Birmingham Bowl Game Preview
South Florida Bulls vs South Carolina Gamecocks
South Carolina’s hire of Will Muschamp was met with plenty of skepticism, but the former Florida head coach deserves plenty of praise for his coaching job this year. His team is now set for a confrontation with South Florida in the Birmingham Bowl Game on December 29 (Enter Contest). The Gamecocks finished 6-6, showed improvement on defense and developed some promising playmakers for 2017 and beyond for the offense. Freshman quarterback Jake Bentley took over the starting job midway through the season and finished with 1,030 yards and six scores. He should benefit from the extra practices for bowl preparation, as South Carolina will need to score some points to keep up with South Florida’s dynamic offense.
Willie Taggart is one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks and guided the Bulls to an average of 43.6 points per game. However, Taggart left to take the coaching job at Oregon, leaving T.J. Weist to work as the program’s interim coach. Quarterback Quinton Flowers is a dynamic dual-threat option, while running back Marlon Mack has posted three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
ABOUT USF (10-2, 7-1 American Athletic)
With Flowers leading the way, the Bulls averaged a whopping 515.1 total yards and 43.6 points during the regular season. He also averaged 292.2 yards on the ground. Flowers and running back Marlon Mack (1,137 yards, 15 TDs) are a tough 1-2 punch on the ground, but Flowers can do damage with his arm and rarely makes mistakes. He has thrown 22 touchdown passes with just six interceptions. The Bulls haven’t been as consistent on the other side of the ball and have allowed at least 500 total yards in four of their last five games.
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (6-6, 3-5 SEC)
The Gamecocks had won four of five and were feeling positive about the direction they were headed before a 56-7 rout at the hands of rival Clemson to close the regular season. The 622 total yards surrendered to the Tigers marred what was an otherwise encouraging season for Muschamp’s defense, which ranked 10th nationally with 25 takeaways. They also have 14 interceptions in their fold. They have been tough in the red zone, allowing touchdowns just 28 times in 49 trips inside the 20. A young offense came to life late in the season after freshmen Rico Dowdle (714 rushing yards, six TDs) and Jake Bentley (1,030 passing yards, six TDs, two interceptions) took on larger roles.