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Quinton Flowers leads USF to wild come-from-behind victory in Birmingham Bowl

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The 2017 season may not have checked off all of the goals for USF (11-2), but Charlie Strong and the Bulls have reason to celebrate at the end of the season after winning a wildly entertaining Birmingham Bowl with a 38-34 victory over Texas Tech (6-7) on Saturday afternoon. USF quarterback Quinton Flowers was the hero fo the day after putting the Bulls on his back in the second half, shrugging aside a woeful first half to pull USF from behind for the win.

Flowers ended his day with an MVP performance with 311 passing yards and four touchdowns and 106 rushing yards. It was Flowers who had to step things up in the fourth quarter, leading the Bulls to three touchdowns in the final quarter by using his feet and his arm to work the late game heroics.

Early in the fourth quarter, and just one play after an instant replay confirmed a call on the field marking the ball shy of the end zone, USF tried muscling their way across the goal line only to be overmatched by Texas Tech’s defensive effort to keep Darius Tice just out of the end zone on fourth down.

The Texas Tech stop preserved a seven-point advantage, but the battle of field position would still end up helping USF. After forcing a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, USF took over at the Texas Tech 43-yard line and worked their way into the end zone, this time ending the drive with Flowers running off to the right side to find a clear path for a game-tying touchdown.

Texas Tech took a 27-24 lead with just over five minutes to play with a 33-yard field goal by Clayton Hatfield, setting the stage for USF quarterback Quinton Flowers to try and deliver some last-minute heroics in his final college football game. Flowers needed just two plays before giving the Bulls a 31-27 lead on a 64-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

Texas Tech answered with a touchdown of their own, with T.J. Vasher somehow getting left wide open in the end zone for an easy touchdown pass from Nic Shimonek.

But the Red Raiders left Flowers and the Bulls too much time to strike back, and strike back they most certainly did. Flowers once again delivered the heroics with a key 21-yard run on a 3rd and 10 and followed that up with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Tyre McCants to go up 38-34 after the extra point.

The legacy of Quinton Flowers at USF will be one that will be remembered fondly, even if it never saw a trip to a BCS or New Years Six bowl game. But Flowers will leave with a handful of team records and his shoes will be big to fill for whoever is next in line in Tampa. After coming up just shy of an elusive AAC championship after a wild shootout loss against UCF in the regular season finale, it is fitting to see Flowers go out having led his team to a wild back-and-forth victory in a bowl game.

For three quarters, it appeared as though Texas Tech may get by the game using its defense, going against the grain of what is typically expected from a Texas Tech team. All of that crumbled in the fourth quarter, however, despite the goal line stand highlighted above. USF had over 400 yards of offense in the second half after a lackluster first half showing, and the Bulls edges the Red Raiders in first downs with 27 to Texas Tech’s 26.

The AAC improves to 2-1 in the bowl season with the win after Temple took care of FIU on Thursday night. Texas Tech gets the Big 12 off to a 0-1 start in the bowl season with the next games played on Tuesday by West Virginia (vs. Utah in Heart of Dallas Bowl) and Kansas State (vs. UCLA in Cactus Bowl).

Texas Tech’s 2018 season will open with a neutral site game in Houston against Ole Miss of the SEC on Sept. 1, 2018. USF will begin the 2018 season at home on Sept. 1 against FCS opponent Elon. The Bulls will then host Georgia Tech and visit Illinois the following two weeks.

Shanked punt leads to USF tying Birmingham Bowl just before halftime

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After not doing much of anything on offense in the first half, USF capitalized on a late special teams mistake by Texas Tech to be able to tie the Birmingham Bowl at 10-10 just before halftime.

After a shanked punt by Texas Tech, USF took over at the Texas Tech 25-yard line. Two plays later, Quinton Flowers completed a 21-yard pass to Tyre McCants for the first touchdown scored by the Bulls in the game and perhaps gives a spark going into halftime. The USF touchdown was the end of a rough sequence of plays by Texas Tech in the final minutes of the first half.

On a 3rd and Goal from the seven-yard line, Nic Shimonek‘s pass was picked off by USF’s Jaymon Thomas, who returned the football 18 yards to give the Bulls a late offensive series starting at their own 18-yard line. The interception was the first turnover of the game and blocked Texas Tech from building on a 10-3 lead late in the first half. USF would have to punt the ball away on the possession, but the defense played well and forced the Red Raiders to be backed up to punting on their own 10-yard line on a 4th and 23.

USF’s failure to convert first downs has led to some short offensive possessions. USF was just four-of-nine on third down conversions and the Bulls were limited to just 107 yards of offense before the late scoring opportunity. Quinton Flowers completed just three of his 13 pass attempts for 31 yards, and he has five rushes for 11 yards before the 25-yard touchdown strike.

Texas Tech took the opening possession of the game to inside the red zone, but as so often has been the case this season, the Red Raiders stalled once getting past the 20-yard line and had to settle for a field goal by Clayton Hatfield. USF answered with a similar drive ending with a field goal by Emilio Nadelman.

The Red Raiders scored their lone touchdown of the half in the first quarter on a Shimonek pass to Keke Coutee from five yards out.

Quinton Flowers’ legs push USF to lead on South Carolina in Birmingham Bowl

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Through the first two quarters of play in the Birmingham Bowl, South Carolina is getting a healthy taste of Lamar Jackson Lite.

In the first 30 minutes of what is a 29-14 halftime lead for USF, Quinton Flowers did an uncanny impression of the reigning Heisman winner, accounting for all four of the Bulls’ touchdowns and 267 yards of total offense.  Three of those scores and 67 of the yards came on the ground, which is not surprising as Flowers’ 1,425 yards rushing this season was second to Jackson’s 1,538 amongst FBS quarterbacks.

The junior also completed 18-of-22 passes for 200 yards.

Also nearly perfect was Flowers’ Gamecocks counterpart, Jake Bentley, who was as impressive in the passing portion of the game as the USF quarterback was in the running/passing phases.  The true freshman completed 15 of his 19 passes in the half — after missing on his first two attempts — for 198 yards and both of USC’s touchdowns, a 25-yarder to Hayden Hurst early in the second quarter that temporarily brought the ‘Cocks to within one score and a second, with 1:12 left in the second quarter, that again brought them to within eight –temporarily, as it turned out again, as Flowers connected with D'Ernest Johnson on fourth down on a 37-yard touchdown pass with :07 left in the half.

South Carolina will receive the kickoff to open the second half.

The 10 best and 10 worst bowl matchups, as ranked by F/+

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2016’s most even bowl matchup will happen in El Paso, Texas, while the most lopsided game will take place in Boise, Idaho.

Those on-paper analyses are based on the end-of-the-season F/+ rankings, which are explained here on Football Outsiders. Personally, they’re a go-to for getting a rough idea of how good a certain team is, so why not use them to preview the best and worst bowl matchups?

Here are the 10 best games based on how close the two participants’ F/+ rankings are:

Sun Bowl (+1): No. 25 Stanford vs. No. 26 UNC
Fiesta Bowl (+2): No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Clemson
Rose Bowl (+2): No. 7 USC vs. No. 9 Penn State
Sugar Bowl (+2): No. 8 Auburn vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Armed Forces Bowl (+2): No. 51 Louisiana Tech vs. No. 53 Navy

Peach Bowl (+4): No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 5 Washington
Quick Lane Bowl (+4): No. 93 Boston College vs. No. 97 Maryland
New Mexico Bowl (+5): No. 81 New Mexico vs. No. 86 UT-San Antonio
Citrus Bowl (+6): No. 5 LSU vs. No. 11 Louisville
Cotton Bowl (+10): No. 12 Wisconsin vs. No. 22 Western Michigan

Obviously, the two College Football Playoff games (Ohio State-Clemson, Alabama-Washington) are among the closest, but it’s good to see three of the four other New Year’s Six bowls in here as well. The Orange Bowl (No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 13 Florida State) just barely missed the cut.

As for the 10 biggest mismatches:

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (+71): No. 29 Colorado State vs. No. 100 Idaho
Birmingham Bowl (+61): No. 33 South Florida vs. No. 94 South Carolina
Military Bowl (+54): No. 18 Temple vs. No. 72 Wake Forest
Cactus Bowl (+52): No. 14 Boise State vs. No. 66 Baylor
Miami Beach Bowl (+45): No. 44 Tulsa vs. No. 89 Central Michigan

Arizona Bowl (+38): No. 49 Air Force vs. No. 87 South Alabama
Las Vegas Bowl (+30): No. 20 Houston vs. No. 50 San Diego State
Poinsettia Bowl (+27): No. 30 BYU vs. No. 57 Wyoming
Heart of Dallas Bowl (+26): No. 85 Army vs. No. 111 North Texas
Russell Athletic Bowl (+25): No. 15 Miami vs. No. 40 West Virginia

It’s not surprising three of these games involve top-level Group of Five teams (South Florida, Temple, Boise State) playing 6-6 Power Five teams (South Carolina, Wake Forest, Baylor), given that’s where a lot of bowl mismatches can take place. It was a little surprising to see the gulf between Houston and San Diego State be so significant, though.

But while these matchups may either be close or lopsided, always remember the ironclad rule of bowl season: Weird stuff is gonna happen. One team may not care while the other does, one team may not deal with the elements (especially in the northern bowls) as well as the other, or one team may come in with something to prove while the other team doesn’t. The best-case scenario for us college football fans is that every game is interesting and worth watching, no matter what the on-paper numbers may say.

Quinton Flowers and South Florida deal Navy first conference loss of the season in high-scoring affair

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South Florida scored a touchdown on the very first drive of the game and didn’t stop until the final minute of the first half in a wild, high-scoring affair on Friday night that dealt Navy their first American Athletic Conference loss of the season, 52-45.

Bulls quarterback Quinton Flowers appeared to be fully healthy after limping off last week in a loss to Temple, throwing for 219 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for a team-leading 176 yards and two scores. He pretty much picked apart the overmatched Midshipmen, leading six straight touchdown drives to open the game that included two 40-plus yard plays to find the end zone in the first quarter alone.

His counterpart in the backfield Marlon Mack wasn’t too shabby either, scoring an 85-yard touchdown on his way to 125 yards on the night with just 11 carries. Backup tailback D'Ernest Johnson also found plenty of running room as he topped the century mark on the ground as well and added two touchdowns for good measure.

While USF did have over 600 yards of total offense and controlled the game pretty much from the opening whistle, Navy did claw their way back into the game by averaging over seven yards a play for the night and scoring three fourth quarter touchdowns. Quarterback Will Worth had a pretty great night passing for an option quarterback (15-27, 299 yards, one touchdown, one interception) in addition to leading the team in rushing and scoring four times.

The win kept the Bulls’ alive in the AAC East and moved them to 7-2 on the season. They still will need Temple to lose again if they want to make it to the conference title game but the rebound effort at home was impressive all things considered.

For Navy meanwhile, the loss didn’t mean much in the AAC West standings as they remain atop them and ahead of Memphis, Tulsa and Houston. It does drop them to 5-2 on the season ahead of their annual showdown with Notre Dame but they will probably enter the contest as significant favorites given the way they played on Friday night.