Bowling in Birmingham: What you need to know about the matchup with USF
Texas Tech finished their bid for bowl eligibility with a dramatic, closing minutes win against Texas in Austin on Thanksgiving. Since then, they've been waiting to find out where they'll be going and who they'll be facing in bowl season.
Those waiting to find out just where the Red Raiders were headed will wait no more, as it was officially announced on Sunday afternoon that Tech would head to Birmingham to take on South Florida in the Birmingham Bowl.
So, what's there to know?
DETAILS ON THE BIRMINGHAM BOWL
WHERE : Birmingham, Alabama
WHEN: December 23rd, 11:00 a.m.
WATCH IT ON: ESPN
The Birmingham Bowl started up in 2006, and it's one of a few bowl games actually owned and operated by ESPN itself. It's traditionally an AAC-SEC matchup, but the Red Raiders fell here due to both the Big 12 having too many teams bowl eligible for their bowl bids while the SEC had no one left to fill this slot.
WHAT SHOULD WE KNOW ABOUT SOUTH FLORIDA?
-The Bulls had quite a season, going 9-2 overall and finishing 6-2 in the American Conference, good enough for third place overall and second in the East Division behind UCF.
-USF had the number number nine rushing offense in college football this season, averaging 265 rushing yards per game and 4.98 yards per carry.
-On the other side of the ball, South Florida allowed just 126 yards rushing per game, good enough for 22nd in rush defense in college football.
-They allowed 22.5 points per game, making them the 35th ranked overall scoring defense in FBS. However, the Bulls were bad in redzone defense, coming in at 105th.
-USF never scored fewer than 24 points this season. Much of that had to do with dynamic dual-threat senior quarterback Quinton Flowers, who finished the year throwing for 2600 yard while also leading the team in rushing with 972 yards. He accounted for 31 touchdowns overall.
-This is Charlie Strong's first season as the head coach as USF. As many Red Raiders will obviously remember, Strong was the head coach for the Longhorns before being fired after the 2016 season.
-It's also worth noting that the Bulls beat just one bowl eligible team in 2017: Temple, who went 6-6. They fell to Houston - a common opponent with Tech - 28-24. They also lost to UCF in a 49-42 thriller to end the regular season.
MY THOUGHTS ON THE MATCHUP...
For a lower tier bowl, one the Red Raiders likely never thought they'd end up in, they sure did inherit quite the opponent. USF will be as athletically gifted as Houston was earlier on this season, meaning they're as talented as a number of Power Five schools you'd face in quite a few other bowl games.
The Bulls have a dynamic run game led by QB Quinton Flowers, one that will challenge the much improved Tech run defense. However, USF hasn't really played anyone that's any good at all outside of UCF and Houston, and they lost both games.
USF's defense was pretty solid between the 20s this fall as well, especially against the run. However, as noted above, they had a really hard time stopping good opponents from scoring in the red zone. They'll make you march it down the field, though, as they rarely give up big plays.
Overall, this will be a tough bowl opponent that's super motivated to get to 10 wins and prove they can beat a Power Five opponent.
Expect this one to play out similarly to the Houston game, though the Bulls are notably better at running the ball while simultaneously not being quite as good defensively as the Cougars were.