Ryan Mayer

The college football bowl season is upon us. With 39 games spread out over the next two and a half weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline. Find all our picks here. All lines are as of the date of publication.

Birmingham Bowl

Texas Tech (6-6) vs. South Florida (9-2)

Spread: South Florida -2.5

Total: 66.5

Spread: Two explosive offenses are being featured in this game, but the Bulls have the better defense. Thanks to dual-threat QB Quinton Flowers, the Bulls offense is averaging over 38 points and 500 yards of offense per game this season. Flowers himself has accounted for over 3,500 yards and 31 total touchdowns, though he has regressed some as a passer this season. After completing 62.5% of his passes as a junior, Flowers has dropped down to 53.4 percent this year. But, the defense has picked up the slack when the offense has struggled to get going in the early part of games. In the first year under Charlie Strong, the Bulls have cut nine points off their average points allowed, going from 31 points last year to 22 this season. They’ve been particularly good against the run giving up just 126 yards per game on 3.1 yards per carry.

Texas Tech has annually had a good offense under head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and this year is no different. The Red Raiders averaged 34 points and 468 yards of offense this season led by senior QB Nic Shimonek. Shimonek, like most TTU QBs has posted impressive numbers, completing 68 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards and 30 touchdowns with only eight interceptions. One of their top running backs, Justin Stockton, is listed as probable for this game after sustaining a concussion in the last game, but he’s expected to be back here. The problem, as usual for Tech, is the defense. It’s been better this year than last year, but that’s not saying a ton considering the Red Raiders gave up an FBS-worst 43.5 points per game last season. This year, they’ve cut that to 31.8, but they’re still allowing opponents to complete 63.9 percent of their passes for 279.8 yards per game through the air. The most concerning trend for Tech here is their second half of the season when they went 2-5 down the stretch after starting 4-1.

Neither team is particularly good ATS, as the Bulls are 5-6 this season and the Red Raiders are 7-5. South Florida was 4-6 as the favorite in covering this season while TTU was 3-3. The biggest question is whether Texas Tech can slow South Florida at all, and I’m not sure they can. USF -2.5

Total: Both teams struggled to hit the number in their games this season as USF went 4-7 and Tech went 4-8. Granted, that is largely due to lines for Tech’s games being abnormally high for the most part. They had just two games all season with the number set below 60 (TCU and Texas) and eight games set higher than the total in this game. Considering the last time USF played a similarly explosive offense (UCF) we got a wild 49-42 affair, I’m going over. Over 66.5.

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