BIRMINGHAM (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – One of the more underrated bowl games will take place in Birmingham on Thursday afternoon at Legion Field.
When USF and South Carolina square off in the Birmingham Bowl, it will mark just the second all-time meeting between the schools.
It’s also a matchup of one of the nation’s most potent offenses in the Bulls’ Gulf Coast Offense against a Gamecocks defense that has taken on first-year coach Will Muschamp’s hard-nosed style.
USF has hired Charlie Strong to replace head coach Willie Taggart, who departed for Oregon, but interim coach T.J. Weist will coach the Bulls in the bowl game with David Reaves serving as offensive coordinator.
South Carolina is bowl-eligible for the 12th time in 13 seasons after doubling its win total in Muschamp’s first campaign in Columbia.
The Gamecocks have won their last four bowl games – only Marshall’s five-game winning streak in bowl games is longer.
The Gamecocks are 0-2 in the bowl games in Birmingham, though, having lost 24-14 to Missouri in the 1979 Hall of Fame Bowl and 20-7 to Connecticut in the 2010 Birmingham Bowl.
The Bulls already have set a program record with 10 wins as well as school marks for total offense (6,181 yards), scoring (523 points), touchdowns (71), rushing yards (3,501) and rushing touchdowns (44).
USF junior quarterback Quinton Flowers will be the most dynamic offensive player on the field for either team and finished the regular season ranked in the top 20 in the nation in nine offensive categories.
Flowers already has set program records for total offense (3,976 yards), rushing yards (1,425), rushing touchdowns (15), total touchdowns (37) and 300-yard total offense games (eight).
TV: 2 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: USF -10.5
ABOUT USF (10-2, 7-1 American Athletic): With Flowers leading the way, the Bulls averaged a whopping 515.1 total yards – including 292.2 on the ground – and 43.6 points during the regular season.
Flowers and running back Marlon Mack (1,137 yards, 15 TDs) are a tough 1-2 punch on the ground, but Flowers can do damage with his arm and rarely makes mistakes – he has thrown 22 touchdown passes with just six interceptions.
The Bulls haven’t been as consistent on the other side of the ball and have allowed at least 500 total yards in four of their last five games.
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (6-6, 3-5 SEC): The Gamecocks had won four of five and were feeling positive about the direction they were headed before a 56-7 rout at the hands of rival Clemson to close the regular season.
The 622 total yards surrendered to the Tigers marred what was an otherwise encouraging season for Muschamp’s defense, which ranked 10th nationally with 25 takeaways – including 14 interceptions – and has been tough in the red zone, allowing touchdowns just 28 times in 49 trips inside the 20.
A young offense came to life late in the season after freshmen Rico Dowdle (714 rushing yards, six TDs) and Jake Bentley (1,030 passing yards, six TDs, two interceptions) took on larger roles.
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