David Cloninger

Birmingham Bowl: 5 storylines for USC vs. USF

Birmingham Bowl preview: 3 things we're watching as USC faces USF

The State's Josh Kendall previews South Carolina's Birmingham Bowl matchup against the South Florida Bulls.
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The State's Josh Kendall previews South Carolina's Birmingham Bowl matchup against the South Florida Bulls.

1. GIVE-A-DARN

The last bowl game in Birmingham was lost because yes, Connecticut was a good team, but mostly because nobody in garnet showed up wanting to play. There was an air of let’s-get-this-over-with the whole week, and the game reflected it. This year, that shouldn’t be a factor since many of these players haven’t played in a bowl.

2. STAND UP

The defense has done well this year considering a lack of talent, but the performance slipped the final four weeks. The Gamecocks gave up 465 yards to Missouri, 372 to Florida, 367 to Western Carolina and 622 to Clemson. Facing a USF team that averages 515.1 yards per game, USC has one more chance to show what it can do.

3. HISTORIC

Steve Spurrier didn’t win a bowl game in his first year at USC (although Brad Scott did). Will Muschamp could be the second to do it, and also be one of the rare first-year coaches to have a winning record at USC.

4. LET ’EM FLY

Kurt Roper has been conservative with his play-calling this year, not wanting to throw too much at an offense mostly filled with freshmen while keeping an eye on a line that isn’t too good at blocking. USF is susceptible to yards and points being rolled up. Roper has to try and match the Bulls point-for-point to have a hope of winning.

5. THE RIGHT TRACK

The last time USC was in this bowl, a loss shattered a month of goodwill following a win over Clemson. But it started the best four-year stretch in program history. This time, the Gamecocks had a lot of goodwill shattered by Clemson and can regain it with a bowl win – and a win never hurts recruiting.

Birmingham Bowl

Who: South Carolina (6-6) vs. South Florida (10-2)

When: 2 p.m. Thursday

Where: Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.

TV: ESPN

Line: USF by 10

Five key numbers

43.6/515.1: Points per game/yards per game gained by USF this season. South Carolina gives up 24.8 and 407.2 per game.

331: Yards per game averaged by USF quarterback Quinton Flowers. The last such quarterback they faced, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, piled up 366 yards.

482.1: Yards per game USF gives up. The Gamecocks’ high of gained yards this year is 588 against Western Carolina.

54: Predicted high for Thursday’s game, which would feel like the equator to USC fans who came to the Gamecocks’ last bowl in Birmingham.

0: Bowl games USC has won with a freshman quarterback.

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