2017 Birmingham Bowl Preview: Can you paint me a Birmingham?

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The South Florida Bulls and the Texas Tech Red Raiders will battle in the 2017 Birmingham Bowl.
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2017 Birmingham Bowl Preview

Bowl games are becoming more and more difficult to predict. Mindset, coaching changes, and the layoff have been key components in early games in the 2017 bowl season. However, with Texas Tech and South Florida being in the top 20 in total offense, points should come in bunches. In the 2017 edition of the Birmingham Bowl, South Florida (9-2) will face off against Texas Tech. (6-6)

What: 2017 Birmingham Bowl
Where: Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama
When: 12:00 PM EST, December 23rd, 2017
TV: ESPN
Spread: South Florida by 2 1/2

Scouting South Florida: Last Stand for Quinton Flowers

First of all, Quinton Flowers has been a mainstay at quarterback in the South Florida offense. Flowers has been a three-year starter for the Bulls. Although it may be true that he’s had a bit of a disappointing 2017, he’s still the best player in this game. As one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country, he has nearly 3,600 yards of total offense. The Bulls go how Flowers goes. He can be erratic at times which can be proven by his 53% pass completion percentage on the year. However, he takes care of the ball with only six interceptions all season.

South Florida employs a run-heavy offensive attack. Expect that trend to continue against Texas Tech who comes into the Birmingham Bowl with the 99th ranked total defense on the year. The Bulls have a three-headed monster that carries the load on the ground. First, Flowers is the leading rusher on the season with 972 yards and 11 touchdowns. There is a timeshare at the running back position between Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson. Offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert has done a good job at giving equal distribution. Flowers has 182 carries, Tice has 162, and Johnson has 177. Look for these three to play a crucial role in this game.

The passing game has not been extremely successful under first-year head coach Charlie Strong.  But, in their last game, the Bulls threw for 504 yards. Much like the running game, South Florida has three individuals that comprise of a majority of the contribution through the air. Leading the charge is Marquez Valdes-Scantling with 50 receptions for 746 yards and five scores on the season. However, maybe the hottest receiver on the team is Tyre McCants. He’s a big-play threat every time he touches the ball as he averages nearly 20 yards per catch. Finally, Darnell Salomon has 28 catches for 465 yards and four touchdowns for the year.

Scouting the Red Raiders: Back in the High Life Again

After a year away from post-season, the Red Raiders are back in the bowl season. Texas Tech has had an up and down season in 2017. They started strong with a 4-1 record. Then, they reeled off four straight losses before winning two out of three to get the bowl bid. One thing you can count on with a Kliff Kingsbury team is great quarterback play. That has been no different this year with Nic Shimonek taking the reins in his senior season. Shimonek threw for 3,547 yards with 30 touchdown passes through the air.

Tech seems to have the illusion that they are a one-dimensional squad. That is simply not the case as they are pretty close to a 50/50 split between run and pass. Leading the effort is diminutive, but speedy Justin Stockton. He has 694 yards on the ground with four touchdowns. He’s also solid out of the backfield with 203 yards receiving. The change of pace back and stronger between the tackles is Tre King. He compliments Stockton with 588 yards and also has four scores. The short-yardage and goal-line back is Desmond Nisby. Nisby only has 61 carries on the season, but seven of those has gone into the end zone.

Also, Texas Tech has a 1,000-yard receiver this season in Keke Coutee. 1,242 to be exact. Coutee started strong for the season and was a key component to the 4-1 start to the season. There is normally a possession receiver in Kingsbury’s assault and that guy is Dylan Cantrell. Cantrell has 67 receptions for 790 yards on the year with six touchdowns.

Key Matchup

There is no delicate way to say that Texas Tech does not have a strong defense. They are in the bottom part of the country in nearly every defensive category. The Red Raiders will need to have a mindset coming in on the offensive side of the ball that they will need to score at least 35 points to win the football game. That is certainly a lot of pressure, but it will be interesting to see if both teams can maintain their torrid offensive pace during the regular season.

Prediction

This game is very rare indeed. It seems like both coaching staffs will remain intact for 2018. Also, there isn’t a player skipping the game to prepare for the NFL draft. In addition, both teams will be motivated to play this game and play well. It’s hard to see a scenario in which this game isn’t a shootout. Can Texas Tech get enough stops to win the game? In conclusion, the final game for Quinton Flowers and the South Florida run game will be too much.

 

South Florida 42, Texas Tech 30

 

 

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