South Florida Bulls (10-2; 8-4 ATS; 9-3 O/U) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (6-6; 5-6-1 ATS; 4-8 O/U)
NCAAF Birmingham Bowl: Thursday December 29, 2016 at 2:00pm EST
Line: South Florida -10.5
The South Florida Bulls will battle the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Birmingham Bowl on the 29th of December from Legion Field in Birmingham, AL. South Florida finished with a 7-1 conference record, placing them second in the AAC, and South Carolina posted a 6-6 record in the tough SEC. This will be the first meetings between these teams since 2004.
USF Enters Birmingham Bowl with New Coach
The South Florida Bulls come into the Birmingham Bowl as heavy favorites and will have a good chance at winning their first bowl since 2010. Willie Taggart left South Florida to coach Oregon and the Bulls wasted no time hiring Charlie Strong, however co-offensive coordinator T.J. Weist will coach the Bulls in this contest. The Bulls finished the season red hot, winning their final four games which included a win over a ranked Navy team. Quinton Flowers had a phenomenal season, accumulating 2551 passing yards with a 22:6 TD to INT ratio, and also rushed for 1425 yards with 15 rushing touchdowns. The only other quarterback in the nation to tally more rushing yards was Lamar Jackson. The Bulls dangerous running game also features Marlon Mack who had a productive season. Mack rushed for over 1100 yards and recorded at least one touchdown in each game this season. South Florida will no doubt look to run the ball against a vulnerable South Carolina rush defense. South Florida features one of the best offensive units in the Country, averaging 43.6 points per game, good for seventh in the nation.
The Bulls defense will give up points and definitely rely on their offense to win games. They will give up a lot of yards but they will be going up against a South Carolina team that struggled to score points all season. South Florida conceded an average of 31 points per game, ranking them 86th overall.
Freshman QB Bentley Leads Gamecocks into Birmingham Bowl
The South Carolina Gamecocks will be playing in a bowl game for the seventh time in their last eight seasons. South Carolina notched a few impressive victories which included a win over Tennessee but they mostly struggled against the stronger opponents. Quarterback Jake Bentley missed the first six games of the season, and threw for 1030 yards with a 6:2 TD to INT ratio. The highly touted freshman quarterback got off to a hot start, really struggled as the season winded down, throwing zero touchdowns over the last three games. The Gamecocks feature solid depth in their receiving core with three receivers collecting 500 or more yards. Deebo Samuel led the way with 593 yards in the air and he will be one to watch against an USF defense that has struggled to defend the pass this season. Running back Rico Dowdle will need to be at his best and will see a good amount of carries. Dowdle accumulated 714 rushing yards, and averaged a solid 5.9 yards per carry. The Gamecocks struggled offensively this season, averaging only 19.2 points per game, ranking them down at 121st overall.
The South Carolina defense is the strength of their football team, and they will face a very tough task against USF’s prolific offense. The Gamecocks did have success defending the pass this season, allowing only 204 passing yards per game. South Carolina will need to come up with a brilliant defensive performance to have a chance to win this game. The Gamecocks allowed an average of 24.8 points per game, placing them 45th overall.
The South Florida Bulls are:
- 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games after accumulating more than 450 total yards in their previous game.
- 7-2 ATS in their last 9 games after allowing fewer than 100 rushing yards in their previous game.
- 15-6-1 ATS in their last 22 games overall.
The South Carolina Gamecocks are:
- 5-11 ATS in their last 16 games after conceding more than 450 total yards in their previous game.
I have to go with South Florida in this one. South Florida features one of the best offensive units in the Nation, and I don’t think South Carolina will have an answer for them. South Carolina struggled to defend the running game, conceding 205 rushing yards per game and that is bad news for them as South Florida features the fifth ranked running game led by Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack who are both very tough to stop. The Gamecocks offense isn’t not even close to the level of South Florida’s offense as they own the 107 rated running game and 96th passing game. South Florida is averaging 24 more points per game than South Carolina and I think they take this one in blowout fashion.
Pick: South Florida -10.5
Charlie Strong isn’t coaching this game, but he’d want South Florida to play some defense. They should have no major issues against a South Carolina squad that is still developing on offense. USF has an explosive offense, but they’ll facing a pretty good SEC defense that got embarrassed in their last game against Clemson. A month of preparation should have them more prepared for the speed of the Bulls.