I’ll be previewing every bowl game involving a team from the state of Florida right here on RCR over the next few weeks. You can check out my early bowl preview featuring FAU & FIU here.
Next up: the mid-level bowls, featuring Florida State and South Florida.
Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-6) vs. South Florida Bulls (9-2)
When: Saturday, December 23, noon
Where: Birmingham, Ala., Legion Field
Five reasons why:
- Quinton Flowers is the best quarterback you’ve never heard of. Dynamic as a thrower and runner, Flowers is 300 passing yards and 28 rushing yards away from a 3K-1K season, which has only been done by eight players ever before.
- Flowers has also overcome significant personal tragedy in his life. The Bulls QB was featured on College Gameday earlier this year and last month was profiled in Sports Illustrated. You can read it here.
- Head Coach Charlie Strong’s first trip to a bowl game since his first season with Texas (2014, a loss in the Texas Bowl to Arkansas). Strong appears to be rejuvenated in his first season at USF after the Texas debacle. Could this be the start of something big in Tampa? Plus, no one looks better in a mock turtleneck.
- This game should feature plenty of offense. USF is ranked eighth nationally and Texas Tech is 17th in total offense.
- Kliff Kingsbury may be an average coach (30-32 in five seasons at the helm of his alma mater), but was part of one of the greatest Tinder (remember that app that will probably be the cause of your thumb arthritis in a few years?) gags I’ve ever seen. A writer for EDSBS made a fake account and pretended to be a “Kliff Kingsbury-like person” named Griff Cheesman.
- Bonus: we also got this Christmas card from Kliff:
Bowl swag: Gift suite, Oakley sunglasses, beanie, Big Game football (I don’t know what this is either).
Bowl fun fact: This is the 12th edition of the game, formerly known as the Papajohns.com Bowl (2006-10) and BBVA Compass Bowl (2011-14). The bowl’s slogan is “Southern Hospitality. Serious Football.” Seriously.
Independence Bowl: Southern Miss Golden Eagles (8-4) vs. Florida State Seminoles (6-6)
When: Wednesday, December 27, 1:30 p.m.
Where: Shreveport, La., Independence Stadium
Five reasons why:
- In a wild and wacky year for Florida State football, from QB Deondre Francois going down with a season ending injury on opening night to Head Coach Jimbo Fisher skedaddling to Texas A&M, one solace is the bowl streak has continued to 36 straight appearances and a win would ensure 41 straight non-losing seasons.
- Also, there might be as much excitement around the program since Labor Day, and while new Head Coach Willie Taggert won’t be on the sidelines, his hire has reenergized the fan base, which will hopefully be more likely to head to Shreveport to support the Noles.
- The most accomplished running back in the game doesn’t wear Garnet and Gold. USM’s Ito Smith rushed for over 1,000 yards for the third straight season. At 5-9, 194-pounds, the senior is not as imposing as Jacques Patrick or as hyped as Cam Akers, but the All-C-USA selection will undoubtedly be ready to put on a show against a big name program.
- The Golden Eagles also feature arguably the best receiver in the matchup. Junior Korey Robertson hauled in 72 passes this year for 1,070 yards and at 6-foot-2, 210-pounds, the all-conference selection possesses good size and should challenge the FSU secondary.
- Both teams come into the game on three-game winning streaks, which makes you hope that they can parlay that into their best football in the bowl game.
Bowl swag: Gift suite, Timely Watch Co. watch, New Era skull cap, football.
Bowl fun facts: The 42nd playing of one of the nations oldest bowls, the game has had eight different sponsors since 1990, and is officially known as the Walk-Ons Independence Bowl this year. The bowl was originally named due to its founding in the nation’s bicentennial year.
Check back next week for the final update of the two Florida-based teams playing in New Years Six bowls. Hope your bowl pools are not shot yet!