By Garin Turner
December 30th sees No. 21 Notre Dame (8-4) square off against No. 19 South Carolina (8-4) in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl 3:30 PM EST in Jacksonville Florida. The Fighting Irish won four of their last five while the Gamecocks went 3-2 in their last five.
Notre Dame looks to finish strong after a rough start to the season. They lost to then No. 2 Ohio State in the season opener in a game they led most of the way. They followed that up with a loss to Marshall to start the season 0-2. They did beat BYU, Syracuse and Clemson when all teams were ranked and they played then No. 6 USC close in the final game of the season.
The big question for the Irish is who will be the starting QB? Drew Pyne started 10 games but entered the transfer portal and will be at Arizona State next year. Tyler Buchner was the starter before a shoulder injury kept him out for those 10 games. Steve Angeli would be the other option for Notre Dame. Buchner threw for 378 yards in the two games he started with no touchdowns .
The Irish might lean on the running game behind Audric Estimeand Logan Diggs. Estime has 825 yards on the season with 11 touchdowns and Diggs has three scores and 732 yards. TE Michael Mayer has 67 receptions for 809 yards and nine touchdowns.
On defense, Benjamin Morrison has five interceptions along with 21 tackles for the Irish.
The Gamecocks enter the bowl game off back-to-back wins over then top 10 ranked teams. They blew out then No. 5 Tennessee 63-38 and followed that up with a 31-30 win over then No. 8 Clemson. Both wins ended the hopes of their counterparts making it to the College Football Playoffs.
Two of the four loses were to then No. 16 Arkansas and the defending National Champions No. 1 Georgia. QB Spencer Rattler transferred from Oklahoma and has help led the Gamecocks to the bowl game. He’s completed 66.6% of his passes for 2,780 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has thrown 11 interceptions and will look to minimize the mistakes against Notre Dame.