The Gator Bowl will feature two programs that have had up-and-down seasons. Notre Dame and South Carolina have each had big wins and head-scratching losses in 2022. They both ended the season with positive momentum, so it will be interesting to see who can sustain that on Friday and head to the offseason on a high note. These two programs have only faced each other four times before. The Fighting Irish won the first three meetings between 1976 and 1983, but the Gamecocks won in South bend during their memorable 1984 campaign.
2022 Gator Bowl Preview: Notre Dame vs South Carolina
Like everyone else in college football these days, each of these programs is dealing with roster attrition. The Gator Bowl will provide chances for younger players on both teams, with so many key contributors during the regular season have moved on to the transfer portal or to prepare for the NFL draft. That puts coaches Shane Beamer and Marcus Freeman in tough spots. Both will be trying to mix and match players with roles they may not have been in all year. In some ways, this could become as much a preview for next season as it is a finale for this one.
The major advantage that the Gamecocks will have in this one is the availability of Spencer Rattler. He was excellent in South Carolina’s final two games. The junior threw for 798 yards and eight touchdowns in upsets of top-ten-ranked Tennessee and Clemson. He hasn’t decided his plans for the 2023 season, but he and leading receiver Antwane Wells Jr. will both play in the Gator Bowl. The two will look to keep their hot streak going with another big game versus the Fighting Irish. While they are missing some key players at tailback and tight end, having Rattler under center will give the Gamecocks a level of comfort and confidence.
Tyler Buchner will start at quarterback for Notre Dame. He was named the starter heading into the season but was injured against Marshall in week two. Lorenzo Styles Jr. and Jayden Thomas will be his top pass-catching options. They will look to make up for the absence of NFL-bound tight end Michael Mayer. Buchner will need to take care of the ball against a secondary that finished second in the SEC with 12 interceptions.
Hold Onto the Ball
With multiple new faces playing a larger role for both teams, turnovers will be a big key on Friday. The Gamecocks’ defense was average this season in terms of stopping opponents straight up. Their overall play was elevated by forcing 20 turnovers. When they are aggressive and opportunistic, they have a chance to be a very effective unit. When they don’t force mistakes, things can go in the opposite direction. How Notre Dame’s offense does protect the ball will go a long way in how successful they can be. South Carolina forced just one turnover in their four losses and gave the ball away 11 times.
Having Rattler under center will likely mean the Gamecocks continue their game plan in the final two games. They threw the ball all over the field against both Tennessee and Clemson. They will want to air it out and look for big plays, which helped make an inconsistent offense look better by the season’s end. The Irish will want to control the tempo and clock and keep the pressure off their signal caller. Their ability to establish the run game will factor into whether they can keep up with the Gamecocks’ passing attack. South Carolina has proved to be susceptible to getting gashed by a bruising ground game. If they can hold their own against the Irish rushing attack and find big plays through the air, Coach Beamer’s team will be in good shape. Conversely, if Notre Dame can run the ball and limit chunk plays on defense, they should control things.
Fight for 9
Each of these teams is looking for their ninth win of the season in the Gator Bowl. After a questionable start and some bad losses, Notre Dame could end Freeman’s first year in charge on a high note with a win over a ranked SEC opponent. On the other side, the team in garnet and black is looking to add the storied Irish program to the notable list of teams they have victories over in 2022. Shane Beamer has built momentum in Columbia. By securing a ninth win and second straight bowl success he would cement the positive path his program is on.