In our first bowl pick for Dec. 29, we have the South Florida Bulls vs. the South Carolina Gamecocks. In our 2016 Birmingham Bowl free pick, the Bulls come in with a school record 10 wins and want another. The Gamecocks are a young team looking to continue to surprise opponents.
The South Florida Bulls (10-2 Overall, 7-1 American Athletic Conference) had a solid season as they finished second in the AAC East. Perhaps the biggest win was against #22 Navy, who they beat 52-45. The finished the season strong, winning their last four games.
In the Southeastern Conference East Division, the South Carolina Gamecocks (6-6 Overall, 3-5 SEC), finished fifth. Although they lost to #9 Texas A&M 24-13, the Gamecocks beat #18 Tennessee 24-21. They lost two of their final three, with their last game of the season against #4 Clemson. The final score was in the Tigers’ favor 56-7.
South Florida Bulls
The South Florida Bulls scored 44 of their 68 touchdowns rushing. With that in mind, expect this to be the Quinton Flowers show. At quarterback Flowers is completing 61.8% of his passes. He’s thrown 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. Rushing, Flowers has gained 1,425 yards on 177 carries for an average gain of 8.1 yards. He’s scored 15 rushing TDs. RB Marlon Mack (161 ATT, 1,137 YDs, 7.1 AVG, 15 TDs) can be just as devastating. D’Ernest Johnson is a dual threat. He;’s run the ball 100 times for 516 yards and eight scores and caught 22 passes for 190 yards and four touchdowns. The team is averaging 43.6 PPG.
On defense, the Bulls are allowing an average of 31.0 PPG. Teams are scoring on them from the red zone 90.38% of the time. Their numbers include 26 sacks, 69 TFL, and 13 INTs. They also have a solid 10 FF. Their 312 PD and two QB hurries are deficient. The team’s turnover margin is at plus six.
South Carolina Gamecocks
The South Carolina offense has scored an average of just 19.3 PPG. Six different guys have stepped in to play quarterback. Freshman Jake Bentley (63.3 COMP%, 6 TDs, 2 INTs) has been in the pocket for most of the second-half of the season. He should start this game. Deebo Samuel (45 REC 593 YDs, 13.2 AVG, 0 TDs) is the team’s leading receiver. RB Rico Dowdle (121 ATT, 714 YDs, 5.9 AVG, 6 TDs) should get quite a few carries. The frontline has a tough time protecting the QB.
The defense is giving up 24.8 PPG and opponents are scoring from the red zone 73.47% of the time. The defense has played well, making 14 interceptions, garnering 21 sacks, and securing 66 TFL. They also had 27 QB hurries, 36 PD and 12 FF. They are a healthy plus 10 on turnovers.
2016 Birmingham Bowl Free Pick
Our 2016 Birmingham Bowl free pick is for the Bulls at -10. We think South Florida has too many offensive weapons for South Carolina to stop them. We also think the over at 62 looks good.
The 2016 Birmingham Bowl will be played at 2 p.m. ET at Legion Field, Birmingham, AL. The game will be on ESPN.