2019 Independence and Quick Lane Bowl Preview

December 25, 2019

I hope that everyone had a very Merry Christmas.

After the short holiday break bought by the NBA, college football returns on Boxing Day with a couple of interesting matchups.

Christmas Eve brought us our first late game-winning drive of the bowl season, courtesy of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and their dreaded hero Cole McDonald. What will the day after Christmas bring us?

Let’s check out the two games for an inside look.

Walk On’s Independence Bowl

Louisiana Tech vs. Miami (FL) (Thursday, 4 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: The Hurricanes probably didn’t expect to end up in Shreveport, Louisiana for the holidays in August, when Miami took top 10 ranked Florida to the brink in the season’s opening game. But inconsistency, especially on offense, landed Manny Diaz’s team against the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech, which will look to make a statement for the entire Conference USA by beating an ACC foe.

Why to Watch: The strong Miami defense, one of the bright spots for a team that Hurricanes fans would otherwise like to forget, will have several standout players sitting out the game in preparation for next year’s NFL draft. This should allow for some of the young players Coach Diaz has brought in a chance to prove their worth heading into next season against a pretty potent Louisiana Tech offense. The Bulldogs feature Conference USA Offensive POY J’Mar Smith at quarterback and Justin Henderson, who led C-USA in rushing touchdowns with 15, at running back.

What Will Happen: The Bulldogs may have had a historic season in 2019 if not for suspensions to Smith and Adrian Hardy, the team’s top wideout, for tough games against Marshall and UAB. The performances by Louisiana Tech in those two contests can essentially be thrown out, and without them, the Bulldogs are one of the top offensive teams in the country. But while the loss of some of Miami’s top talent on the defensive side of the ball hurts, it also presents the opportunity for young talent to take this game seriously for the Hurricanes. Youth on Miami’s side will result in this one ending up closer than would normally be expected, but the next crop of Hurricanes will get the job done in this one.

My Pick: 31-27 Miami (FL) for 32 points in Bowl Mania

Quick Lane Bowl

Eastern Michigan vs. Pittsburgh (Thursday, 8 PM ET – game on ESPN)

The Skinny: This matchup in Detroit features a couple of head coaches still searching for their first bowl victory at their current program. The Panthers scratched and clawed their way through the ACC to become bowl eligible, playing a style of football befitting of their head man Pat Narduzzi. The Eagles are more appealing to watch to the untrained eye, but come into this game as double-digit underdogs.

Why to Watch: Pittsburgh has one of the best defensive units nationally, allowing only 4.44 yards per play this season (No. 5 nationally). The Panthers are led by defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman, who has 10.5 sacks on the season. The Panthers will need Twyman’s efforts to slow down Eastern Michigan’s passing attack, which is potent averaging 280 yards per game, which led the MAC this season. Quarterback Mike Glass has been very effective for the Eagles this season despite not getting a ton of help from his running backs.

What Will Happen: The stifling nature of Pittsburgh’s defense will make it difficult for the Eagles to sustain a lot of long offensive drives in this one, so for Eastern Michigan to have a shot at pulling off the upset, deep shots will need to be taken. The Panthers have given up some long passing plays this season, so the Eagles may be able to stay in this thing with a few well-timed big plays, but in the end Pat Narduzzi’s squad will win this one if the Panthers can score at least 28 points.

My Pick: 30-21 Pittsburgh for 29 points in Bowl Mania

If you have interest in offering your insight for any of the bowl games this season, shoot me an email at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com or reach out on one of ATC’s social media sites (Facebook, Twitter). I’d be happy to accommodate.

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