This year’s Birmingham Bowl features a tale of two quarterbacks. South Florida is led by junior star QB Quinton Flowers. He has accounted for 2,500 yards passing, 1,500 yards rushing and 37 touchdowns. He does not make many mistakes either, only throwing six interceptions all year.
The Gamecocks will be lead by freshman Jake Bentley. Bentley started his career off with a bang, before humbling performances on the road against Florida and Clemson.
South Florida will test the Gamecocks’ young run defense early and often. The Bulls boast the 5th ranked rush offense in the country, averaging 292 yards per game on the ground. The Gamecocks defense ranks 40th against the run, and is expected to have a more ‘bend but don’t break’ mentality.
When: Thursday, December 29th, 2016 ; 2 PM
Where: Birmingham, AL
Line: South Carolina + 10
South Florida Wins If:
Quinton Flowers has a mistake-free game. The Bulls are facing an improved Gamecocks defense, but still a defense that allowed 56 points to a playoff-bound Clemson team. Through the years, spread offenses have had great success against South Carolina. If Flowers and runningback Marlon Mack wear out the Gamecocks, the Bulls offense may prove to be too potent for the Gamecocks to keep up with. If they can pull it off, Quinton Flowers is named MVP, giving South Florida a boost going into newly hired coach Charlie Strong’s tenure.
South Carolina Wins If:
South Carolina must win the turnover margin to have a chance in this ball game. If the defense can contain Flowers and force bad plays, they will be in position to get turnovers and flip the field. For South Carolina to have a chance, Rico Dowdle will need to be the star of the show. Former Gamecock offensive line coach Shawn Elliot has taken the Georgia State head coaching position, leaving a void in the Carolina coaching staff. That role has now been filled by retired offensive line coach John Latina. Latina has already had an impact on the Gamecocks offensive line, bringing in a more smash-mouth and physical approach. If South Carolina takes the win, Rico Dowdle wins the MVP and lead the Gamecocks grind their way to a narrow victory.
Very few people are giving the Gamecocks much of a chance to win this game. The latest Vegas line has Carolina as 10-point underdogs to the Bulls. My prediction is that the Gamecocks defense comes to play, and South Florida has a tough time getting going missing the departed Willie Taggart. With Rico Dowdle topping the century mark, Carolina wins a close one.
South Carolina 27, South Florida 21
MVP: Rico Dowdle