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Viewer's Guide: Duck Commander Independence Bowl

12/26/2014

South Carolina (6-6) and Miami (6-6) will meet for the first time since 1987 when they square off in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC). Here are a few items to watch in Saturday afternoon’s game:

Farewell to Duke, Davis? This may be the final college game for the star running backs on both teams, although only South Carolina’s Mike Davis has announced a decision.

Miami’s Duke Johnson is the headliner here after rushing for 1,520 yards and averaging 7.0 yards per carry as a junior. ESPN lists the speedster as the No. 5 running back and No. 44 overall prospect in the 2015 draft, and he figures to become an early-round pick should he declare.

Davis already confirmed that he will jump to the NFL, although his draft prospects are a bit cloudier. Davis rushed for 927 yards and nine touchdowns this season, and ESPN lists him as the No. 7 running back and No. 80 overall prospect.

Staying above .500: The loser of this game will finish the season with a losing record -- an unfortunate historical footnote that would be unusual for Miami or for South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier.

The Hurricanes haven’t had a losing season since 2007 and have had just three since 1979, when Howard Schnellenberger went 5-6 in his first season before building the program into a national championship contender.

In a quarter century as a college coach, Spurrier has finished with a losing record just once: in 1987, when he went 5-6 in his first season at Duke. South Carolina hasn’t posted a losing record since going 5-7 in 2003, and the Gamecocks won 11 games in each of the past three seasons before falling off this fall.

Passing matchup: One of the more intriguing matchups Saturday will be one of the SEC’s top passing offenses against one of the ACC’s best at defending the pass.

Led by fifth-year senior quarterback Dylan Thompson (3,280 yards, 24 TDs, 11 INTs) and receiver Pharoh Cooper (966 receiving yards, 8 TDs), South Carolina ranked second in the SEC and 20th nationally with 281.4 passing yards per game.

Miami’s defense has been tough overall, and particularly so against the pass. The Hurricanes are allowing 184.1 passing yards per game, which ranks ninth nationally and second in the ACC. They are No. 14 in total defense at 327.6 ypg.