USF vs. South Carolina, 12/29/16 – Prediction & Preview
Written by: Nikhil Kalro
South Florida Bulls (10-2, 8-4 ATS) at South Carolina Gamecocks (6-6, 5-6 ATS)
Birmingham Bowl: Thursday, December 29 at 2.00 PM ET, Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama
The Line: South Florida -10
The Birmingham Bowl will feature two contrasting game-styles as the offense-dominated South Florida Bulls will face a mean defense in the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Bulls boast an offensive line that has broken plenty of records during the regular season, while the Gamecocks have managed bowl eligibility on efficient performances on both ends of the field.
Offense dominates Bulls
The South Florida Bulls uses a highly-potent offense to enjoy one of the best seasons in program history en route to a 10-2 season, finishing atop the American Athletic Conference East division.
Quinton Flowers was inspirational through the season, finishing with 2551 passing yards with 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions, breaking the school records for 3976 yards of total offense and eight 300-yard total offense games (eight). He is also ranked in the top 20 nationally in as many as nine categories offensively. They’ve also got some decent production from Rodney Adams who has received for 755 yards on 60 receptions with five touchdowns.
In terms of total offense, the Bulls have had an outstanding season, gaining 6,181 yards of total offense with 523 points, 71 TDs and 44 rushing touchdowns. Another interesting feature of the Bulls game will be how they respond to the change in coaching personnel. The Bulls hired Charlie Strong from Texas who will replace Willie Taggart, who departed for Oregon. But that is one headache they won’t have to solve for now. Interim coach T.J. Weist will lead the Bulls in this one, with David Reaves stepping up as offensive coordinator.
Gamecocks depend on stifling defense
How would you rate the South Carolina Gamecocks’ season? A 6-6 season in which they finished sixth in the SEC East should help you figure that out. A so-so season with as many positive as there were negatives.
In Will Muschamp’s first season, the Gamecocks overcame a rocky start (four losses in their first six), to finish with bowl eligibility. Incidentally, it was the 12th time in the last 13 seasons that the Gamecocks managed bowl eligibility. The Gamecocks’ season was a lot about their defense though.
They had 14 interceptions, and allowed 28 touchdowns inside the 20-yard range, positioning them 10th in the country in that statistic. This was all after a 56-7 rout at the hands of No. 2 Clemson in the regular-season finale. Defensive end Darius English managed six sacks and also managed second-team All-SEC honors.
The offense was led by Jake Bentley, who eked past 1000 passing yards with six touchdowns (1030 yards), and two interceptions. Rico Dowdle rushed for 714 yards on 121 carries and six touchdowns.
South Florida Bulls are:
- 1-4 ATS in their last 5 against SEC opponents
- Bulls are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 Thursday games.
- Bulls are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games in December.
South Carolina Gamecocks are:
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 neutral site games.
- 6-2 ATS in their last 8 Thursday games.
- 3-1-1 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing more than 280 yards passing in their previous game.
The South Florida are so dependent on their offense to win them games that they concede a lot too. The Gamecocks’ choking defense may just be able to hold the Bulls. Maybe not enough to get the win, but enough to prevent them from covering the spread.
The Pick: South Carolina Gamecocks +10
Nikhil has been working with ESPN since the age of 18 and covers cricket for their website ESPNcricinfo. When not writing or editing news, game reports, commentary and analysis stories, he is following American sports. A love for stats and patterns, research and results and plain simple learning with a few years of handicapping experience makes him almost 0.500 reliable. A degree in business administration and a keen eye for volatile industries like the stock market help too.
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