Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury avoided the axe in December, but he’s going to be under a tremendous amount of scrutiny at the Birmingham Bowl. A loss to the South Florida Bulls, and you can bet that he’s going to start next season on one of the hottest seats in America.
South Florida Bowl History
This will make back-to-back visits to the Birmingham Bowl for USF. The Bulls won an exciting 46-39 game over South Carolina last year. Quinton Flowers has a chance to be the first man to win the MVP of this game twice.
South Florida has won four of its last five bowl game appearances, though only one of those victories has come since Skip Holtz’s first season with the team in 2010.
Texas Tech Bowl History
It’s actually a tremendous surprise that Kingsbury kept his job in the first place. Sure, he’s the chosen son of the “Air Raid,” but the Red Raiders haven’t finished better than 7-6 since his first season in 2013. He’s only brought the team three bowl games in five seasons, and it’s not like the Birmingham Bowl is an ideal destination for any Big XII team.
Kingsbury only has one bowl win in his history, and that came in his first season at the much more prestigious Holiday Bowl.
A loss in this game, and Texas Tech will be saddled with consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1984 and 1985.
Why South Florida Will Win the Birmingham Bowl
Motivation shouldn’t be an issue for the Bulls. Sure, they’re disappointed to have not won the AAC East thanks to that wild game against UCF on Black Friday, but they shouldn’t hold their heads down. They should finish the year ranked in the Top 25 if they win this game, and that alone should be enough motivation.
South Florida’s offense is incredibly well-rounded thanks to Flowers’ ability to produce massive yardage both as a passer and a runner. The Bulls averaged 243.3 passing yards and 265.4 rushing yards per game.
While neither Flowers, Darius Tice nor D’Ernest Johnson reached 100 rushing yards in a game this year, these three could still finish with around 2,800 rushing yards or so between them, and they already have 28 touchdowns on the ground.
Why Texas Tech Will Win the Birmingham Bowl
USF’s pass defense was vulnerable at times this season, especially against the best passing attacks it faced. The Red Raiders aren’t going to take their foot off the gas pedal at any point in this one, and with Nic Shimonek back under center for his final game, they should be efficient.
We’re not sure what Kingsbury was thinking when he sat Shimonek down for the Texas game, but he learned the error of his ways quickly and let Shimonek lead the comeback that ultimately put the Red Raiders in a bowl game.
Expect Keke Coutee to have a huge game after catching 82 passes for 1,242 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
Birmingham Bowl Prediction
No lead is going to be safe in this game. We could see a circumstance in which either team is down three touchdowns but ultimately comes back to win the game. There will be that much firepower on the field.
But in the end, South Florida just flat out has the better team. Charlie Strong is familiar with what he’s up against from his days at Texas. Though he didn’t have a tremendous amount of success slowing down the Air Raid in that stretch, Shimonek is definitively a substantially worse quarterback than Patrick Mahomes ever was.
Birmingham Bowl Pick: South Florida 49, Texas Tech 45
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