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Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. South Florida Bulls Point Spread - Pick

Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-6 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. South Florida Bulls (9-2 SU, 5-6 ATS)
Birmingham Bowl
Date/Time: Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 12PM EST
Where: Legion Field, Birmingham, Alabama
TV: ESPN

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Point Spread: TTU +2.5/USF -2.5
Over/Under Total: 67.5

The Texas Tech Red Raiders take on the South Florida Bulls on Saturday, December 3 in the Birmingham Bowl. The 6-6 Red Raiders, out of the Big 12, scored a nice road win over Texas on November 24 to become bowl-eligible. They don't get an easy task in the 9-2 South Florida Bulls. Also on the 24th, the Bulls lost to unbeaten Central Florida, only their second defeat of the season. After the long break of almost exactly a month, who can come out and perform in this bowl game to finish the season on a positive note.

Texas Tech certainly played a lot of tough teams in a Big 12 Conference where there weren't a lot of layups this season. But they largely struggled in the Big 12 after starting the season 3-0 and their regular-season closing win over Texas actually represented their best Big 12 win of the season. Leading into that game, the Red Raiders had lost 5 of 6 games and overall, their season had a very different tone to it than the 9-win South Florida Bulls. They feature a big aerial offense that can be a bit one-dimensional. And their defense wasn't very good, even by looser conference standards. Against the pass, they were purely awful, as some of the better conference teams illustrated.

The Red Raiders offense is led by strapping senior quarterback Nick Shimonek. He connected 30 times for touchdowns this season aerially, while putting up over 3500 yards passing. He connected on over 68% of his passes and was able to run this offense smoothly at times. While the run-game was more window-dressing for the Red Raiders' offense, they had a trio of backs that could do damage in Justin Stockton, Tre Kind, and Desmond Nisby. They all combined for 16 touchdowns this season. Through the air, Keke Coutee was a big target and was over 1200 yards this season. Also delivering were Dylan Cantrell, Cameron Batson, TJ Vasher, and Derrick Willies (questionable).

A Big 12 defense needs to be looked at with a quizzical eye, as they play in an offense-heavy conference where no defenses really thrive. Even so, the Red Raiders weren't able to avoid being rained on by teams like Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma, and Kansas State. None of their last three opponents topped 27 points, so they finished the season with some bite. In the secondary, Jake Parker has made some plays among his four picks. Linebackers Dakota Allen and Jordyn Brooks are very active. All in all, however, the pass-rush is pretty thin and they are readily-exploitable. But let's remember that some of the offenses that thrived against this "D" were some of the best in the nation. And while the South Florida offense is good, they don't air out like some of Texas Tech's opponents, which could make this matchup a little easier on this "D."

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The Bulls were cruising along at 7-0, before running into Houston, losing by a 28-24 score. Two wins followed before a 49-42 loss to Central Florida where they really gave the unbeaten Knights a scare where some late-drama was needed for the win. The only thing separating them from an unbeaten record this season are two one-score losses. They are 9-2, but a closer look shows an incredibly easy schedule. A September win over Temple was their only win over a team that didn't finish below .500 this season. In many people's minds, it's a pretty empty record, though they did make strides in Charlie Strong's first season at the helm.

Still, the South Florida offense is a pretty talented group, a unit that can really pound the ball, led by dual-threat quarterback Quinton Flowers. They average over 38 points a game. On the season, Flowers threw for 2600 yards and 21 touchdowns, while running for 972 yards and 10 touchdowns. Also on the ground, they feature Darius Tice, who has found the end zone 11 times this season. D'Ernest Johnson rounds out a fine ground-game with his 745 yards and 9 touchdowns. Aerially, they get the ball in the hands of Marquez Valdez-Scantling, Tyre McCants, and Darnell Salomon. They can do damage in a lot of different ways

Overall, the South Florida defense has been effective in averaging just over 22 points allowed per game. They have been fairly rigid against the run this season. Only twice has an opponent scored over 28 points against this group, one being unbeaten Central Florida and the other in a 61-31 win earlier this season. Along the line, they get good pass-rushing from Bruce Hector and Mike Love, while LB Greg Reaves also gets after the quarterback. LB Auggie Sanchez has been a force and scored two touchdowns this season. Corners Deatrick Nichols and Devin Abraham have made a lot of plays, while Mazzi Wilkins has added three picks. All told, this defense has 18 interception this season.

Making a Birmingham Bowl betting pick is not an easy task. Texas Tech might only be 6-6, but are more battle-tempered, having taken on a slew of good teams this season. South Florida was more successful, but got served a lot of softballs this season. It can be hard to forecast how those two elements will combine. If you go off the supposition that Central Florida is a pretty darned-good team and needed all they could summon to hold off South Florida, it seems like the Bulls could thrive in this spot. There's just something a little flat about Texas Tech at this level. I'm taking the Bulls.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the South Florida Bulls minus 2.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Texas Tech vs. South Florida bowl game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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