WHO: South Florida (9-2) vs. Texas Tech (6-6)
WHAT: The 12th Birmingham Bowl
WHEN: Noon ET on ESPN
WHERE: Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.
THE SKINNY: Bowl games are often a study of motivation, and that advantage lies clearly on one sideline.
Texas Tech is ecstatic to be in Birmingham. As we remember, the Red Raiders were two yards away from their season and the Kliff Kingsbury era ending at 5-7, so long as Texas could gain a first down and salt away a 23-20 win on Black Friday. Instead, Ehlinger threw an interception and Texas Tech rallied for a season-saving 27-23 win.
That same day, South Florida battled Central Florida in one of the most entertaining games of the season. With a trip to the AAC championship game and a shot at the Peach Bowl on the line, USF carried a 34-28 lead into the fourth quarter and tied the game at 42-42 with 1:41 remaining, but the Bulls immediately allowed a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, lost the game 49-42, and now they’re in Birmingham.
As for this game, it seems to boil down to one aspect: Can Texas Tech stop USF’s running game? The Bulls rank ninth nationally at 265 yards per game, while the Red Raiders are 53rd in rushing defense — which represents the program’s highest rank in that metric since 2009. If Texas Tech can keep South Florid at or around four yards per carry, they’ll have a chance.
The guess here is they can’t.
THE PREDICTION: South Florida 38, Texas Tech 34