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Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Observer

Observer Sports Staff predicts the Gator Bowl: Notre Dame v. South Carolina

Aidan Thomas – Sports Editor

Bowl games are a bit of a battle of attrition with all the opt-outs, and Notre Dame loses two All-Americans for this battle with South Carolina. However, the Gamecocks will be down about half-a-dozen starters, so it feels like, while lacking their star power, Notre Dame might have an edge in player availability. Quarterback is obviously the big question mark, and we’ll see if Tyler Buchner made much progress since completing 56% of his passes for no scores, two interceptions and a 54.0 quarterback rating in seven quarters earlier this season. He’ll have his opportunities against a Gamecocks’ defense that has struggled in all phases of the game of the year.

The Irish were victimized by the big play occasionally, which could bite them versus the explosive Spencer Rattler, but they generally contained opposing offenses well. They only gave up 300+ passing yards once (Drake Maye). South Carolina will likely have to run the ball to win this one — the Irish finished 2-4 this year when allowing 90+ yards to an opposing rusher and 6-0 when keeping the leading rusher under that number. The Gamecocks’ two starting running backs on Friday combined for 339 yards this year. If the Irish stop them, Notre Dame should have enough offensive punch against a depleted defense to win. 

Notre Dame 31, South Carolina 24

Nate Moller – Senior Sports Writer

This game almost feels like a season opener because of the number of opt-outs on both teams, which will leave a lot of question marks for the Irish and the Gamecocks. Although the Irish will be without All-American tight end Michael Mayer, there are plenty of young, talented wide receivers that should step up to fill this void. One name that comes to mind is sophomore Deion Colzie, who had 192 receiving yards over the Irish’s last five games after struggling with a knee injury at the beginning of the season.

The Irish running game should still be intact with Audric Estime, Logan Diggs and Chris Tyree leading the way behind a vastly improved offensive line. The biggest question mark offensively is quarterback Tyler Buchner, but I expect him to be effective enough to make some big plays. On the defensive side of the ball, the Irish will need to contain Gamecocks’ quarterback Spencer Rattler, who has accounted for 9 touchdowns in his last two games. Despite his recent success, Rattler has thrown 11 interceptions this year, and I expect the Irish to force some turnovers in this one. The streak of the Irish winning when I picked against them ended with the loss to Southern California, so I am taking the Irish in this one. 

Notre Dame 27, South Carolina 20

Madeline Ladd – Associate Sports Editor

As the Irish take on the Gamecocks this Friday, the makeup of both teams will be strikingly different from the rosters fielded earlier this season. With Mayer and Foskey both opting out to prepare for the NFL draft, the Irish will be lacking their star players. However, this provides the opportunity for more young talent to shine, especially among the wide receivers. Tyler Buchner will take the field for the first time since Marshall, as a recent Drew Pyne transfer opened up the starting QB spot. Buchner will be key to the game, and whether or not his previous injury will make him hesitant to run is the question. However, I expect him to be able to play with intensity upon his return and rely on the continued excellence of the offensive line — which surprisingly includes Jarrett Patterson. 

The Gamecocks have a dangerous QB in Spencer Rattler but his receivers are a question mark due to injuries and losses to the portal. South Carolina did upset Tennessee and Clemson but can be run on if Buchner can open up the field with passing. Though Notre Dame historically does not fare well in bowl games, I think they can pull this one off on Friday considering South Carolina’s lack of depth and the Irish’s strong run game. 

Notre Dame 28, South Carolina 17

Mannion McGinley – Assistant Managing Editor

It will be blatantly obvious that both the Irish and the Gamecocks are missing key players from their seasons on Friday. There’s no question about that. With that said though, it comes down to how big the holes on each side are.

Yes, Notre Dame has lost Michael Mayer and Isaiah Foskey. That’s two game-changing players and they’re accompanied by a Drew Pyne departure to Arizona State. Losing your star tight end and your signal caller on top of that will hurt. But an intact — and consistently stellar — run game has been the key to the offense all year. Estime, Tyree and Diggs will play behind the same strong offensive line and with their former starter back under center. The Gamecocks cannot boast as strong an offensive safety net outside of Rattler’s arm. After losing two tight ends that sat in his top five receivers and two of his leading rushers, Rattler will almost be an island. He’ll need a lot more activity from his wide receivers, and quickly.

On the defensive side, without Foskey, it will take the Irish defensive line a bit longer to figure Rattler out. But after a few stops, they’ll start to get to him. Between that and convincing play from the Irish secondary that limits where Rattler can look, the Irish should take this one home. Figuring Rattler out will cost the Irish a few points but ultimately the run game and a successful return for Buchner will lead to an Irish win. As always, a turnover or two for the Irish could seal it, no questions.

Notre Dame 27, South Carolina 17

Emily DeFazio – Associate Sports Editor

The Gator Bowl will be the first showing for the Irish without some superstar members the likes of Michael Mayer and Isaiah Foskey. Despite the fact that they will be preparing for the NFL draft, the team will certainly feel their absence on the field. Not only that but with Drew Pyne — the season’s unexpected QB1 — transferring to Arizona State, the team will be facing the Gamecocks with a semi-new leader at the offensive helm. Buchner led the Irish against Ohio State and Marshall, but that was before the team found its groove this season. He will be reintroduced to a new dynamic than he remembers from September; his play, then, will be the make-or-break to offensive success. That being said, with a solid offensive line and a system of running backs in his arsenal, Buchner should be able to largely pick up where he left off.

South Carolina is not to be underestimated, either. The Gamecocks were Clemson’s only other loss this season, albeit by one point. If that is a comparison to go by, then Notre Dame should be able to secure a definitive win. Should they figure out how to take advantage of a significant depletion to South Carolina’s roster, the Irish should walk away with their first bowl win in the past few years.

Notre Dame 28, South Carolina 21

Liam Coolican – Associate Sports Editor

The question that will decide this game for Notre Dame will be: can the Irish run the ball well enough to secure the win? The answer, throughout the year, has mostly been a resounding yes, but occasionally it has faltered. There will be nothing to fall back on against South Carolina, as the losses of Pyne and Mayer both hurt immensely. Notre Dame certainly has talent at quarterback and receiver, but they are mostly unproven. Buchner was good but not stellar before missing most of the regular season, and outside Mayer, no receiver has emerged as a consistent threat. 

On defense, too, there are some concerns. The defensive line was already thin, and the loss of Foskey only exacerbates the problem. In the secondary, the loss against USC exposed just how much the Irish need Cam Hart, and he’ll miss the bowl game as well. Rattler — Caleb Williams’ former teammate at Oklahoma — is a similar player and also extremely talented. Of course, he’s not the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, but expect him to be able to take advantage of the Irish defense in many of the same ways. 

South Carolina has some opt-outs, too, but unlike the Irish, they aren’t missing their starting quarterback and arguably two best players. This game will look much more like the opening two games of the season than the Irish team we saw in the second half of the year. Buchner will play well, but a late turnover will be costly for the Irish, and Rattler will lead a game-winning drive.

South Carolina 31, Notre Dame 28