Birmingham Bowl: Can't Pass Up South Carolina Getting 10.5 Vs. USF

south carolina football

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 11:44 PM GMT

It's two very different teams in the Dec. 29 Birmingham Bowl from Legion Field as South Florida has one of the nation's top offenses, while South Carolina's unit is one of the country's worst. But should an SEC team be a double-digit underdog?

Bulls Ride Flowers On Offense

South Florida (10-2) will be playing under an interim head coach as Willie Taggert left after the regular season to take over at Oregon. One quick aside: some people are getting upset that players like Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey are choosing not to play in bowl games to ensure full health for NFL workouts. Yet why don't you hear outrage over coaches like Taggart leaving before a bowl game? Don't get me wrong, Taggart had to take that job as the Pac-12 is a step up from the American Athletic Conference.

Co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach T.J. Weist is the interim coach. Weist was also chosen an interim coach at UConn in 2013 when Paul Pasqualoni was fired midseason. Weist finished the season 3-5 and was replaced by current Huskies coach Bob Diaco. Former Texas coach Charlie Strong is the new full-time guy at South Florida after the bowl game.

Taggert was the mastermind behind an offense that averaged 43.6 points per game, No. 7 nationally. The Bulls will be stacked again next year so if you are looking for a decent Heisman Trophy long-shot bet, consider USF quarterback Quinton Flowers. The junior threw for 2,551  yards and 22 touchdowns and led the team with 1,425 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns on 177 carries. He was named the AAC Offensive Player of the Year. USF also has one of the AAC's top running backs in Marlon Mack, who rushed 161 times for 1,137 yards and 15 scores. The Bulls rank fifth nationally in rushing.

USF brings a nation-leading streak of 16 straight games scoring at least 30 points into this game, and I believe the Bulls were the AAC's best team. Their only loss was 46-30 at Temple, which would be the conference champion. If that game is in Tampa or a neutral site, USF wins it. South Florida played two Power 5 programs during the season, losing 55-35 to No. 13 Florida State and winning 45-20 at Syracuse.

South Florida is looking for its first bowl win since 2010. Last year it lost 45-35 to Western Kentucky in the Miami Beach Bowl. The Bulls were 8-4 ATS this season on college football odds.

 

Gamecocks Are Really Young

It was an up-and-down season for South Carolina (6-6) under first-year head coach Will Muschamp. The Gamecocks had just one quality win: 24-21 over then-No. 18 Tennessee on Oct. 29. USC lost by double-digits to Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Georgia, Florida and to Clemson -- that was a 56-7 whitewashing to close the regular season. USC and USF do have a common opponent in East Carolina. The Gamecocks beat ECU 20-15 on Sept. 17 and USF beat the Pirates 38-22 on Oct. 8.

Muschamp planned to redshirt true freshman QB Jake Bentley this year but changed his mind midseason and Bentley played the final six games, winning four of them. He threw for 1,030 yards and six scores. Another freshman, Rico Dowdle, was the leading rusher with 714 yards and six scores. It's a very conservative offense. USC ranks 119th nationally in scoring offense (19.3 ppg) and 117th in yards per game (336.4). The defense is very solid, allowing 24.9 ppg.  The Gamecocks' 14 interceptions ranked second in the SEC and they led the league in turnover margin (plus-0.83).

This likely will come down to whether USC can run the ball and eat clock to keep the USF offense off the field. In South Carolina's final four wins, it averaged nearly 50 carries and generated 237 rushing yards per outing. USF allows 205.3 rush yards per game but did hold Central Florida to just 64 yards (season low for Bulls' opponent) in the regular-season finale.

South Carolina is 5-6-1 ATS on college football picks. I don't believe USC wins this game, but an SEC team getting 10.5 points is too many to pass up.

NCAAF Free Pick: South Carolina +10.5Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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