Tale of the tape: Who has the edge between Notre Dame and South Carolina in the Gator Bowl

Mike Berardino
South Bend Tribune

When Notre Dame has the ball

Will quarterback Tyler Buchner return and lead the Irish to a bowl victory on Friday?

Notre Dame ranks fifth in run blocking efficiency, per Pro Football Focus, while the Gamecocks are 121st in run defense efficiency and 68th in tackling. After being limited to just 90 rushing yards on 26 attempts in the loss at Southern California, the Irish running game hopes to finish strong with dual-threat Tyler Buchner back at the controls. … Notre Dame rushed for at least 223 yards in half of its 12 regular-season games. The top two outputs came at North Carolina in Game 4 (287 yards) and in a snow-field shutout of Boston College (281) on Senior Day. … Buchner is looking for his first touchdown pass of the year after missing the past 10 games due to injury. His college TD/INT rate is 3/5, including a late pick-6 against Marshall on Sept. 10. Steven Gilmore, who took that one back 37 yards, is the brother of Stephon Gilmore, who starred at South Carolina a decade ago. … Notre Dame will be missing two starters: All-America tight end Michael Mayer, who declared for the NFL Draft, and quarterback Drew Pyne, who transferred to Arizona State. The remaining active tight ends for Notre Dame have three career receptions (two for Mitchell Evans, one for Holden Staes).

Edge: Notre Dame

Ben Morrison knows South Carolina QB Spencer Rattler from back home: 'He's a generational talent'

When South Carolina has the ball

Nov 19, 2022; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) directs his offense against the Tennessee Volunteers in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler is coming off his two best games after struggling for much of the season. Rattler passed for 993 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions in consecutive upsets of Tennessee and Clemson. In his first nine games under offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield — who has since left for Nebraska — Rattler was intercepted 11 times. In his final two seasons under Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, Rattler piled up 39 TD passes against just 12 interceptions. … Notre Dame had 11 takeaways (8 interceptions, 3 fumble recoveries) over the final six games after producing just two in the first half of the season: interception vs. BYU, fumble recovery at North Carolina. … Of the top four tight ends for South Carolina, only East Tennessee State transfer Nate Adkins remains. Adkins had just eight catches for 90 yards this season as the early December transfers of Austin Stogner (back to Oklahoma) and Jaheim Bell (Florida State) along with the retirement of fourth-stringer Traevon Kenion robbed the unit of 47 combined catches, 499 yards and all four of its touchdowns on the year. … Two Irish defensive starters will miss the game: All-America defensive end Isaiah Foskey declared for the NFL Draft and cornerback Cam Hart underwent shoulder surgery. 

Edge: Notre Dame

Player-led meetings allow Notre Dame football to bring young talents along faster

Special teams

In his first regular season at Notre Dame, former Cincinnati coordinator Brian Mason fielded the nation’s fifth-ranked special teams, according to Football Outsiders’ Fremeau Efficiency Index. South Carolina, under Pete Lembo, ranked first overall by that measure. … Notre Dame has gone two straight games without blocking a punt after reeling off at least one blocked punt in the previous five games. Notre Dame had seven blocked punts in 62 opportunities (11.3%); South Carolina blocked five punts in 57 chances (8.8%). Bowling Green (13 games) and Rutgers are the only other teams to block five or more punts this year. … Notre Dame hasn’t had a punt blocked since 2018 at Northwestern or a field goal blocked since 2016 at Texas.

Edge: South Carolina


Marcus Freeman was unable to extend Notre Dame’s streak of five-straight 10-win seasons. However, he still could join predecessor Brian Kelly as the only Notre Dame coaches to cap their first full seasons with a bowl victory. … Freeman is 3-3 in bowls as a coach but is trying to avoid a three-game losing streak on that stage. The Irish capped last season with a Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State in Freeman’s head coaching debut, and Cincinnati fell 24-21 to Georgia in the 2020 Peach Bowl with Freeman as the defensive coordinator. … Shane Beamer, whose father Frank is a 2018 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, is 15-10 in two seasons in Columbia. A former long snapper and receiver at Virginia Tech, Beamer later spent five seasons (2011-15) as an assistant for the Hokies under his father’s direction. Beamer was assistant head coach for offense for three seasons (2018-20) under former Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley.

Edge: Notre Dame


TOM NOIE: Notre Dame 45, South Carolina 44 — Some bowl games tend to get wacky and weird and wild — why not this one? 

MIKE BERARDINO: Notre Dame 27, South Carolina 20 — It’s always a roll of the dice with Spencer Rattler. Snake eyes is the guess here. 

JUSTIN FROMMER: Notre Dame 33, South Carolina 16 — Tyler Buchner returns and gives Marcus Freeman's first season the perfect ending. 

MICHAEL WANBAUGH: Notre Dame 31, South Carolina 21 — The sum of South Carolina's missing parts is greater than Notre Dame's, which seems crazy since the Irish are without two consensus All-Americans and their starting QB for the past 10 games. The Notre Dame run game will make up the difference.