BIRMINGHAM BOWL STORYLINES
1. When Texas Tech and No. 24 South Florida meet in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field on Dec. 23, two of the top offensive teams in the nation figure to light up the scoreboard. Behind senior quarterback Nic Shimonek, Texas Tech ended the regular season ranked 17th in FBS in total offense (468.4 yards per game) and 26th in scoring offense, averaging 34.6 points. USF senior quarterback Quinton Flowers led the Bulls to an average of 508.6 yards per game, ninth nationally, and spearheaded the No. 16 scoring offense in the nation (38.3).
2. Flowers has the opportunity to end his collegiate career as one of the most prolific offensive players in American Athletic Conference and school history. Already the school record holder with 11,385 career yards of offense, Flowers needs just 47 more to become the conference all-time leader. Flowers also needs just 44 yards to break Marlon Mack’s school record for career rushing yards, one more touchdown pass for sole possession of first with 68, just 312 yards passing to break Matt Grothe’s single-season mark of 2,911 and with four scoring strikes would break his own single-season mark of 24 set last season.
3. In the final regular season game against rival Texas, Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury went with sophomore quarterback McLane Carter in place of Shimonek, who had started the opening 11 games of the season. But with Texas Tech down by 10 to start the fourth quarter, Shimonek entered the game and rallied the Red Raiders to a 27-23 victory with a pair of touchdown passes and 96 yards through the air. Kingsbury wasted no time in removing any doubt as to who would start the Birmingham Bowl, announcing three weeks out that Shimonek would get the call under center against USF.
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ABOUT TEXAS TECH (6-6, 3-6 Big 12): The Red Raiders became bowl eligible for the 38th time in school history with a victory against Texas in the regular season finale. The often maligned Texas Tech defense, which ranks 99th in the country in total yards per game allowed, came up with the big plays against Texas as it forced four turnovers overall to fuel the comeback and preserve the victory. After allowing 40 or more points in five of the opening nine games, the Red Raiders held their final three opponents to under 30.
ABOUT SOUTH FLORIDA (9-2, 6-2 AAC): Under first-year coach Charlie Strong, the Bulls can accomplish something never done in program history. With a victory in the Birmingham Bowl, USF can record consecutive seasons with 10 or more wins for the first time since the program was born in 1997. “It’s big,” Strong told reporters. “It allows our seniors to go out on a winning note. Then it prepares us now to step into next season, where you go from 11 wins (in 2016) to 10 wins. Now you’re sitting with new expectations, a new team and a new season, you can carry over from that. You can build off of what you’ve done those last two years.”