Notre Dame Football Primer: #21 Irish face #19 South Carolina in Gator Bowl

The Fighting Irish and Gamecocks will square off in one of the most highly anticipated bowl games of the year.

Both Notre Dame and South Carolina enter this showdown ranked as each program looks to be on the rise with young head coaches. Spencer Rattler headlines a Gamecock Offense that hit its stride during the second half of the season, much like the Notre Dame Offense. The Fighting Irish welcome back Tyler Buchner under center, and he has a lot to prove this Friday afternoon in Florida.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: Friday, December 30th at 3:30 PM ET on ESPN
  • Location: TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, Florida
  • Matchup History: Notre Dame is 3-1 all-time against the South Carolina Gamecocks (Last Meeting 1984: South Carolina won 36 to 32)
  • Current Odds: Notre Dame -2.0

South Carolina Details:

  • Conference: SEC (East Division)
  • Head Coach: Shane Beamer
  • 2022 Record: 8-4 (4-4)

Weather Forecast

The current GameDay forecast shows a 20% chance of rain with a high of 75 degrees and low of 64.

South Carolina Storylines:

Head Coach Shane Beamer has transformed South Carolina in year two. The Gamecocks Offense exploded with a 63 to 38 win over #5 Tennessee as well as a 31 to 30 victory over #8 Clemson. Although the program has not been that consistent all season. South Carolina lost 38 to 6 against Florida the week prior to those major upsets.

Shane Beamer’s team was like Notre Dame in many aspects this fall. The Gamecocks struggled earlier in the year, but the offense gained momentum during the final stretch of the season and South Carolina finished 8-4.

The Gamecocks offense is led by Quarterback Spencer Rattler. This season, Rattler went 235 for 353 (67%) with 2,780 passing yards, 16 passing touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and 28 sacks taken. On the ground, Rattler has 66 attempts for 19 yards with 3 rushing scores. The top two receiving targets for South Carolina are wideouts Antwane Wells Jr. and Jalen Brooks.

Wells Jr. has 63 receptions for 898 yards with 6 receiving touchdowns, while Brooks has 33 catches for 504 yards and 1 receiving score. South Carolina’s top running back, Marshawn Lloyd, entered the transfer portal, and now the starting tailback will be backup Juju McDowell. McDowell has 56 attempts for 191 yards (3.4 yards per carry) with 2 rushing touchdowns.

Notre Dame Storylines:

The Fighting Irish will be without several key players. Notre Dame will be without its all-time receptions leader at tight end, Michael Mayer, and all-time sack leader Isaiah Foskey. Both programs will be without crucial players in this showdown, as is expected in the new world of the transfer portal and College Football Playoffs. The team with the most passion and adjustments will win this matchup.

Tyler Buchner has a major opportunity to showcase his potential. As I am writing this article, the Irish still have not signed a transfer quarterback. Although the sample size on Buchner is small and placing major emphasis on his performance in this bowl game may not be fair, that is the way of college football. There are a lot of question marks surrounding Tyler Buchner and proven quarterbacks in the transfer portal, this game is huge for the Irish quarterback.

Buchner was the #11 quarterback in the country and #71 overall player in the 2021 class, according to 247 Sports. He still is young and has a lot of promise.

Young players will be vital for a Notre Dame victory. With the departure of Drew Pyne and a few players preparing for the NFL Draft, the Irish must rely on the stars of tomorrow. Audric Estime, Logan Diggs, Lorenzo Styles Jr., Deion Colzie, Tobias Merriweather, Mitchell Evans, and Benjamin Morrison, to name a few, will be important on Friday.

Head-to-Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. South Carolina Defense: The Notre Dame Offense is averaging 383 yards per game, while the South Carolina Defense is allowing 392 yards per contest. Tommy Rees will rely on a strong dual-threat potential of Tyler Buchner alongside a great group of running backs.

South Carolina will undoubtedly try and force Buchner to beat them downfield, this matchup is a tie.

Advantage: Tie

South Carolina Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: The South Carolina Offense is averaging 381 yards per matchup, while the Notre Dame Defense is allowing 327 yards per game. The Gamecocks had a quality offense this season, but the passing attack really took off in the final two games against top competition. However, South Carolina will be without offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield and multiple starters on offense via opt-outs and the transfer portal.

I still give a slight advantage to South Carolina.

Advantage: South Carolina

Special Teams: Notre Dame’s kicker Blake Grupe is 13 for 18 this season, with his longest, make at 47 yards, while South Carolina’s kicker Mitch Jeter is 10 for 10, with his longest make coming at 53 yards.

Advantage: Tie

My Prediction:

I have struggled with predictions this season, and this game could go many ways. After losses to Ohio State and Marshall, Marcus Freeman turned the season around with several ranked victories and finished 8-4. Tommy Rees found an identity on the ground with a great offensive line and core of running backs, but the offense was always limited at quarterback.

Now that Tyler Buchner is back, the offense has more of a dual threat on the ground, which will help the rushing attack. However, this showdown will be won or lost through the air. The Gamecocks can put up a lot of points. If the Irish get down as they did against USC, they may not be able to catch back up.

Notre Dame will be missing a few key players, but it appears South Carolina will be without even more. With opt-outs and transfers, this game is going to be interesting. Unfortunately, I believe South Carolina has the more experienced quarterback and a lot of momentum heading into Friday.

I have the Gamecocks winning by 6-points.

Prediction: South Carolina 37 Notre Dame 31

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  1. Perhaps Pyne never did play consistently. He did win though, and against some decent teams.
    Buchner has yet to do either play consistently or win. Against anyone.
    Now would be a good time.

    BGC 77 82

  2. Montana did not play a down my senior year (76). He had a shoulder injury. I think he might have been available for the 76 Gator Bowl, I’m not sure, but he didn’t play..Rusty Liech played a good game, a win. Buchner will play in the Gator Bowl on Friday. My goal here would be for a win with the team playing smoothly…especially the offense. We need this win, not desperately, but to validate, or reaffirm that the program is moving g I the right direction. GO IRISH BEAT GAMEBIRDS.

    BGC77 82

  3. Buchner’s chance to start re-making his case for the job.
    If he doesn’t step up and perform consistently…like Pyne didn’t….he’ll wind up losing it.

    That’s how its always been. The difference now is these kids don’t need to tolerate it.

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