Top South Carolina story lines as the Gamecocks start practice on Thursday for the game against USF in the Birmingham Bowl:
Forget Clemson Game
The best thing about bowl eligibility is South Carolina doesn’t have to sit all offseason with the memory of a 56-7 loss to Clemson as its final game. The Birmingham Bowl gives the Gamecocks a chance to gain back some confidence and maybe get back in the win column going into the offseason.
Pull The Upset
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The Gamecocks opened as an 11-point underdogs. While the line has moved down to 10.5 at most sports books, South Florida still is expected to win big. The reason? The Bulls have the seventh-most prolific offense in college football. South Carolina, which was 3-9 last year, hasn’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 2002 and 2003 when Lou Holtz coached two 5-7 teams in a row.
New Faces, New Places
The head coach who led South Florida to its 10-2 regular season, Willie Taggert, is now the head coach at Oregon. Former Texas head coach Charlie Strong has been named the Bulls permanent head coach, but interim head coach T.J. Weist will coach USF in the bowl game. The Gamecocks will have a new offensive line coach after Shawn Elliott’s departure to be the head coach at Georgia State.
Tackle Quinton Flowers
Fans may not know who Quinton Flowers is, but opposing coaches do. Will Muschamp tried to recruit Flowers out of Miami, but Flowers chose to play quarterback for the Bulls. It seems like a good choice. A true dual threat quarterback, he has a school record 3,971 yards this season and was named the AAC offensive player of the year. A local newspaper columnist called him the greatest player in the school’s (brief) history.
Run The Ball
South Florida has the nation’s No. 92 rushing defense, allowing 205.3 yards per game on the ground. South Carolina has the nation’s 107th-ranked rushing offense, averaging 138 yards per game on the ground. The Gamecocks’ ground game has gained next-to-nothing in their last two games against major competition, and it could use a shot in the arm.