The Miami Hurricanes have a chance to end Manny Diaz's miserable first season in charge with an Independence Bowl victory over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs.
The 6-6 ACC side has to overcome a home-field advantage of sorts for the Conference USA squad located an hour away from Shreveport, Louisiana, as well as plenty of key absences, to end a two-game losing streak and a brutal run of eight defeats in its last nine postseason contests.
Louisiana Tech has won nine games in four of the last six years under Skip Holtz, and if it defeats the Hurricanes, it would earn the program's first-ever 10-win campaign.
Independence Bowl Information
Date: Thursday, December 26
Start Time: 4 p.m.
Odds (via Caesars): Miami -6; Over/Under: 49.5
Miami will be without four contributors who have opted to focus on preparations for the 2020 NFL draft.
Defensive ends Jonathan Garvin and Trevon Hill and linebacker Michael Pinckney recorded 14.5 of the Hurricanes' 44 sacks, while wide receiver Jeff Thomas caught 31 balls for 379 yards and three scores.
Filling the defensive void will be harder for the Hurricanes as they try to contain the Louisiana Tech duo of J'Mar Smith and Justin Henderson.
Smith has four 300-yard passing games, with three occurring in his last four appearances.
He has also been relatively clean in the pocket, as he has been sacked on 22 occasions and picked off four times.
Ten of the 22 takedowns took place in two games versus the UTSA Roadrunners and Bowling Green Falcons, and he has been sacked once or zero times in five contests.
Henderson is 33 yards away from hitting 1,000 and is tied for 12th in the FBS with 15 rushing scores. From October 12-November 9, the junior had four straight multi-touchdown performances.
But the absence of the three defensive players also allows Louisiana Tech to focus its blocking scheme more around the available defenders.
Even if Miami's defense plays well, there is no guarantee its offense will be able to take advantage of it.
Freshman quarterback Jarren Williams is coming off his two worst performances of the campaign, as he threw a trio of picks versus the Florida International Panthers and was sacked seven times while completing 42 percent of his passes against the Duke Blue Devils.
The first-year signal-caller displayed promise by tossing for six scores in a win over the Louisville Cardinals, but he has not built on that.
Diaz could call on Williams or N'Kosi Perry to lead the Hurricanes, but without Thomas and injured leading rusher DeeJay Dallas, the .500 squad could struggle.
If Miami is unable to overcome its absences, the Bulldogs could not only cover the six-point spread but win outright.
The ACC has won each of the last four Independence Bowls, and the victor has eclipsed 40 points on each occasion.
If you apply Thursday's over/under to the contests in that stretch, the over is 4-0. Between that trend and Louisiana Tech's offensive capabilities, the total should be able to go over 49.5 points.
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Statistics obtained from ESPN.com