College Football
Preview
Southern Mississippi vs Florida State
When: 1:30 PM ET, Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Where: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana



WALK-ON'S INDEPENDENCE BOWL STORYLINES

1. Odell Haggins will continue to serve as interim head coach, keeping the seat warm for the newly hired Willie Taggart, when Florida State meets Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La., on Dec. 27. Haggins and Taggart are the first two African-American coaches in Seminoles football history, and Taggart - a Bradenton, Fla., native and lifelong Florida State fan - aspires to be the first African-American coach to win a national championship. “When we looked at a number of candidates, we knew Willie would rise to the top because of his passion about Florida State, and (having) the same vision that I have about the athletics department that he runs within his football program,” Seminoles athletic director Stan Wilcox, also an African-American, told the Orlando Sentinel. "The fact he happens to be an African-American is just icing on the cake. … It really is heartwarming to know over my career in fighting to open the doors for more minority head coaches in football and basketball, I finally got an opportunity to do that.”

2. Florida State needed to win its last three games, including a 38-22 victory at Florida on Nov. 25, to become bowl-eligible for the 36th straight season. The Seminoles erupted for 157 points during that span with wins over Delaware State 77-6 on Nov. 18 and Louisiana Monroe 42-10 on Dec. 2 after scoring 163 in their first nine games. Haggins ran the team against ULM after Jimbo Fisher resigned Dec. 1 to take the job at Texas A&M and the $75 million for 10 years that came with it, while Taggart will continue to evaluate the coaching staff since leaving his post as Oregon coach.

3. Southern Miss, which defeated ULM 28-17 on Sept. 16, is riding a three-game winning streak after a 28-27 victory over Marshall on Nov. 25. The Golden Eagles are led by senior running back Ito Smith, who has rushed for 453 of his 1,321 yards and six of his 13 touchdowns this season during the winning streak. Southern Miss will play in a bowl game for the third straight season, defeating Louisiana 28-21 in the 2016 New Orleans Bowl and losing to Washington 44-31 in the 2015 Heart of Dallas Bowl.

TV: 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Florida State -15.5

ABOUT SOUTHERN MISS (8-4, 6-2 Conference USA): Junior quarterback Kwadra Griggs (15 touchdowns, two interceptions) matched a career high with three TD passes versus Marshall. Griggs' favorite target is junior wide receiver Korey Robertson, whose 1,070 yards and 11 touchdowns lead C-USA. Smith accounted for 58.2 percent of the Golden Eagles rushing yards and 72.2 percent of their ground TDs.

ABOUT FLORIDA STATE (6-6, 3-5 ACC): The Seminoles' winning streak coincides with the improved play of freshman quarterback James Blackman (57.2 percent completion rate, 15 touchdowns, 11 interceptions), who has thrown six TDs and three INTs while completing 60.3 percent of his passes during that span. Running back Cam Akers (930 yards, seven TDs) needs 79 yards to break the school record for rushing yards by a true freshman set by Dalvin Cook in 2014. Junior running back Jacques Patrick (687 yards, six TDs), who rushed for a season-high 155 yards and two touchdowns versus ULM, is another strong threat out of the backfield.



PREDICTION: Florida State 31, Southern Miss 17
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W‑L Strk PF PA Home Away Grass Turf Conf
Southern Mississippi 8-4 W3 30.5 23.0 3-3 5-1 2-1 3-3 6-2
Florida State 6-6 W3 26.7 21.9 3-4 3-2 5-5 0-0 3-5
Last Meeting
Southern Mississippi Florida State
Date Away Home Tot Rus Pas Tot Rus Pas
11/16/96 SOMIS 14 FSU 54 0 0 0 0 0 0
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Southern Mississippi N/A
Florida State N/A
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Southern Mississippi N/A
Florida State N/A
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Southern Mississippi N/A
Florida State N/A
Touchdowns Player TD
Southern Mississippi N/A
Florida State N/A
Season
Passing Player COMP % YDS TD INT
Southern Mississippi K. Griggs 56.2 1793 15 2
Florida State J. Blackman 57.2 1997 15 11
Rushing Player CAR YDS AVG TD
Southern Mississippi I. Smith 232 1321 5.7 13
Florida State C. Akers 181 931 5.1 7
Receiving Player REC YDS AVG TD
Southern Mississippi K. Robertson 72 1070 14.9 11
Florida State N. Murray 40 604 15.1 4
Touchdowns Player TD
Southern Mississippi I. Smith 15
Florida State C. Akers 7
Quickchart Matchup
Southern Mississippi Southern Mississippi Off vs  Florida State Florida State Def
Southern Mississippi 438.3 yards
Florida State 337 yards
Southern Mississippi 4.8 yards/rush
Florida State 3.7 yards/rush
Southern Mississippi 7.3 yards/attempt
Florida State 5.8 yards/attempt
Florida State Florida State Off vs  Southern Mississippi Southern Mississippi Def
Florida State 343.6 yards
Southern Mississippi 321.9 yards
Florida State 4.3 yards/rush
Southern Mississippi 3.7 yards/rush
Florida State 7.3 yards/attempt
Southern Mississippi 6.5 yards/attempt