If you want points, this is the Game to watch. The Birmingham Bowl presents two high-powered offenses and hopefully that’ll lead to a shootout. Somewhat surprisingly, the team from the American Conference is favored against one from the Big 12. South Florida opened as an early -2.5 point favorite as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
The over/under for this Game was 67 at the time of writing and that feels kind of low. A lot of that has to do with better defensive numbers for both teams, but it’s worth diving into. Texas Tech closed the season with improved performances, although a lot of that had to do with competition. This is still a team that allowed 32 points per Game and gave up points in bunches to teams like Arizona State and Kansas State.
South Florida may allow just 22.5 points per Game, but that can be attributed to playing in the AAC. against the best offense it faced in the regular season finale, USF allowed 49 points in a tough 49-42 loss to UCF. The Bulls also had plans of winning their conference, but that didn’t come to fruition and motivation may be a factor for Charlie Strong’s team.
USF’s weak spot has been in pass defense and that’s not going to help against Texas Tech. The funny thing is that starting quarterback Nic Shimonek was benched for the season finale then entered in the Fourth quarter and proceeded to upset Texas with two late touchdowns. Shimonek will start the bowl Game and that’s Kliff Kingsbury’s only option it seems. Shimonek had a solid season despite late struggles against TCU, throwing for 30 touchdowns and only eight picks. Top running back Justin Stockton, who has dealt with concussions, should be good to go for this Game, as well. USF has good defensive numbers, but expecting them to stop Shimonek and the Air Raid with receivers Keke Coutee (1,242 yards) and Dylan Cantrell (790 yards) seems like a stretch.
On the other end, the Red Raiders have been better defensively than previous campaigns, but USF has a playmaker in Quinton Flowers that can light up the scoreboard. The senior is a similar player to LAmar Jackson in that he’s much more dynamic on the ground, which has led to 972 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. That said, Flowers has looked better as a passer in recent Games with at least 325 passing yards in three of the last Four. Considering Tech allows 280 passing yards per Game, that’s a good route for Flowers to attack. This team still wants to run the ball plenty between Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson, but keeping up with Tech will likely require Flowers to air it out.
Despite these teams having improved defenses, this Game has all the makings of a back-and-forth contest where both offenses have success. The only time USF played an offense like Tech this season was in the loss to UCF. As for the Red Raiders, they still aren’t good enough to keep a player like Flowers in check. As of note, any over backers should take weather into account, as this is an outdoor stadium, albeit with FieldTurf.
The Red Raiders have covered in their last Four in non-conference, but are 2-7 ATS in their last nine bowl Games. The Bulls are just 1-4 ATS In their last five non-Conference Games. The over has hit in seven of Tech’s last eight bowl appearances and is 7-3-1 in USF’s last 11 non-Conference Games.
Our Pick – South Florida -2.5