Birmingham Bowl Pick
The Birmingham Bowl features a slightly weird matchup with this being only the second Game ever between South Florida and South Carolina. It’s yet another bowl with the SEC team having fewer wins than its opponent. And that’s most of the reason the Bulls are -10 point favorites at 5 Dimes Sportsbook.
Both of these teams have had good seasons, at least much improved from a year ago. South Florida lost its coach to Oregon, but hired Charlie Strong, although he won’t be coaching this Game. It’s likely most of the players will want to show Strong what they can do. USF’s only two losses came against Florida State and at Temple. Due to one of the better offenses in the country, they’ve been able to outScoreeveryone. The knock on them is that their best wins (Navy, Memphis, UCF) came against similar teams that have bad defenses.
South Carolina did better than most people thought and most of the credit goes to Will Muschamp. The Gamecocks didn’t really have a bad loss all season, as all six of them came against teams they should’ve lost to. Wins over Vanderbilt and Tennessee highlighted what they could. Before getting blown out by Clemson in the finale, they had kept every other Game relatively close and that’ll be the main reason why bettors back South Carolina.
The Bulls can Scoreplenty, but one of the few times they played a decent defense, they scored 30 points and lost by 16 points (Temple). In this Game, they’ll get a solid South Carolina defense that has kept most of the SEC in check.
Quarterback Quinton Flowers has improved on all fronts this season, but most of that is because of his 8.1 yards per carry and 1,425 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. His passing numbers didn’t improve much with 22 TDs and 6 INTs, but having run for at least 140 yards in each of the last Four Games, passing didn’t really matter. In addition to Flowers, Marlon MACk is a great partner in the backfield with 1,137 yards and 15 touchdowns himself. This offense is dynamic, but how will they look against probably the best defense they’ve seen?
That said, the Gamecocks won’t be able to completely hold down USF so they’ll need to score, as well. This offense improved immediately once freshman quarterback Jake Bentley took over. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown in the last three Games, but had six in his first three starts. against this defense, Bentley should be in for his best Game yet. But to keep the USF offense off the field, the Gamecocks will likely lean on the ground Game a good amount with Rico Dowdle, who really came alive in their last three wins.
USF scores a bunch, but they also give up a bunch. Having this spread at 10 points seems like a lot for a team that struggled to stop almost every offense it faced. And if South Carolina’s defense is as good as it has looked at times this season, South Florida could find some resistance.
The Bulls are 1-4 ATS in their last five vs. the SEC and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 non-Conference Games. The Gamecocks are 4-1 ATS in their last five neutral-site Games.
Our Pick – South Carolina +10