Last year’s winner returns as the USF Bulls will look to repeat as Birmingham Bowl champions and achieve ten wins in back to back seasons for the first time in school history. The Bulls will take the field for the first time following their heartbreaking 42-29 loss to rival UCF on November 24.
USF head coach Charlie Strong spoke about the opportunity his program has to showcase themselves saying, “You get a chance to go play a Power 5 from the Big 12 Conference,” Strong continued, “You’re going to get national exposure again and we need to go out and play well. It’s a good way to end the season.”
Leading the Bulls is quarterback Quinton Flowers, who will play in his final USF game when they take on Texas Tech. The 2017 AAC Offensive Player of the Year, Flowers has had a stellar career at USF, and heading into the bowl game is the owner of 27 USF records. Throwing 21 touchdowns and rushing for ten more on the season, Flowers is a threat both throwing and running and will be a tough test for the Red Raiders defense which is giving up over 30 points per game on the season.
Along with Flowers, the Bulls offense has weapons in the air and on the ground. Running back’s Darius Tice and D’Ernest Johnson make up one of the strongest running back duos in the nation. Along with Flowers, the Bulls have three rushers with over 745-yards on the season, the only program to do so.
The Texas Tech Red Raiders come into the game with some momentum after their 27-23 come from behind victory over rival Texas to become bowl eligible, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury knows USF will present a difficult challenge for his program.
Kingsbury on the Birmingham Bowl and USF opponent, “Our football program looks forward to participating in the Birmingham Bowl.” He continued, “South Florida is a quality program, and we look forward to seeing Legion Field packed with scarlet and black here in a few weeks.”
The Red Raider offense is known to air the ball out under Kingsbury, and the 2017 season has been no different. Senior quarterback Nic Shimonek has thrown 30 touchdowns to eight interceptions on the season, but against a USF defense that is giving up just 22.5 points per game, Texas Tech will need to execute its best game of the season if they are going to be victorious.
Shimonek’s top receiver is Junior wide receiver Keke Coutee, who has reeled in 1242-yards receiving with nine touchdowns. A breakout season in 2017, Coutee has become one of the nation’s top receivers and is fourth in the country in receiving yards this season. The big play ability of Shimonek and Coutee will be a great matchup with USF’s secondary that ranks fifth nationally in interceptions.
The 2017 Birmingham Bowl is setting up to be an exciting showdown between two talented programs. It will be exciting to watch both teams swing for the fences in hopes of big plays, and could make for one of the more high-scoring games of the 2017 bowl season.
The USF Bulls and Texas Tech Red Raiders will kick off the Birmingham Bowl at 12:00 pm EST from Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama on December 23.