but Penn State has struggled to get pressure on the quarterback and force turnovers. Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy is special with his legs, rushing for over 1,000 yards on the season, but he still leaves a lot to be desired as a passer. If the Nittany Lions can contain Murphy, they do have a shot. While Murphy is extremely quick and can get out of the pocket quickly, Penn State does have a disciplined front seven that should be up to the task. The big question for Penn State will clearly be their offense, which can put up dazzling numbers one moment, than put up 14-point stinkers, like in their loss to Illinois. If Murphy is relatively contained, and Hackenberg makes smart decisions, the Nittany Lions are in good position. If not, Murphy will run all over PSU and drop the Nittany Lions to 6-7 on the year, putting a ton of pressure on Franklin entering 2015.
Boston College, 27 Penn State, 20

Holiday Bowl: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, on December 27th
Nebraska Huskers (9-3) vs. USC Trojans (8-4)

The Nebraska Cornhuskers will try to begin the post-Pelini era on a high note by taking down a USC team that has had their moments, but overall has been a disappointment. After a scorching hot start to the year that had some remembering the USC of old, the Trojans slowed down significantly. Quarterback Cody Kessler still had some huge plays through the air, back Javarious "Buck" Allen still ran the ball well and the defense led by NFL prospects Leonard Williams and Su'a Cravens had their moments. When Kessler is playing well, he is truly among the nation's most gifted quarterbacks. He sees the field extremely well, has the arm to get the ball anywhere and can evade pressure. But, too often he has had poor moments and it is tough to ever know which Kessler is going to show up. Nebraska has been all about tailback Ameer Abdullah, to nobody's surprise. If not for being pretty banged up throughout the year, Abdullah would have a legit Heisman candidate. Sophomore QB Tommy Armstrong has had some moments, but overall the passing game is a pretty major liability, even with talented wide out Kenny Bell still on board, although this will be his last game in a Husker uniform. The big question has been defense for Nebraska, which was absolutely embarrassed in losses to Minnesota (which utilizes back David Cobb) and Wisconsin (Melvin Gordon). While DE Randy Gregory is a monster, he doesn't offer much in run support, a serious problem for an inexperienced front seven. Unless, things have miraculously changed in a month, Allen could have an absolute monster day and open up the play action for Kessler. It hasn't been a terrible year for either programs but an appearance in the relatively unspectacular (at least to these fanbases) Holiday Bowl is not very fun. Both of these programs are desperately attempting to regain national relevance,  a win here would help. Nebraska can't stop anybody on defense and unless Armstrong improves dramatically quickly the offense won't have much bite. Plus, Nebraska always seems to loss four games a year.
USC, 42 Nebraska, 27

Liberty Bowl: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis on December 29th
Texas A&M Aggies (7-5) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (7-5)

Just two and a half months ago, Kenny Hill was a Heisman candidate and Texas A&M was a legit Playoff threat. Things look a lot different now, Hill is now standing on the sidelines, and the Aggies are playing in a pretty meaningless Liberty Bowl. Kyle Allen, Hill's replacement, has been solid in operating the Aggies' offense and he has a plethora of weapons, including Malcome Kennedy, Speedy Noil and Ed Pope. But, even with end Myles Garrett doing amazing things in his true freshman year, the defense has still been pretty terrible, and West Virginia can score in bunches, something they've proved throughout 2014. While Clint Trickett just recently announced his retirement from football, whoever takes over the reigns of the Mountaineer offense has one of the nation's best receivers, Kevin White, along with the speedy quick Mario Alford. Joining the fun is Pitt transfer Rushell Shell, a strong runner who is always a danger to bust open big plays. While Dana Holgorsen has never been known for defense, the defense has looked solid all year, containing Baylor in an upset, along with two strong performances against Alabama and TCU. While it is a rather unspectacular bowl appearance for Texas A&M, an appearance in the Liberty Bowl is solid progress for Holgorsen, who was firmly on the hot seat when the year began. If his offense can stop Garrett from making too much of an impact and play smart, they should put up points and lots of them. Unless Kyle Allen and the offense, which has little momentum can make some big plays, West Virginia has a superb shot at winning their eighth game of 2014. Following a rough 2013 in which WVU went 4-8, it would a might success in Morgantown.
West Virginia, 38 Texas A&M, 23

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